There's something about the energy and spirit of Daniel Reid that makes you want to sit, listen and experience his wisdom. A bestselling author, leading expert on eastern philosophy and medicine, Reid has written several books and memoirs on Asian self-health, self-healing practices, Taoism, and his journey on this path. Living in Taiwan for 16 years studying and writing, Reid's international reputation stems from a deep understanding of traditional Chinese culture, Chinese medicine, and ancient Taoist health and longevity systems. In this conversation with Mason, Reid details the beauty and simplicity found in all aspects of the Taoist philosophy and spirituality, the way of respecting nature, and our innate ability to heal ourselves. Reid also touches on how in many ways, western medicine is failing society and will continue to as long as it tries to overcome nature. Tune in for wisdom and healing.
Mason and Dan discuss:
- Doaist thought.
- The Tao De Jing.
- Qigong and tea-gong.
- The Tao principle of Wu Wei.
- The three powers of Taoism.
- Following the flow of the Tao.
- Personality types of the five Taoist elements.
- The principle of Yin Yang and the five elements.
- Quantum physics, Taoism and energy.
- Drawing wisdom from essential nature.
- Taoism on facing mortality/immortality.
Who is Daniel Reid?
Daniel Reid is a bestselling author and a leading expert on eastern philosophy and medicine. He has written numerous books and magazine articles on various aspects of Asian self-health, self-healing practices, and has established an international reputation for the practical efficacy of his traditional approach to modern health problems.
Daniel Reid was born in 1948 in San Francisco and spent his childhood in East Africa. After completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in East Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 1970, and a Masters of Arts degree in Chinese Language and Civilization at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 1973, Reid moved to Taiwan, where he spent 16 years studying and writing about various aspects of traditional Chinese culture, focusing particularly on Chinese medicine and ancient Taoist longevity systems. In 1989, he relocated to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he continued his research and writing until 1998 when he immigrated with his wife Snow to the Byron Bay region of Australia. In 2017, they moved back to Chiang Mai, where they now make their home.
Resources:Dan Reid website
The Art and Alchemy of Chinese Tea - Daniel Reid
The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity - Daniel Reid
Shots From the Hip. Sex, Drugs, and The Tao - Daniel Reid Memoir
Energy, Light, and Luminous Space - Daniel Reid Memoir
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Check Out The Transcript Here:
Dan, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast.
Dan Reid: (00:03)
Thanks for inviting me.
Absolute pleasure. My wife, who runs the company with me, when I first met her, the first book I noticed on her book shelf that I have was The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity.
Dan Reid: (00:20)
Your flagship, and I just said to her, "I'm just jumping on with Dan now," and she was like, "Ah, that was the first book on Taoism I ever bought," and since then [crosstalk 00:00:30].
Dan Reid: (00:30)
And also put the word "sex" on the cover.
I mean, I kind of got to agree that that's definitely a draw.
Dan Reid: (00:41)
You know when you see books and they're all well-thumbed in that section.
It's a good trio. Health, Sex, and Longevity. That must be ... because that was '89. Is that right?
Dan Reid: (00:53)
Actually, it was '87, I think.
Oh, '87, and yeah, did it become a cult classic as it went along? I can't remember. I think you mentioned it in your biography.
Dan Reid: (01:09)
It took off really quickly. First of all, it took two years to sell it. I had an agent in New York. He couldn't get anyone interested. He got all these wise guy rejection slips, so he took it to London and sold it immediately, and brought it back, and then of course New York took it, and then it took off pretty quickly, yeah.
Yeah. I mean, I imagine back then ... because it must be interesting for you now to see Taoism and Taoist practises and Taoist sexual practises, and semen retention, and the concept of longevity become all trendy. I mean ...
Dan Reid: (01:47)
Yeah. Nobody knew anything about it back then, and the editors didn't know why this might be important. They didn't even know how to pronounce the word Tao. Yeah. But I was sure it would take root, because I just know that's what people want. I mean, anyone who does any kind of practise wants to be healthy, everyone wants sex, and we don't want to die young.
How do you relate now to ... because at that time, you were in Taiwan, right, and really you were immersed, and you'd gone to university and learnt ...
Dan Reid: (02:29)
I spoke Chinese, I could read and write, so I could read first, original sources, and I had Taoist friends. I just gravitated toward them. It was nothing formal. I never went to a Chinese medical school or anything. I did do a few qigong classes, but mostly it was friends who were into various aspects, Chinese friends, of Taoism, and because I could speak Chinese, it became very easy to become friends. But most of the learning took place around the tea table. It was very informal, and the Chinese are very practical people, so that's the aspect of Taoism that I got into, that I got first introduced to. Later I started reading some of the classical texts and things that had the background theory.
So you were in ... I think it must have been the original time, when there was a bridging of that classical Taoist and Chinese medical information coming over to the West. Were there some people before you that were maybe doing some other ground work I'm not really aware of? It seemed like that was the period, that mid-'80s to late '80s, when it was actually happening.
Dan Reid: (03:52)
Yeah, it was. Of course there were some people. I read a lot of books by an English writer named John Blofeld, who lived in China for 18 years, and he was interested in Taoism, Buddhism, and all that, and he was in China from 1930 to '48, and I read most of his books, and then I finally met him. Actually, he was dying that year. I didn't know that, but it turned out he was living in Bangkok, so I flew down there to meet him, and he was in the middle of writing his memoirs, in Chinese.
Wow. You covered that in your book, right, Shots From the Hip, your biography.
Dan Reid: (04:35)
Yes. You read that?
Yeah, yeah, I read that. I loved it. I don't love biographies a lot of the time. I think I was turned off by Kelly Slater's.
Dan Reid: (04:49)
Oh, yeah. Kelly Slater's a real fan of the Tao of Sex, Health and Longevity.
Is he? Awesome.
Dan Reid: (04:57)
Oh, yeah. Always talks about it. But I can't get in touch with him. I wanted to thank him for all the promotion he's done.
Well, that's interesting. Well, I'll see eventually if I can get him on. I know he likes mushrooms and tonics. If we can get him on to the Di Dao tonic herbs, I'll make sure I ...
Dan Reid: (05:14)
Tell him you interviewed me. Yeah.
Dan Reid: (05:17)
What were we talking about there?
Well, we were talking about the-
Dan Reid: (05:23)
Oh, I was going to ask you about the memoir. Have you read just the first one or the second one?
No. Is the second one Energy, Light and Luminous Space?
Dan Reid: (05:28)
Is that the ... No. I actually wanted to talk to you first. I don't know why I felt ... I finished Shots From the Hip, and then I was like, cool. Once I've spoken to you in an interview, I'll start Energy, Light and Luminous Space, so now I'll go and ... I've just got Shots From the Hip to my Kindle. I might do the same with the other one, so I don't have to wait now.
Dan Reid: (05:47)
Yeah. I just gave it a final polish about two months ago, so it's good that you haven't read it.
Oh, good. I knew there was a reason.
Dan Reid: (05:54)
How are you feeling, having been ... I see it. It was like you took the foundation of work that those that had done a lot of the translation and actually bridged it over to the West, so you did a lot of that bridging.
Dan Reid: (06:11)
That's the place where it usually falls apart, because many translators or people who've studied Chinese medicine formally, they get too literal in the way they present it to the West, and it just doesn't make sense to people, and I think this is too esoteric, or maybe this isn't really well, and so I made an attempt, and apparently I have an ability to do that, to make it sensibile and enjoyable to Western readers, in a way that they'll keep reading, and I guess that's why my books stay in print. It's more than translation, it's interpretation.
How do you communicate that to people? Obviously I think I agree. You've got obviously the knack because you can discuss poetry, you can discuss the character, and you can sit in that world and not try and explain that way of thinking as it being metaphoric, or ... You don't try and explain it with Western concepts, you just sit in and live within that way of thinking, which is from an Eastern philosophical standpoint.
Dan Reid: (07:27)
Yeah, but I try to find aspects of Western culture, and particularly contemporary. I mean, I came from this, you read by book, the hippy age, and the new age, and all this stuff, so I tried to find ... and explaining things which I can understand from reading original Chinese texts, and from Chinese masters and all that, but then I try to find something in the Western world that links. Western science, maybe cutting edge medical science, nutritional science. It's not mainstream stuff, but it's getting more and more. Organic food, and food combining. There's links to all that in ancient Taoist thought and in what we're doing now in the West. It's just finding how to thread them together.
Yeah, make it relevant in the Western way of thinking, right?
Dan Reid: (08:23)
Is that where you stand, that you're happy to bridge so that people can stay more so within their Western framework and-
Dan Reid: (08:32)
... integrate some of the wisdom, or is there a party that's like, you're going to have to step out of your way of thinking and start integrating with the Eastern way of looking at the world?
Dan Reid: (08:44)
Oh, not at all. I consider myself internally Chinese. What do they call that? An egg. White on the outside and yellow on the inside. But there's really nothing new under the sun. The Tao is probably the most ancient integrated system of thought that makes sense, and it's focused on practical things. Western people are practical, so I am very content to be a bridge. It's interesting you use that word because my wife calls me a bridge. She's Chinese, and so I'm a bridge to her going the other way.
Is your wife ... Is it Snow?
Dan Reid: (09:31)
Yeah, Snow. She's from Taiwan. [crosstalk 00:09:34].
How long have you guys been together?
Dan Reid: (09:35)
She's Jo-Jo in the memoir.
Jo-Jo. Oh, yeah. Of course. Okay. Okay. Jo-Jo. How long have you guys been together?
Dan Reid: (09:42)
We've been married 30 years next year.
Dan Reid: (09:49)
Talk about longevity.
Yeah. I know there's elements of Taoism that's not ... The non-sexy kind of aspect of Taoism, which is the longevity, and being able to go along in your psychological development, and reflect upon yourself so that you don't project on others, and have a healthy relationship, or have healthy friendships. It's one of those things. It's I guess one of those kind of those under-themes. It's maybe there, maybe coming to the surface a little bit more, but not overt. What I wanted to ask, because there was a bit of a ... I can imagine that we didn't have long to talk about it in the book, like, where this sudden ability, in my eyes sudden, for you to put together these intensely complex dishes and meals together, but I think I remember there was a friend. You were with your friends in a castle. You were somewhere in America, in-
Dan Reid: (10:53)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cooking, you mean?
Yeah, yeah, cooking.
Dan Reid: (11:01)
The three things I like best are cooking ... writing first, cooking, and gardening, and they all fit together. I learnt to cook early on in my life from my aunt and my mother. They taught me things, and then my Chinese teachers started teaching me in California, when I was studying Chinese, how to cook Chinese food, and I started to see all the principles of the yin, the yang, and the five elements become the five flavours, and how everything works in balance and harmony. The basic Taoist principles run right through it, and so how am I able to do that? I think I was younger. I had a lot of energy, and I still cook. I still cook for my wife and myself. We don't have very many dinner guests here anymore, but yeah.
It is a way to take it out of the theoretical and apply it. I mean, that's quite often ...
Dan Reid: (12:02)
But that's the whole point. China, I mean, they are practical, earthly people. They're not really into so much ... The ones who really want to go full spiritual, they just leave society. They go into the mountains, and there's still Taoist hermits, men and women, up in the mountains, who don't even know who Mao Zedong was.
Amazing. What a world.
Dan Reid: (12:28)
Yeah. There's a guy named ... an old friend of mine from Taiwan named Bill Porter. His pen name is Red Pine, and Red Pine is probably the foremost translator now of classical Taoist and Buddhist texts, and he's still working, and he's 78 now, and I'm still in touch with him. He went to China. He's got a book called Road to Heaven, because he said, "Well, I want to see if I can find these Taoists," and this is when it was just after the culture revolution, you know, but he managed to get up to those mountains, and he met Taoist hermits.
Dan Reid: (13:12)
Now, those are the ones who are really taking the spiritual side of it, the esoteric side of it, to the max. They live in caves or in cabins. They never come down off the mountain, but other than that, Chinese society uses Taoist principles, Taoist science, for medicine, Chinese medicine, cooking, sex, overall health practises, painting, the way they do their landscape paintings, the perfect balance of space and ink. It's the same principle applies, but for China, it's basically a Confucian society. They think that, well, okay, we're here on Earth. We have this life. Let's just focus on this, and we're going to find out what happens next anyway, so why focus in on that now? Confucius said, "Pay respects to all gods and demons, but stay clear of them all."
I like it. It's an interesting thing, because in Taoism, and all through Chinese society, there are deities used to represent something in ... but never a real worshipping .
Dan Reid: (14:41)
No, not like that. Exactly, because they're like ... Also Buddhism too, or Hinduism. No-one denies that there's gods. They just say there's not one almighty one above all the others. There's an almighty state, not an almighty god, but a state of mind, a state of spirit, which we look for. Where the Buddhists call it enlightenment, in China they just call it the Tao, the way, and you want to go that direction. You're not going into a religion that then you have to just take all these orders from God and from the clergy. Instead you want to cultivate that supreme state, which is beyond the human condition.
From where you're sitting, and watching the world, and watching Taoist principles now roll out further and further, where are you at with ... Are you feeling like there's an authenticity and a grounding-ness in the way in which that philosophy is rolling out into the West, whether it's through businesses and just people integrating those practises? More and more, qigong starts to move out there, more and more Chinese medicine starts rolling out there. Are you kind of feeling like it's staying connected to the old way mostly?
Dan Reid: (16:11)
As long as they are following the basic science and the basic philosophy of the Tao, the yin and the yang, the five elements. You have to be able to see how those principles apply to different aspects of life, but if they stick to those principles, then it's on course. I mean, there's also the nonsense, the commercialization, the Tao of Winnie the Pooh, and all these things. Okay. That's not what we're talking about, but the principles are solid. It's quantum physics also. I mean, the binary, yin and yang. Isn't that how computers work? There's this two, and then there's five, and then it goes on from there. It's all in the Tao De Jing, if you know how to read the Tao De Jing. It's all there.
Yeah. Difficult one. I mean, I've got a few translations, and they're all so different [crosstalk 00:17:09].
Dan Reid: (17:09)
I like Arthur Waley. He was an English translator of Chinese poetry, but he did one. He never went to China. He taught himself Chinese in the British Museum during World War II, and he's my favourite translator. He calls the Tao De Jing, his translation, The Way and Its Power, so if you find the way, then you get its power. Tao De Jing means, okay, Tao is the Tao, the way. First De means virtue, and Jing is a classic book, so the classic of the way and its power. If you follow the way, the way of nature, basically, because the biggest manifestation, the most obvious manifestation of the Tao on Earth, is nature.
Dan Reid: (18:06)
Only humans go against nature. We have all kinds of weird things we do, that animals, and flowers and bees don't do. The underlying thing is we all eat, we all have sex for procreation and all that, and beyond that, humans take it. They try to conquer nature, and so by not following nature and trying to conquer it or twist it, as we can what's happening now in the world, with this whole viral thing, it doesn't end well that way.
Yeah, I mean, there always seems to be something which I think the West isn't programmed for, which is a simplification versus coming up with complex solutions to something. So you're like, that's ... Is that just basically, from your perspective, and understanding the Tao ... I mean, like you've just talked about, first of all, not voiding yourself from nature. Is a simple solution which takes observation and ...
Dan Reid: (19:10)
Yeah. Well, one of the things in the Taoist practice ... It's quite well known for people who follow Taoism and Tao De Jing, is the term wu wei. Wei means to do. Wu means no, not. Not doing. But not doing doesn't mean just kicking back, doing nothing, and smoking a joint, and being lazy. It means non-interference, really. It means following the flow of the Tao, of the way, and so you can see that in nature. Watch the birds and the bees behave, and let nature take its course. Now, in the case of the human being, for example, taking medicine as an example, Western medicine interferes, with drugs, chemicals, vaccines, and the best defence against disease is a strong immune system. It's built into us. It's built into our genetics, but how many people have a strong immune response anymore?
Dan Reid: (20:14)
And so when you do need medicine, the Chinese principle first is use food. We all have to eat, and if that doesn't work or that's not good enough, or the problem is too great, then go to the herbs, the medicinal herbs, the mushrooms, and take it from there, but that all comes from still taking your lead from nature. Instead of trying to overcome it, I'm going to fix this by ... Because I got a new chemical that I made from petroleum, and I got a patent on it, and this is going to kill the virus or the bacteria, and then, in the process of doing that, it causes other problems.
I think that's always my mind. I've got a nice Western mind as well, you know, so I quite often will constantly go looking up like, all right, what have I got to add in? What have ... But ultimately, I think ... There's a Chinese practitioner we've had who's talked about the colonisation of Chinese medicine on the podcast before, Rhonda Chang, and basically, quite often, if I say ... if I'm decolonizing my mind so I can come up with simple solutions, which is, one, it's ultimately simple. It's like, first of all, you're going to have to yield and come back into effortless effort, or at least I think that's-
Dan Reid: (21:35)
Exactly. Wu wei, non-interference, but you want to understand the principle [crosstalk 00:21:40].
That's it. The principle. Yeah. That's where I think it's one thing to try and add in Taoist practises, which have kind of, in a Western way, have been cut out of the entire philosophy and injected into Western world in order to act as a symptom, verse decolonizing in a sense of just coming back and understanding what that principle of wu wei is, and what the principle of yin yang is, so-
Dan Reid: (22:14)
And the five elements. All the traditional cultures, basically, have these five elements. I call them the five elemental energies. They're really associated with the five elemental colours, and they all have a different vibrational rate on the electromagnetic spectrum, and it all comes down to very simple things, but then you have to see how, in a complex situation, how those simple principles can be applied to correct the problem, rather than try to come up with a even more complex solution. You know what I mean? Which is the Western medical approach, it's the Western scientific approach. Yeah. It gets way too complex, the technology.
Okay, so a lot of people listening, they're constant ... because that's what I've tried to do with the business in order ... I kind of always talk about things like, I move my business in the direction so I can sleep at night, and one of the things that started coming up was I know that seasonal living is ultimately ... or observing the seasons is ultimately going to solve the problem in which a lot of people come to us for herbs in the first place, and so it's an unfair thing to be talking about herbs without talking about these fundamentals.
But a lot of people listening are aware that they're still undergoing a process of just being able to comprehend that continuing to understand and implement what you're talking about as these basics is worth it, one. Isn't healing some symptom. It's a way of kind of almost re-educating the way, re-informing the way you build your own little family culture, so on and so forth, so just from that perspective, because I'm sure many people have heard it before, and you've probably said it many, many times, but just talking about these basic principles again, hearing it from you, in terms of living seasonally, understanding the principles of yin yang and the five principles, and how ... Can you just explain, for those people listening that are striving to be able to sink their teeth into and feel it so that they can move their family and themselves in that direction more, just maybe a few little pieces of how they can understand the principles further.
Dan Reid: (24:42)
Well, you can use the principles to understand and adapt to weather, extreme weather conditions. Well, there's heat, and dampness, and then there's the combinations of heat and damp together, which can be very damaging to human health. Lots of rain and snow. There's the water element coming up. If you look into the traditional Taoist science of how the five elements relate, once cycle is that one, where they say conquers the next or suppresses the next, and then there's the other cycle where one element nurtures the next one, so water is good for earth and all that, but if you go the other way, fire will burn down wood, and all these things.
Dan Reid: (25:37)
If you can learn the basic principles, why it's useful to understand the basic principles of Taoism, or I call it Taoist science, because it's not a religion. There is a Taoist religion, a popular religion with temples, and god, and all that, but we're not talking about that here. If you understand those basic principles, then in your daily life, in all aspects, you can find links, starting with yin and yang, positive and negative, male and female, or the five elements and their relations to flavours, salty, sweet, sour, pungent. There are some very obvious ways in daily life, and in your family life and in your living situation, where you can start to ... If you can start to see how it all comes down to a few basic principles, then you can apply it to more complicated things and more complicated situations, including the way people interact with each other.
How would we get informed about the way that we interact with one [crosstalk 00:26:53].
Dan Reid: (26:52)
Well, I mean, there's personality types. There's the fire. There is a whole Chinese ... what they call fortune telling or astrology, but it's much deeper than that. There's a science behind it. Personality types, which I don't know if it's genetic or if it's the way you're brought up or something, but there's the fire personality, the person who explodes and is impulsive, and then there's the really easy-going, flowing water element, then there's the very earthy type of person, and there are a lot of texts on all these aspects, and a lot of them have been translated. I don't think there's anything where these principles don't apply.
Yeah. The personality one's always interesting, because I've been looking for ... I've found a few people saying that they've got little online questionnaires, but it doesn't seem ... I don't know if you've got one. It always seems to miss the mark just a little bit, based on ... Because sometimes you get where the deficiency is currently and maybe not tracked back to where your constitutional deficiency or constitutional element lies, and so sometimes I will be like, yep, I'm definitely fire, and now I'm definitely water. Nah, actually ... and I just go round and round.
Dan Reid: (28:25)
I mean, you may have your basic personality type, but other things happen in life. Situations arise where you're reacting to another kind of person, either in a good way or an adversarial way, and then that person's energy is then starting to mould yours and change yours, and you're responding, and suddenly you're shifting to some other, from fire to water, or to earth or some other element. There are many factors involved there.
Dan Reid: (29:03)
I think that our experience in life is more important than your genetic background, and there's a lot in DNA, obviously, but the idea of free choice is something that humans have, whereas animals and plants will basically just follow their genetic pattern, but humans have the choice to go against the grain sometime. We're seeing a lot of that now in the current situation. How many people are following the agenda that's being pushed now, and then there's a lot of people who aren't, and to do that, you have to sometimes just go against what you've been brought up with.
This is an interesting conversation, because I think the thing with Taoism I like is you come to ... as you observe nature and you observe ... coming from a place of realities, let's say, yin yang, it seems to me like a reality, as is science. However, a lot of the time science doesn't have the foundations of guiding principles that are grounded in reality. Can run off on its own tangent.
Dan Reid: (30:25)
Yes, indeed. There's no underlying thing in that, but some science that's coming out ... I mean, quantum physics is basically verifying that, ultimately, and the Taoists say this too, that there is no such thing as solid form. Everything is just energy, but it's slowed down. It's light that's slowed down so much, with our coarse sensory organs, we take it to be a solid form. In fact, it's not, because with modern technology, with electron microscopes, you keep going further and further down. Suddenly the atom just disappears and becomes a waveform, and those are the basic energies. Basic energies like that, and the thing that's interesting is that, in quantum physics, when something, an electron or subatomic particle just sort of disappears and then becomes a waveform, the observer, using intent, using intent, mind, can make it come back, or move somewhere else, or transform into something else. There's something about that. There's the physical level, there's the energetic level, and then there's the mind.
Which are the principles in which Taoism is based on, understanding that reality.
Dan Reid: (31:59)
Absolutely. Essence, energy, and spirit. Body, breath, and mind. There's all different ways, but my favourite ideogram, my favourite Chinese character, is the one for intent, and that consists ... On the top, there's the symbol for sound, also means vibration, and underneath that is heart. It's a vibration that comes from here, not here. Here we think. Thinking is very structured. We think in terms of words, and concepts, and all that, but your real intention, what you intend to do, what you want to do in life or in a particular situation, is always from here, which in Chinese we'd call spirit. That's spirit. Something above all the differences in form and in energy and all that. The different permutations can come in combinations, but you have one thing, is your intent is the strongest force.
So many things swimming through my head there. I think what you've just talked about there is coming back to a reality. You mentioned not going off into the religious ... Religion quite often can come with gods, and let's create wrong and right through a set of rules, and once again, because it's easier to, I guess, spread, easier to commodify something that you write down in a book, and you just go, here's how you know right and wrong, verse here's a principle of living in a particular way, which I feel like the Tao and other ways of following these traditions of wisdom, which puts you in reality where you can feel and get informed of, say, morals, ethics, right and wrong, from a place of truth, not being driven by a dogma, and that's why what you're talking about is at some point coming down to a heart space, and not because the religion told you to, not because ...
Dan Reid: (34:17)
Religion says you don't have it.
Dan Reid: (34:20)
They say you're a boring sinner and you're bad, and so you need god, a god, one of many. How can there be 10 different gods representing 10 different truths? There's only one truth, and then you need this intermediary, which is the guy in the robe, yeah? And that's it, otherwise you're doomed, and you got to sign up for one of these clubs called religions. I mean, religion I think in Latin sort of means something like reunite. You've been separated from the divine, but in Taoism and Buddhism, and the non-theistic, especially Tibetan Buddhism, we've got that. It's just that we don't know it, and even if we know it, we haven't found it.
Dan Reid: (35:15)
Everybody has that, and spirituality and religion are totally different. In religion, you're going to obey a certain god and a set of rules, and then the clergy get involved in it, whereas in spirituality, you're just trying to discover a certain aspect of yourself. [inaudible 00:35:36]. Yeah, so you ... Yeah.
Do you think all of Taoism is deriving to that ... Taoist thought. Is that driving to that reality, being present for the individual practising .
Dan Reid: (35:54)
Oh yeah, because you got to be present no matter which aspect of the Tao you practise, including semen retention. If you're not present, you're going to go out of control, and it's all over. Cooking. If you don't pay attention, you're not present, you're not going to get the flavours just perfect, just right, and so, in the spiritual tradition of Taoism, you're just trying to be present in your basic nature, your basic state, which is not something you can really describe, but you can experience it.
Which is then the, I guess, the leading intent behind, say, qigong practise or a tea ceremony. Is that correct?
Dan Reid: (36:47)
Yes, yes. Okay, so there's three ... There's so many things that are done in trilogy or in trinity. The basic one ... I mean, and at this level, Buddhism and Taoism agree, okay? I think the most basic one is ... You've heard this translated as emptiness many times. Essential emptiness is simply the fact that there is no solid form. It's all empty, so everything that we take for solid is temporary, impermanence, and all that, so what you really want to know is to understand everything's essential nature, which is formless, and from that you can harvest something. Wisdom. Why get attached to impermanent things? How about following things which are eternal? So therefore, we're not so attached to all these little toys and things that we've got so much. Okay? So that's emptiness.
Dan Reid: (37:56)
Then the next one. We hear this a lot too. Light. We're in the light. What's the light? Light's spirit, and the nature of spirit and the nature of light, it manifests unconditional love. They talk about unconditional love, compassion, and people get it a bit wrong. They think, oh, this is like this goody two shoes, love everybody, love your neighbour. It's not that. It's also what heals. A real healer is really using herbs and techniques, breathing things, but behind that is the intent, the light of love, which is ... Without that, the thing doesn't have any power.
Dan Reid: (38:45)
And then the third level ... Okay, you've got your essential emptiness, you've got your natural light, your luminosity, you might call it. The next level is energy, just energy. The yin and the yang energy, the five elements, and millions of different kind of smaller energies, all of which are sort of refracted out from your clear light of your basic spirit, and if you use that energy in accord with the wisdom and the compassion of your other two aspects, the energy has power, creative power. You can create something, art. You can heal. You can do positive things. That energy doesn't have what we call power, the power to create, unless it's done in accord with the wisdom and the compassion of your other two aspects.
Dan Reid: (39:54)
It's hard for people in daily life to keep in mind that, yeah, well, essentially we're formless, and we're just bundles of energy, and we've got this light, because you can't live in the world without an ego and without a house, and a roof over your head, and you got to wear clothes, so it's just a matter of the relative priorities that you give things. By having understanding of the basic nature, then other things become relative, only relatively important.
Yeah, I mean, it's always an interesting process when you start reading about these concepts, and a book can sometimes blow people's minds, and it becomes fantastical. I think that's why a lot of the time, the spiritual communities of the world, and Byron Bay, where everyone's just discovering these principles for the first time, and it makes you very counterculture because it's hard to land in the grind of everyday life, yet most of the time, that's where you do end up, and having the discipline to walk between those two worlds, embody the chop wood, carry water.
Dan Reid: (40:59)
Yeah. I mean, I like Byron Bay a lot. I Enjoyed living there. But some people, they take it too far the other way. Everyone's the healer because they had a workshop in Sydney 10 years ago for two weeks, and there it is, but they're not really living like a healer would or manifesting that kind of energy, and some people just don't want to do anything, so sleeping on the beach or stuff like that. It can go overboard that way. There has to be a balance always.
Dan Reid: (41:37)
Again, going back to Taoism, the three powers. [inaudible 00:41:41]. What does that mean? Heaven, Earth, and humanity in between. Heaven, okay, the spiritual stuff, the ancient principles of the Tao. Earth, food, sex, shelter, and in between is the human, and the art of life is correctly balancing those two, and this is what the Chinese are so good at. Most people cannot go into a cave and sit there for 50 years and become enlightened, although some can. There was a teacher, a woman, female teacher, my Tibetan teacher, who spent 56 years in a dark retreat. Came out when she was 106, taught for one year, including my teacher, and then went back, and then achieved the rainbow body. You may have heard of that, but ...
Dan Reid: (42:44)
Not many people who can do that.
Dan Reid: (42:45)
But you don't have to go out and run a gambling den either, or go way the other way too. There's a balance between. But as long as you stick to the basic principles, it's going to go all right. Going into wu wei simply means don't interfere with the basic ... not only with nature, but with the basic nature of things. Don't rub it against the wrong way, because then it's going to bite back.
It seems to be the biggest thing, going against the grain. I can speak for within myself, is that there is a requiring of faith, and for me, having gone to Catholic school, and not to rip on Catholicism. I know there's a lot of people here who might still be ... not a lot, but maybe might be in that world, so it's not about ... But my experience was I was getting this ... it was this false faith jammed down my throat, and so even the concept of having faith got quite muddied up, and for me I'd say taken into the synthetic, verse where you talk about all these principles of flowing with the way, there is this organic faith that's an organic quality within myself.
Because I was thinking about, what's the antidote for me of the fear that I have that I'm going to run out? You know, the greed that comes up. No, I'm not going to go down that path, because it seems like I'm going to have to give up too much. I might as well just work lots, and all that kind of reptilian kind of way, excessively in that earth energy of like, it's not good enough to just have my shelter.
Dan Reid: (44:35)
I know what you mean, because I've spent my entire life, except for two years when I worked in a hotel in Taiwan, as a freelance writer, and there's a lot of thin times when you're a freelance writer. But if you're on the right path, in the sense of your basic way of life ... Again, there's that word again. Way. Tao. That's what Tao means. It means way or path. If you just follow it, and you do no harm to others and all those things, well, then, magic happens. Not miracles, magic. It's the magic of life, and I'm not talking about a magic show, but if you're present and you pay attention, you see opportunities happen everywhere, including in things that you might normally think is a real problem or there's adversity there, but if you just sit with it for a while and watch it develop, whoa. There's an opportunity.
You're right. I mean, when I think of that ... That's my counter to that colonised part of myself, which I do love. It helps me stay in this world. When I feel that come up, and want more now rather than ... It's like you plant a tree and you want that tree to grow into something incredible. You're either going to be able to do that synthetically or make it look bigger or have it go along quicker and further than it actually is, and I know there's a Taoist adage in ... I can't remember which classic, but talking about the fact, like a tree, if you just be patient and let a tree grow in the way that it's meant to grow, eventually it will become a tree that the carpenters won't touch. It'll become iconic.
Dan Reid: (46:34)
And actually have longevity, and actually become something beautiful.
Dan Reid: (46:38)
Yeah, and it'll adjust to its environment, in a way that it will grow better than maybe you trying to make it grow in a particular way you want. Yeah.
Patience is a virtue, I guess.
Dan Reid: (46:50)
I'm impatient, basically. Well, I have been. I'm getting more patient now because there's nothing much I can do with my impatience anymore.
Well, it's good medicine. I mean, already, I can feel my stress from the last two weeks clear as day right now in this conversation of whether it's how far along our house is, our new house, and getting our ... you know, the plans of what we're going to do as a family, where the business is at, blah, blah, blah. It's the impatience. I feel it stunting and moving into a non way of being. I can feel like the only way I'm going to take it, if I don't have this faith and patience, and I don't engage in flow, is I'm going to have to use synthetic means.
Dan Reid: (47:45)
Yeah, I know. I know what you mean. It's letting things take their course, and if you want to accomplish a particular thing, you have to do it in harmony with the way nature is flowing. You have to make some adjustments. You cannot overcome nature. You can only work with it. It's the way. It's the way it works, and so if you go against the way it works because you think you've got technology, or you can throw money at it or something, something else is going to go out of whack.
Dan Reid: (48:23)
I mean, look at the condition of the world today. Look at the oceans. Full of plastics, and the air is ... I mean, I don't need to harp on that. It's just all going ... and it doesn't have to be that way. There are natural ways of handling things which are slower. Slower. This thing about space travel, and maybe eventually you don't need a spaceship. You don't need to be Elon Musk or something. You can teleport yourself. I mean, I think that's how the aliens go around other universes, and dimensions, and solar systems. They teleport themselves. It's scientifically possible.
Yeah, I agree with you there. I feel that one coming.
Dan Reid: (49:16)
You become a vibrational breath, which then goes, through intent, to where you already had planned, and when you get there, then you re-materialise.
Don't know if it's within the same conversation, or whether it just came to mind. In terms of one of the elements of Taoism being facing your mortality and then therefore immortality, and almost this presence being in preparation for death without there being an attachment to what happens on the other side, perhaps, or perhaps in certain Taoist traditions, they do have an intention, where do you sit with that, and the relevance of ...
Dan Reid: (50:00)
I'm sitting a lot with that lately.
Dan Reid: (50:05)
Yes. Yeah, I'm 72 now, and that guy, Arthur Waley, the translator of the Tao De Jing, who .. he's my favourite. He says one of the things he likes about the Tao is their lyrical acceptance of death. Almost a poetic acceptance, because all it really is is a matter of not being attached to something that's going down the tube. It's going down the drain. Why be attached to your bathwater? You've just had a bath. The water's dirty. You let it out. Right? Your body is the same thing. We get old. The water gets dirty, no matter what you do and no matter how well you eat, or how much qigong you do every day. It's going to expire, and so at that time, or later in life, it really is time to start focusing more on what doesn't disappear. It may not be visible, spirit or awareness, but it's eternal, and it's indestructible, and we all have it, and this idea of religions.
Dan Reid: (51:32)
All right, well, if you behave yourself, and you come to church and everything, you'll get a ticket to Heaven, and the other one, you get a ticket to Hell, and this kind of thing. That's not what it's about. You create your own Heaven or Hell, and usually it's on Earth, in life. What you want to do is focus more on that which lasts, which is always there, and you may be back again in another body or even in another dimension, or whatever. But the basic core light of what you really are, the energy and the light, is always going to be there. I discuss this quite a bit in the last chapter of the second book, the second volume of my memoir. That thing, I had to write five times.
Yeah. Yeah. I'm really feeling it right now. I really felt you slow down and sink in there, and ...
Dan Reid: (52:43)
Yeah. Yeah. It's absolutely true. Life rushes by very fast if you're living fast, and jumping around, and yet if you slow down, then it can be the same amount of time, the same number of years, but seem a lot longer.
[inaudible 00:53:04] that's an element that really I got I feel a few years ago, and I started to get a bit fearful about life being short, which I felt was relevant. I was like, okay. Great. It's something [crosstalk 00:53:21].
Dan Reid: (53:20)
Well, that's good that you feel that way, because life is short.
Well, then as soon as I stopped resisting it ... Because I feel like that's, to be honest, why I got into the Taoist herbs, and then practises, and the concept of immortality, is from a place of fear of the inevitability of death, and because I was young enough and in my 20s, I could convince myself that, for a time, I could a bandaid of immortality over that fear, and then thankfully I think, for myself, and continuing to read, whether it's your books or just from other traditions, it was like, okay. Maybe I keep on going with that thought, and I finally started having the feeling of like, well, life's pretty long, at the same time, which that ... and that was probably the first time I'd experienced I guess an intellectual ... a real yin yang.
It really created two magnetic poles, that first time I felt that, and started recalibrating myself and the way that I approach life, which was one of the most significant times I feel like I've gone, wow, that's ... and being in the perception of yin and yang really does all of a sudden creates these magnetic poles where I don't have to have the answer, but I can orient myself around them, and that's cool.
Dan Reid: (54:50)
It's just getting all of that. I'm aware we've been going for about an hour. I think, just in the tradition, the way it's gone, I read one of your biographies, and we jump on for a podcast. I think that would ... If you'd be up for coming back on.
Dan Reid: (55:07)
You want to read the second volume, huh?
Yeah, I'm going to go ... I know you said you just updated it, and I assume that'll be ...
Dan Reid: (55:14)
Well, I can send it to you as a PDF file if you want.
Yeah. That'll be cool. Let's do that.
Dan Reid: (55:21)
I just sent the PDF to my guy at Amazon to upload into the text, but it's very readable, so I'll just send it to you.
Perfect. We'll do that, and I think there's a ... I have got The Art and Alchemy of Chinese Tea as well, which is something I've found ... When I was reading your book, and I know I said we're going to finish up, but I might throw this out there, just as we-
Dan Reid: (55:52)
That's okay. I got nothing but time now.
Beautiful. Yeah. It's a long life. I'm sure there was struggle behind the scenes in terms of dedicating yourself to certain practises, to an extent, but your capacity for discipline ... I mean, it was like it's the way ... I guess I can see ... Your biography's name is Sex, Drugs and the Tao, and you do have that character which you throw yourself into the deep end.
Dan Reid: (56:33)
Yeah. I think people should. That's okay to do when you're young.
Yeah. But it meant that, off the back of the sex and the drugs, you threw yourself into qigong practise and the tea ceremony practise, and I think I read it at a time where I was-
Dan Reid: (56:47)
Cooking. And cooking.
Exactly, and I think I was reading the book at a time ... and it got me reflecting on ... I was exiting a phase of my life, especially with a young child and a business to run, where I wasn't able to get quite as immersive, and I actually remember getting a little bit nostalgic about that part of my life, and maybe you know what I mean.
Dan Reid: (57:16)
And possibly feeling a bit guilty or going down on myself. Getting down on myself. Going down on myself. That's a funny way to put it. Getting down on myself about it, but for you and the concept of discipline, where does it sit now in terms of the discipline around sexual practise, semen retention, qigong practise, tea ceremony, et cetera? How do you relate at this point in your life to the concept of your consistent practise, students-
Dan Reid: (57:53)
I was doing some teaching in Byron. I had some qigong classes I did while I was there, and I had a small one going here, but now with the shut down and everything, I got no students here, so I'm not doing any teaching right now. I'd like to but I'm not. For me, personally, I find that it boils down to just the basic things that work best, because like I said, as you get older, you know your time is going to be up at the one point, so there's no more need to ...
Dan Reid: (58:28)
You have the knowledge, you can hold an intelligent conversation with people on all sorts of things, but what do I do at home? I'm not asked that a lot. Qigong. I don't practise as much as I used to, but I always do some every day, because it works, and I don't feel comfortable if I don't. I feel my body's tight. I can feel my tendons behind my knees, and I can ... You know, my organs don't seem to be sitting in the right place, the spine isn't quite right, so the qigong works, and I'm getting older, and so it works in an important way. It makes my body work better, and now what I call tea-gong.
Dan Reid: (59:14)
Which is what the tea is, the Chinese way of tea, and that particular tea, that high mountain oolong tea from Taiwan, is just unbelievable. Do you drink tea?
Yeah. Not that much, though.
Dan Reid: (59:31)
Well, you should go and see Snow's brother.
Dan Reid: (59:35)
He lives in Mullumbimby and-
Dan Reid: (59:38)
Yeah, and he's got tea there, and teapots. I mean, you go and visit him and he'll make tea for you, and you'll see. He makes good tea, and you-
Do you want me to give him a plug, or is it a private ... Is it a private thing or is he open to the public?
Dan Reid: (59:52)
Absolutely, yeah, because we have a tea website, and it's run out of Taiwan, and it's one of Snow's sisters that mails it out and all that, but we have a lot of people in Byron who like the tea, and so she supplies him, and so he's always got some tea, and some teapots, and some cups available, so you don't have to order it online. You can just go buy it at his house.
What's the easiest way to find him? Should we get contacts later from you and I can put it in the show notes? That's easy.
Dan Reid: (01:00:26)
Let me see if I can ...
Might as well give him a shout out, and what's the website as well?
Dan Reid: (01:00:34)
Oolong-tea.org. Oolong, O-O-L-O-N-G, dash.
Yep, got it.
Dan Reid: (01:00:46)
Okay, now, his number is ... His English name is Dexter.
Dan Reid: (01:01:00)
Awesome. I will reach out to him prior and make sure he's happy with me putting his number on a podcast.
Dan Reid: (01:01:10)
I think he will be. I think he will be, because, I mean, people buy tea from him. That's part of what he does for a living, and he's got a food thing in the Mullum farmers' market on Friday.
Oh, I probably went past him.
Dan Reid: (01:01:25)
Yeah, his stuff always sells out by 10:00.
Oh, cool. We'll make it 9:30 now.
Dan Reid: (01:01:33)
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, okay, back to what I do. Qigong and tea-gong. I mean, and the tea is the same thing. I love the taste of this tea. When you taste it, when he makes it for you, it's really good, but more than that, it really works for me, especially on my nervous system, my brain. It wakes me up, but not in a way like coffee races you a bit, and it just makes me feel good in a way that sometimes is hard to describe, and there's a whole organic feeling which goes very well with the tea, so I do the tea-gong and the qigong basically more or less at the same time. Speaking of which ...
Oh, yeah. Nice mug as well.
Dan Reid: (01:02:19)
So that. What else do I do? I still read books on spiritual subjects that I find of interest. Maybe I already know about them, but then I'm just reading a new book on the same subject, and when it comes to health problems, I go with nature. Organic, and same with food, but beyond that, I'm not writing anything right now. The place we live here is just too noisy for me to focus on writing, and I can't teach because I don't have any students here.
Hopefully we can spark your online teaching career.
Dan Reid: (01:03:09)
Yeah, that might work. That might work. That might work.
Well, I mean, it's something ... is fascinating, having read your books for so many years, having read just how much has gone into your own self-education, and just reading about the kinds of conversations that you're having around different aspects of Taoism and Chinese culture and philosophy, just through your books. I can feel how much is simmering under the surface [crosstalk 01:03:46].
Dan Reid: (01:03:46)
Yeah. For me, it always had to be something that you could actually go in and get your hands dirty, you know? To actually have contact with people who do those things, who know those things, Taoists or whatever. To do it all from academic sources just doesn't make sense to me. It really doesn't. I mean, I read books by academicians to get background information, but to understand how anything works, you got to try it.
Yeah. I think the difference in what you ... what I like about you delivering and talking about the academic side of it, or the classics, is that I think lots of people are going to take ... whether it's yoga or Taoism, and teach it. They don't leave a track of where they've gotten the concepts for because then that leads to accountability and actually having to know your shit, whereas a lot of people don't want to be accountable to that.
Dan Reid: (01:04:41)
That's right. Also you'll notice, in my writing, in my books, I don't put a lot of footnotes and references to ... I mean, because my readers trust me. Over time, they trust me, and I say I don't write for academicians. They want to know where I got this fact, or is this true. I say go fact check it if you want. I've never been challenged on anything. I've had editors who don't like some things I write, and I said, "Either you put that in or I'm not going to sign a contract," and I've never had a problem.
Dan Reid: (01:05:17)
I don't want to write something that's not true.
Yeah. It's not good. I mean, you've definitely got longevity in your Taoist career, anyway, so that's saying something. I mean, and that's always proof in the pudding. There's those names. Yeah. It's really good to connect, because you're one of the names that constantly comes up. As we were chatting about just beforehand, I think, yeah, I came six years ago to Byron, and you'd just left, and it was interesting when I talked about what we did, and they were like, "What are you up to here?" And I was like, "Oh, I'm bringing my company up here, and we talk about Taoist herbalism [crosstalk 01:05:55]."
Dan Reid: (01:05:56)
Who'd you talk to?
Oh, I mean, it's like a number. I mean, I think maybe it was Si Mullum was the first [crosstalk 01:06:02].
Dan Reid: (01:06:02)
Oh, yeah, Si Mullumbimby. He's one of my best friends. He's a didg player.
Yeah, didg player, and, I mean, just the general conversation. Nick Cane, who's ... he works here and knew of you, and just your name pops up, and so it's really great to make the connection, and then read your books, and having had your books for over a decade. I look forward to reading the Shots From the Hip: Energy, Light and Luminous Space.
Dan Reid: (01:06:33)
Thanks for sending that my way, and, I mean, yeah, just recommend everyone to go over to Dan Reid, R-E-I-D, .org. Your website's got lots of awesome info there.
Dan Reid: (01:06:46)
Is there anywhere else you'd like to send people?
Dan Reid: (01:06:49)
The tea website.
Again, tea website. Oolong-tea.org.
Dan Reid: (01:06:55)
And then also go in and see Dexter if you're up this way, if you're around Byron Shire.
Dan Reid: (01:07:02)
Yeah, do that for sure. You'll get a good cup of tea.
Yeah. Yeah. I'm looking forward to it. Thanks so much for coming on and taking the time. Beautiful.
Dan Reid: (01:07:12)
All right. Well, I liked doing this with you.
Dan Reid: (01:07:17)
So if you want to do more [crosstalk 01:07:21].
Yeah, I think it'll be great to do ... Yeah, I mean, especially for yourself, if there's anywhere where you're particularly getting any new insights, or you think it's relevant for the current way that the world's working, we can either do that or we can just either come on and have another jam. Both ways work. We'll connect and see what's flowing.
Dan Reid: (01:07:44)