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The Chinese character Pu – 朴 – means simple, plain or natural .  Ancient Chinese wisdom has used an uncarved block of wood as an analogy to explain this character and the principle of “Pu”.

Simplicity and returning to one’s true nature is a principle that is advocated over and over again in the Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu described “Pu” as the innocence of a child and strength of an infant’s grasp. “Pu” is experiencing and expressing oneself at the deepest level with ease. Steadiness, strength and creativity then naturally arises when we return to our natural state.

As human beings, when we peel off all the layers of our social conditioning, what does our uncarved block look like?

Scientific findings are discovering that humans are naturally kind, loving and compassionate beings.
Dachner Kelter, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, discusses the vagus nerve in his book Born to be Good. It forms part of our parasympathetic system and becomes active, often producing a feeling of warm expansion in the chest when we are moved by an act of kindness or when we appreciate a beautiful piece of music. It’s activation is associated with feelings of compassion and ethical intuition.

This new science of happiness as he calls it, shows that emotions such as gratitude, compassion and reverence can be readily cultivated in familiar ways because we are physiologically set up to feel these emotions. This explains why we feel better, happier and our immune system is boosted when we act from a place of love, kindness and compassion.
This is our natural state.

To boost our wellbeing and happiness, he advocates

  • Meditating on compassion for others as this shifts the resting brain activation to the
    left hemisphere, a region associated with happiness and boosts immune functions
  • Cultivating gratitude either via journaling or sharing at the dinner table
  • Experiences of reverence or awe in nature or morally inspiring others

When life is simple, pretenses fall away; our essential nature shines through
By not wanting, there is calm, and the world will straighten itself.
When there is silence, one finds the anchor of the universe within oneself.

Tao Te ChingVerse 37

When we embody the principle of uncarved wood, we are comfortable in our own skin as we
don’t overthink things. We let go of constantly needing to prove ourselves or desire for more
achievements, successes, other’s approval and materialistic things.
We don’t take ourselves or any situation too seriously. We are spontaneous and we let go of trying to control everything. How boring would life be if we always know what is going to happen next. Life is very short and nothing is permanent. If things don’t turn out as we hope, we try and see the humour and irony in the situation and have a good laugh.

Remember, our natural state is one of love, gratitude, and compassion.