Book Review: The Lunar Tao (by Deng Ming-Dao)

There is a distinct similarity between a tree’s source of strength and that of a human being. It is in the roots. A tree anchored in healthy roots will strive and be strong. The same is true for human beings. Our roots are our origin and that which we are part of: our families and nature. Uproot us or estrange us from our families and nature and we will be weakened. A whole spectrum of mental and physical problems may cascade over us. But our problems don’t have to be lasting or permanent. Often they are resolved simply by returning to our roots.

But how do we find our way back to our roots? Sometimes we need someone to show us, because there is so much noise in our lives that we can no longer think clearly. Our learned, detrimental behaviors and habits are so ingrained that we feel utterly lost. The Lunar Tao is a guide we can turn to if we feel lost. It is the work of a real person, Deng Ming-Dao, an experienced Taoist master who, through his extensive knowledge and vast insight, shows us how.

By its very definition, Taoism is a nature-based philosophical tradition. In The Lunar Tao, Deng Ming-Dao gradually and systematically reconnects us, through stories, poetry, and meditations, with our roots of family and nature. He shows us the value in festivals and rituals and in being in tune with all the changes that are taking place in nature. Soon we come to realize that we are actually microcosms within a macrocosm, and the same cycles of nature are paralleled within ourselves. Through observing nature and everything that is going on in it, we gain a better understanding of our own nature and what is going on in ourselves.

We don’t have to be pummeled by the currents of life like a piece of driftwood in a wild river. By following along The Lunar Tao’s eloquent, poetic and narrative illustrations of the natural cycles of all life we gain insight into who we are, what our inherent needs are, and how to reconnect and stay rooted. Thus, we regain our strength and inspire new hope to successfully navigate life’s constant changes and turbulences. After all, aren’t those turbulences not just like heavy winds or storms that will eventually subside and make way for sunny skies again?

This review can also be found on Amazon:

The Lunar Tao

Happy Chinese New Year!

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous Chinese New Year!

If you are following the lunar calendar along with a copy of The Lunar Tao by Deng Ming-Dao, start reading the first entry today.



– andelieya

The Lunar Tao: Meditations in Harmony with the Seasons

Some of you recently commented on my photos of January’s full moon. Could it be that you are as fond of and as mesmerized by the moon as I am? If following and celebrating the moon with the help of a lunar calendar full of festivals, stories, meditations, and exercises and learning about Taoist wisdom sounds intriguing to you, then I highly recommend this new Harper One book, The Lunar Tao: Meditations in Harmony with the Seasons which was just published on January 29, 2013.The Lunar Tao

The author of the book is no other than contemporary Taoist master, successful writer, and renowned fine artist, Deng Ming-Dao, who has previously published 8 other books, among them the hugely popular 365 Tao.  In The Lunar Tao: Meditations in Harmony with the Seasons you will also find some of andelieya’s photographs as part of the illustrations.

Here are some useful links to more information about the book, such as sample pages and reviews:

If this sounds interesting to you, remember that the new lunar year starts on February 10th!


Related links for more moon adoration:

The Ugly Duckling – A Metaphor for the Human Condition

When I was younger, Hans Christian Anderson’s tale ‘The Ugly Duckling’ never struck me as anything else, but another fairy tale   My Tibetan Buddhist teacher’s narration of a similar tale, ‘The Chicken Eagle’, sparked my interest in revisiting the story of ‘The Ugly Duckling’.  This time, I was awestruck by its profundity.

Hans Christian Anderson manages to package life’s trials and tribulations, the human condition of suffering, and the way to overcome it into a story seemingly geared toward the young.  Upon closer investigation of the metaphors and symbolism, the story’s significance and its suitability for all ages becomes quite clear.

First, the author lets us identify ourselves with the ugly duckling.  We recognize that we, too, are experiencing suffering from abuse, rejection, loss or bullying in our own lives, unable to find a way out of the cycle of misery.  For every kindness shown to us we encounter unkindness.  Life seems to be a continuous stream of ups and downs.

Lonesome and sad, the ugly duckling sets off by himself seeking relief for his misery.  He withdraws from the world and spends an entire winter alone in hiding.  One can quickly see the parallels between the metaphors of winter and a desert.  Everything is barren.  Winter and the desert, both signify solitude and present themselves for introspection and a struggle with one’s own concept of the Self.

The story climaxes as winter is followed by spring, symbolic for new beginnings and new life, and the ugly duckling reaches a point where he’d rather throw himself at a flock of swans on the thawing lake and be killed than endure anymore suffering.  He has become so weary with life that he decides to surrender.  At that very moment, he comes to realize his true nature.  For the first time in his life, he is able to spread his beautiful wings and take flight.


The ugly duckling has to go through suffering to receive the spark for wanting to seek the truth.  He has to endure trials and tribulations before he decides to surrender his ego.  Through dying he realizes the true nature of his self and is liberated from the suffering caused by his delusions.

Plot Summary of The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson (taken from Wikipedia )

When the tale begins, a mother duck’s eggs hatch. One of the little birds is perceived by the duck’s surroundings as a homely little creature and suffers much verbal and physical abuse from the other birds and animals on the farm. He wanders sadly from the barnyard and lives with wild ducks and geese until hunters slaughter the flocks. He then finds a home with an old woman but her cat and hen tease him mercilessly and again he sets off on his own. He sees a flock of migrating wild swans; he is delighted and excited but he cannot join them for he is too young and cannot fly. Winter arrives. A farmer finds and carries the freezing little bird home, but the foundling is frightened by the farmer’s noisy children and flees the house. He spends a miserable winter alone in the outdoors mostly hiding in a cave on the lake that partly freezes over. When spring arrives a flock of swans descends on the now thawing lake. The ugly duckling, now having fully grown and matured cannot endure a life of solitude and hardship any more and decides to throw himself at the flock of swans deciding that it is better to be killed by such beautiful birds than to live a life of ugliness and misery. He is shocked when the swans welcome and accept him, only to realize by looking at his reflection in the water that he has grown into one of them. The flock takes to the air and the ugly duckling spreads his beautiful large wings and takes flight with the rest of his new family.

Remembering Knulp


Have you ever heard of Knulp?  Today, I am remembering him.  Actually, Knulp is not a real person.  He is a fictional character and the protagonist in Hermann Hesse’s book of the same title.  As vivid as Hermann Hesse had him come to life in his pages, he might as well be real.  Knulp is a treasure of a book.  It is one of Hermann Hesse’s less known works.

I read Knulp many years ago and was mesmerized.  Only then, I did not know specifically why it made such an impression on me.  I was too young to be able to point out the profundity in it.  Knulp is one of those rare, unforgettable stories.  It will stay with you and have you ponder.  Recently, I picked up my old, yellowed copy again and read it once more.  It was eye-opening. There was the answer!  Now I know why this story stuck with me all these years.  If you don’t know Knulp, I will have to tell you about him.

Most people would probably consider Knulp a vagabond or drifter.  I liken him to a wandering Taoist.  He has no permanent shelter or possessions to call his own.  The country roads are his home.  This is not out of misfortune, but rather out of choice.  Knulp may not be rich in terms of material things, but he is extremely intelligent, very resourceful, has a broad knowledge of things, and more wisdom to offer than the average person.  He learned about life from direct experience and keen observation.  Today, we would call him a mindful person.  Like a migrant bird, he is in tune with nature and wanders to the places that are the most agreeable for the time of the year.  Usually, he has no problem finding comfortable accommodations for the night.

One might think that Knulp is a loner, but that is not so.  He has an abundance of friends in many places all over the country.  Most of his friends are hard-working, accomplished family men with longstanding careers and plenty of material comforts.  Why is it then that they feel honored to put up this vagabond for as long as he likes whenever he drops in on them unexpectedly?  Why do they feed him, bathe him, mend his tattered clothes, and nurse him back to health when he is sick, without ever charging even as much as a penny in return?

Knulp has something they don’t: he has no attachments.  Enmeshed in the myriad responsibilities of family and work, they secretly yearn for a life like Knulp’s and admire him.   But deep down inside they know they don’t have the courage to even think about a life severed of all attachments.  So his friends complain about the burden of their responsibilities and duties, knowing that Knulp is a good, loving, and compassionate listener.  When they vent their frustrations, they know that they can count on his full, undivided attention.  Moreover, Knulp always has just the right response to offer, one that gives them new encouragement to go on in life and feel grateful for what they have.  He tells them that his vagabond life is not as glamorous as they may think.  It also has its pitfalls.  He, too, is mortal and his own suffering is no less.

Knulp is a man of integrity.  He is steadfast in his moral principles, but he is not a moralist.  His friends respect him for that.  They know that they can trust him.  Although, sometimes they may ask him why he does not just settle down, they accept him as he is.  In fact, they admit that Knulp wouldn’t be the person that is so dear to them if he tried to conform and live a ‘proper’ life like theirs.

His presence warms any room he enters and any heart he touches.  People feel at ease around him.  They open up to him.  Knulp is humble and modest.  A friend of mine once gave me her business card.  Upon closer inspection, I noticed her ‘job title’.  It read in German ‘Lebenskuenstler’ or ‘master in the art of living’.  There is no better title to attribute to Knulp.  That is not to say that his life is free from pain.  Masters are only human, too, and pain and suffering are part of the human condition.

At the end of the story, Knulp’s fatal illness is taking a turn for the worse.  Knulp knows his end is near and chooses to face death alone near the place where he was raised.  It is important for him to reconcile with God his life and the reason for the course it had taken.  (Or is he actually reconciling it with himself?)  He has doubts that perhaps he wasted his life with his endless wandering and wants to know if it may have all been in vain.  After some questions and exchanges, he comes to realize that, despite of his doubts and regrets, everything was exactly as it was meant to be, and he finds solace in that and peace at last.

There is so much to be learned from this story.  It would seem that ideally we want to be the family man, but never let go of our Knulp nature.  We don’t want to get entangled in our responsibilities and work to the point where we stop walking on our way in life and leave all the other things we are meant to do unaccomplished.  There is no need to entirely sacrifice one for the other.

Knulp certainly shows us how to be true to oneself and kind, loving, and compassionate to others.  His listening skills teach us the value in giving someone one’s undivided attention.  Often, that’s all people need to resolve things with themselves and to find the courage and gratitude to go on.  Above all, Knulp reminds us to find happiness and satisfaction in the basic things in life, such as beautiful nature, our feet that take us wherever we desire to go, the company of the people we love, meaningful conversations, opportunities to always observe, learn and do new things, good food, and a comfortable shelter.  And putting a smile on someone else’s face is bound to make our own heart smile every time.

Don’t most of us already have everything we need to be happy?

(This review can also be found on

In Response To Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist Blog Entry

To wander the palace
while guarding the treasure

Enjoying the splendors
not falling for pleasure

Reveals the secret we desperately seek
eternal happiness to us will speak


Link to Paulo Coelho’s Blog entry: