Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Tao of Pooh (and yes, I do mean Winnie)

                                                                            Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Required reading for one of my undergraduate courses has become one of my favorite books.  This is one book that I did not sell back to the bookstore, or try to sell online, and instead decided to keep in my personal library at home.  I’ve read it several times over the years, especially during the most stressful times in my life, as a reminder to take a deep breath, and refocus. 

                The book I’m talking about is the Tao of Pooh, written by Benjamin Hoff and published in 1982. It’s based on Tao principles, which focus on “following the way” through wu-wei (action through non-action/ effortless action). If you’re not familiar with Taoism (I’m definitely not), it’s most common in China, and dates back to the 4th century BC. Hoff displays the difference between the Tao way, and the wrong way through the main characters in one of your favorite cartoons as a child, The House at Pooh Corner. And which character do you think exemplified the Tao way?

                Winnie the Pooh, of course. Pooh lived life simply, didn’t over-complicate situations, and although we wouldn’t describe him as an energetic go-getter, things always seemed to work out for him.

                After reading the book, I wondered who Benjamin Hoff was. Hoff, of Oregon, published this book at age 36.  It seems like he had a great interest in Chinese culture, even earning a BA in Asian Art just a decade or so before writing the book. According to the info I found on Wikipedia about him, he also comes across as a free spirit, given all of his career changes: tree pruner, antiques restorer, hospital orderly, journalist, reporter and musician. He wrote 5 books in total, but in 2006, he publicly resigned from book writing.  I have no idea what career he’s pursuing now.

                He followed up the New York Time best-selling book with another one about Winnie the Pooh and his friends called The Te of Piglet. In this piece, Hoff describes how Piglet’s te, or inner power and heart, allows him to live in harmony with the Tao, while the characteristics of some of the other characters prevent them from living more fulfilling lives.
                                                                        Photo Credit:

                One lesson I came away with after reading this book is that the mind that is given rest, often comes up with the most innovative solutions. While it’s not realistic to aim to live your life like Winnie the Pooh (he was kind of an airhead), it is a great reminder to stop and enjoy the simple things: silence, family time, meditation, nature, a good book, or great food. We need to savor these moments. Afterall, if God forbid we don’t wake up tomorrow, then what was all the fuss and rush for?

                At 158 pages, it’s an easy read for people who are short on time.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

Signing off,


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