Why we should all be more like Pooh Bear
In my mission to find out more ways to bring peace and calm into my clients’ lives (as well as my own!) I recently came across an extraordinary book called the Tao of Pooh.
I’d taken a short course on Taoism and loved the philosophies of Lao-tse which he laid out in very poetic form in his book the Tao Te Ching. Amongst his many words of wisdom, he explained how we should spend less time rushing around, and more time doing nothing; we should stop battling against inner and outer forces and instead just accept what is happening to us; we should stop trying to push ourselves to the limits and instead rest with the qualities we have.
In order to explore the subject further, I was recommended a book called the Tao of Pooh and immediately fell in love with the way the author, Benjamin Hoff, used the characters and stories of AA Milne’s Pooh Bear books to explain how we all frequently get it so wrong in our 21st century lives and just how simple it is to get to right.
Despite enjoying the Pooh Bear books as a child and then reading them to my children, I’d not grasped just how well the characters feature in cautionary tales on how NOT to live our lives. And the beautiful thing is that by Hoff’s analysis of the characters we can pick out the unhelpful traits in ourselves and instead try to live more by the peaceful Taoist principles which Pooh Bear embodies.
In the Te Ching, Lao-tse describes certain characteristics that are non-Tao and these are mirrored in many of AA Milne’s characters.
For instance, Piglet is clingy and neurotic, full of anxiety, and almost on the verge of a panic attack with each new adventure. He’s not able to deal with change or uncertainty and worries about the tiniest little thing.
Tigger on the other hand has no fear whatsoever and no idea of limitations, but because of it, he throws himself headlong into situations, getting into a pickle without thinking of the consequences. Or he becomes wildly enthusiastic about a new project one minute, and then loses that enthusiasm the next, quickly getting bored and moving onto the next new project to catch his eye.
Eeyore is constantly negative and full of doom, hovering near depression and despair. His pessimistic nature means he finds it hard to find joy in anything, and prefers to look on the dark side – untrusting of others and the world - as he feels comforted by his familiar feelings of always being disappointed by life.
Rabbit personifies perfectly most of society’s current love affair of “being busy”. He’s someone who bustles around, revelling in the importance of his “busyness” and his own useless duties and plans, rushing through life without listening to anyone, or properly thinking things through which means he ends up getting everything wrong, annoying everyone else and leaving in his wake a trail of half-completed tasks, confusion and a whole lot of stress.
Owl at first seems to be a calm and wise presence, but is soon revealed to be only puffed up with arrogance and whose stack of books is actually hiding an insecure heart with a fake educated front which is very far from being wise. In Taoist terms, knowledge does not mean wisdom. Regurgitating facts from books does not mean you have the emotional intelligence to interpret them correctly. Owl is also judgemental of others and feels he is superior to everyone, despite being very far from it.
And then there is Pooh Bear. Pooh remains content to pootle through life with no ambition and no plans. Unlike our society where dreams and goals are seen as essential to becoming a success in life, Pooh is happy with a life filled with a close family of friends which he treats with love and kindness at all times. He’s never judgemental, only curious and interested by people’s differences, and doesn’t get worried when life takes unusual turns or plans go awry. He doesn’t fight or battle or force situations. He remains patient and optimistic that the universe knows best. He turns his back on busyness and revels in doing nothing at all. He doesn’t mind if he doesn’t know everything, but he’s happy to learn from others. He remains chilled and unflustered with each adventure and is unworried by change. As long as he has a little pot of honey at hand (his honey gluttony perhaps being his only fault), he views the world as a place full of wonder and joy. He frequently remarks on the beauty of nature and turns each negative into a positive. What a bear!
Now my children are too old for the AA Milne books, I am currently reading them the Tao of Pooh. They love the comfort of the familiar characters, but are now able to glean the Taoist lessons to be found in Hoff’s text through the old, comforting stories. And in times of dilemma or conflict with the family, I just have to ask my kids as a sort of shorthand: “What would Pooh Bear do?”
Most people are a mix of all these characters at some point in their lives (coincidentally, a doctor recently called me “Tigger” and told me to stop bouncing around from one project to the next!) so perhaps for the sake of our mental health we should all stop dashing around like Rabbit and be more like Pooh Bear. In the eloquent words of Lao-tse:
Live in a good place
Keep your mind deep.
Treat others well.
Stand by your word.
Make fair rules.
Do the right thing.
Work when it’s time.
Only do not contend,
And you will not go wrong.
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