Digging your own well: Daoism as a Practical Philosophy
Cloudwalking Owl (Bill Hulet)
(Cloudwalking Books, 2017)
Reviewed by Michael Kleiza
Digging Your Own Well is a kind of primer to Daoism. That is, a book for those who would like to find out about the Dao but aren’t yet ready for a more technical text. The book is a down-to-earth look at what makes up the Dao, it’s history and practices.
Author Cloudwalking Owl (Bill Hulet) a practitioner of Daoism as well as taijiquan (Tai Chi) Kung Fu and other martial arts for over 30 years uses plain, almost folksy language and a number of anecdotes to get his points across. It is an easy and enjoyable read for anyone who wants to know more about Daoism. One of the reasons he wrote the book is, “ … to help people understand that it is possible to develop and pursue a life of value without turning your back on reason and personal experience.
In a topic entitled Sitting and Forgetting or, Mind Fasting Cloudwalking Owl describes a meditation called “Just Sitting” which as the name implies is exactly that. The teacher just goes around correcting everyone’s posture, but you don’t need to sit in a lotus position, just what is comfortable for you. And, after the description he includes an excerpt or a lesson from one of the masters, in this case Zhuangzi.
Another topic he writes about is Doing Without Doing. He relates a story about a friend who had a small farm finding it almost impossible to get his pigs onto a truck. They are very strong, stubborn animals and he didn’t have the equipment that the larger pig producers had. The farmer found a veterinary book that suggested putting a bucket over the pig’s head. The pig tries to back out of the bucket, so the farmer simply led his pigs backward up the ramp and into the truck. All through the book are these nuggets of observations that usually end with Cloudwalking Owl choosing a commentary by a master.
So what is his point? That people looking for answers about life can try Daoism as a path to spiritual fulfillment if they want. He certainly does not try to convert the reader. But his warm way of approaching the subject leaves you wanting more. This is where Cloudwalking Owl’s reading list for those who would like to get into the deeper aspects of Daoism comes in handy. What is also beneficial is that he gives a good helpful description of each of the books he recommends so that the reader can get a good idea of what the book is about.
This is not a conventional book in the sense that it is divided into chapters. Yes, there are headings that introduce topics, but the best way I found to read the book was to start at the beginning and go straight through. In a way, it is Cloudwalking Owl’s own stream of consciousness that you flow with.