Within Daoism, one’s mind, spirit, and their knowledge control their actions and reactions.

These three elements dictate where one’s life goes, the path they take. Though not apparent, the connection between the three is complex and important. The Daoist mind, spirit, and one’s personal knowledge interact in a uniquely important way that heavily determines one’s perceptions, actions, and reactions.

The Daoist spirit can be defined as the natural part of oneself that attempts to guide one’s very life. The Spirit’s actions and intents are pure and its judgments are clear. The spirit is untainted. One’s essential being, inherent existence, is the Spirit. The mind differs from this, however. The mind is one’s conscious self, the part that conglomerates and analyzes knowledge. The mind is the part of oneself that ponders and decides, that worries and doubts. Knowledge is what fills the mind. The mind makes decisions based on both the Spirit’s intent and the knowledge it has gathered. Knowledge is the facts one knows to be true, the conclusions one draws, and the notions one creates.

The Spirit enables the concept of oneness; of good only existing because of evil, of beauty stemming from ugliness, or of only being able to identify soft in terms of hard (or vice versa). The natural intents of the Spirit are perfect examples of oneness; however, they are not always interpreted flawlessly. Just as Zhuangzi’s Cook Ting intuitively carves the ox by being one with it – not trying to carve it perfectly, but

understanding the oneness of the ox and the process of carving it – the spirit attempts to walk live just as intuitively. One of Zhuangzi’s statements about the “True Man” (p74) exemplifies the concept of oneness and intuitiveness perfectly. The Spirit’s intents, then, are created through an understanding of oneness, yet are hindered by the mind before they are realized.

The mind obstructs natural action because of its tendency to overanalyze, complication pure thought. By creating stereotypes and pre-conceived notions of reality, the mind heavily influences one’s perceptions of said reality. The unwanted “thinking” that the mind does can be considered noise, interfering with the connection between the Spirit and one’s mind. To use an arbitrary illustration refer below:

The circle in the middle represents the Spirit, the space between the inner circle and the outer circle’s edge represents the mind, and the squiggly lines represent knowledge. The arrows indicate intent. Intent begins at the Spirit and ends when it breaches the outer circle where it is realized as action, judgment, etc. As one can easily see, the intent is influenced and redirected by the knowledge, creating unnatural judgments and actions. It

is only through the absence of “noise” in this area that the natural way can be found and followed.

This area, the mind, can be emptied and cleared through meditation, a process referred to as “fasting of the mind.” By fasting of the mind, the Dao is allowed space to collect and dwell, naturally permitting one to flow naturally through life. The underlying concept behind fasting of the mind is that when there is no artificial movement – no perverted redirection – natural flow can occur, the Dao can take control.

The Daoist mind, spirit, and the corresponding knowledge are all complexly linked. Knowledge is the medium that the spirit’s intent must pass through before being realized as judgment and action. The mind makes our conscious decisions based on said knowledge’s interference and influence upon the Spirit’s intent.