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Podcast Transcription: Episode 1, Enlightenment is the Natural State of Humans

Living the Tao-A Spiritual Podcast

Episode 001: Taoist Podcast Transcription

Living the Tao-A Spiritual Podcast

Do you want to embrace the wonder of the Tao? Journey inward to journey outward? As he has done for decades, Taoist Master Mikel Steenrod talks about the path of spiritual freedom and down-to-Earth, everyday living well.

This podcast releases a new episode the first Friday of the month. To subscribe to the weekly episode, please visit the website.

Enlightenment is the Natural State of Humans: Episode 001
byMikel Steenrod

In this episode, Taoist Master Mikel Steenrod explores The Three Traditions of Taoism, Six actions toward tao mind, and how to experience insight by developing your “Ness.”

Weekly episodes available here:

This episode has been transcribed and can be found here:

Episode one: Enlightenment is the Natural 
State of Humans.

Welcome to Living the Tao-A Spiritual Podcast
that explores how ancient wisdom,
a practical perspective and deep truth, can empower you 
to live your best life.

In this episode,
Taoist Master Mikel Steenrod
explores the three traditions of 
Taoism, six actions toward Tao,
and how to experience insight by 
developing your “nesses.”.


So, the Taoist school we're 
working out of, if we sit back 
and remember, Taoism
is an enlightenment
spiritual tradition from China--

it's significantly different than 
western spiritual religions,
as are most of the eastern 

But basically, we're looking at three 
classifications of practice and Taoism,

One's the hermit tradition.

One is the mystery school tradition.

The other is the temple tradition.

And these are the orders, 
basically that they emerged in.

Daoism was originally, whatever 
form it happened to have taken,
was a system of one 
shaman training another shaman
for basically spiritual combat. 

That was the earliest

function of daoism as it came 

So, as I've

said before, and I'll probably 
say a few more times before the 
reference gets too old, the early 
Taoists were the “Buffy, the 

Vampire Slayers” of the world. 

That's why they existed. 

They were trained to be basically 
unstoppable warriors.

However, it was an elite
system, and it's still elite, to 
a certain extent,
designed for one person to train 
another person or two other people.

This became the hermit school 

So the dude living on the 
mountain, taking one or two 
students--that's the old hermit 

The mystery school tradition....

The best modern analogy I can 
give you for this is that it's like a modern 
research institute.

Basically, you had a handful
of lead teachers anywhere two to ten. 

Sometimes they got larger, but 
when you started getting much 
larger than that, you started 
really verging over into the 
temple school tradition that would teach
many students.

So you might have anywheres from 
a dozen for some reason. 

The number twenty was 

And student taking for Mystery 
you might go from just
one or two,
I mean, a dozen to twenty,
up to a couple hundred.

Usually Mystery Schools were 
aligned around specific forms of practice.

So Taoist practice has never 
been unified, and that's 
something to keep in mind, it 
probably should never be unified, 
because it really represents 
different Schools of practice as 
you go through. 

And it doesn't become a matter of 
superiority of one school over 
the other, unless you're 
comparing things that are apples 
and apples. 

A lot of times people are 
comparing apples and oranges,
and that doesn't make any sense 
at all.

Now, as time went on,
the temple tradition emerged 
basically so that more people 
could be taught daoism. 

And also, of course,
not all taoists
are focused on achieving
enlightenment, which is actually 
the actual outcome of it. 

There's a large amount of daoism 
that is built around the pursuit 
of power,
with the pursuit of knowledge. 
and of course, the pursuit of 
political power. 

And you start entering into that 
process when we start going into 
the temple process over here. 

So you get a really wide range of 

And you also have people that 
really just enjoy the temple lifestyle,
which sounds odd, but
compared to spending your day out 
in the field, or compare it to 
spending your day at war, or 
compare it to spending your day
carving something? 

And suddenly the lifestyle of a 
not so bad.

You have to sweep some stuff, and 
then you spend a lot of time meditating.

Not too bad of a lifestyle.

But it's well understood in temple
practice that only a small 
portion of that population is 
going to set out to achieve
great enlightenment. 

As they come through, most are 
simply going to achieve a 
spiritual lifestyle, which is
a perfectly acceptable goal. 

Again, it's not a matter of your 
one being bad or the other being good.

Now, lately, what we've been 
focusing on are the steps necessary to move 
forward in personal spiritual progress.

And what that precisely means,
the 4 Ascendant school, which is 
the school that I'm a lineage holder of,

(writes on board)

I don't know, the Chinese, but 
more the Korean, but from what 
I've heard, is much, much shorter
than the English.  (English) is a lot bigger.

So this is the 4 Ascendant Purity Adept School of the Tao.
This is a mystery school system.

Mystery Schools were aligned 
across clan lines. 
And this is the school for the Soon clan
and the people that are 
affiliated with that particular 

This (the 4AS) has certain advantages, 
because it actually contains 
within it, probably hundreds of 
complete other Taoist schools. 

And the reason for that is 

All the major Taoist lines were 
pretty much terminated at the 
Communist revolution.

And so the only things that 
remain are small fragmented lines
or small fragmented lineages that 
come through. 

However, the Soons are 
collectors of lineages,
and have been doing so for about 
1500 years. 

So they contain complete 
are in complete systems of study 
that other Schools don't 
necessarily have anymore.

The thing to keep in mind, and 
any of you can talk at any time, 
is that Taoism is taught largely 
through oral tradition and through practice.

So you have those two major 

Now we're looking at 
at basically chasing the big enchilada
with the thought that you may not 
want to pursue the big enchilada. 

You'll find that out as you go 

And so if we look at this concept 
of enlightenment, there are a 
couple of things that I want to 
mention about this before we get 
too far into the discussion of it.


One, is the natural state of 

The process of enlightenment is 
returning the mind back 
to its natural state.

It is not an artificial state.

It is what you are actually 
supposed to be,and that's a major factor.
It's not some sort of elaborate back 
flip into achieving understanding. 

It's actually where you're 
supposed to be and what you're supposed to do.

That's one of the fundamental concepts
for Taoists practice, when it comes 
down to that. 

Enlightenment is the return to a 
natural state.

Now, that can be misinterpreted in 
all sorts of ways,
so we'll add a couple things to 

The other thing is that it is definable.

It's attainable.

Believe it or not,
it's even measurable in some ways.

And the reason I mention all of 
this is that we like to oftentimes 
place religion into this
mystery, out-of-bound's place,
where a select few will achieve
the ends that go there. 

This is the basic rule for 
achieving enlightenment... 

You really want to achieve 
enlightenment, you're going to 
achieve enlightenment.

That's the rule for it. 

Taoism is a collection of human 
methods, and that's very well 
understood--methods created by 
humans to increase the chance of you 
becoming enlightened and staying sane
in the process.

Taoism also does something else, 
and that is what you do after you 
become enlightened.

And so it has an entire system
that's built for that, primarily 
because it is capable of  
generating very good numbers of 
people converting
to becoming enlightened.

as we go through this process,
we sit back-- 
And so, strangely enough, the 
mystery school tradition for this 
is that it's not a mystery.

And as an interesting contrast of 
terms, it's not something that's 
out of bounds, and it's not 
something that you should not
pursue because, or actively 
pursue, because then you wouldn't 
be humble.

Does that make sense? 

Sometimes religions place the 
pursuit of truth, or stating the 

pursuit of truth is outside of your 
bounds, because then you wouldn't 
be humble in pursuing your truth.

Enlightenment says, or Taoism 
says,”It's yours anyways,
you might as well get it.”

And that's the basic statement of 

as soon as something becomes real,
it becomes definable.

It also becomes attainable. 

It's attainable by the vast 
majority of people that set out 
to do it.

And interestingly enough, if it's 
definable is also measurable.

And a lot of things have gone 
into doing that over time. 

Enlightenment is a strong enough 
process where it can be tested 
and where there are specific cut 
offs for its performance.

Now, if we go back to our early 
the reason I'm mentioning 
this is that no matter what 
religious end you end up pursuing,
these factors should be involved.

If you have a religion that can 
only exist outside of definition, 
outside of attainability and 
outside of being measurable,
there's a problem in that, 
because what good is it doing you?

Now it may be that you have the 
wrong measure, maybe that you 
have the wrong definition.

It may be that you're doing the 
wrong thing to attain it. 

But if you're looking at, you, 
look at your whole population for 
any given religious system,
how many people can, 
realistically, that want to, can 

realistically achieve 
the goal of that spiritual study?

If that's like, two out of 20000,
you need to sit back and take a 
look at that. 

If it's 20000 people that want 
that goal,

if it's...10000—50% that's not too bad.

Somewhere along the line, you 
have to make your own personal 
cut off and go, well, what can be 
done here? 

So basically, we have this big
reality, outside initially,
that we call the Tao or the 
tao mind, which is the thing from 
which all things are constructed.

We can get into the nature of 
Tao, or things like that, 
wherever today's conversation 
happens to go. 

But Tao and tao mind are the 
words are used simultaneously
(as synonyms) in practice. 

There's no differentiation 
created between those two factors.

What you are born with is a 

Well, you're not actually born with it. 
What you are given after birth is 
a representation of the world. 

That representation is called 
social mind.

Part of your study, as you go 
through, and that's your personal 

That's not the study of the 
things I say, that's you 
studying practice.

You moving through things, is 
coming to really understand what 
this thing is, as you go along.

But basically, you have a 
representation in your head
of the world called social mind. 

The problem with that representation
is that it's not hugely accurate.

It is filled with flaws. 

It believes that there are pink 
elephants when there are none. 

So you spend all your time watering 
pink elephants, herding them 
around, and in fact, they don't 

And that's a major source of 
trouble because, of course, 
you're frittering away your resources.

You're shaping yourself for a 
world that's not actually there.

And whenever you do that, that 
creates unhappiness.

Because you are so much at odds 
with the way that true reality is. 

Your choices become powerless as 
a result, and you're not capable 
of achieving the things that you 
want,or of even wanting things that 

We hope that you're enjoying this 
episode of Living the Tao—A Spiritual Podcast.


The objective of enlightenment 
training is to change this representation
in your head

to something called tao mind, 
with a little t,

which is basically 
a more accurate picture
of the Greater Tao--of the Tao 
around and through us as we pass through.

The way you get
from social mind to tao mind is
to expose the social mind
to the Tao straightaway. 

Those create moments of insight, 
periods where you go *suprised gasp* 
And suddenly you understand something for 
a moment, and then you forget it. 

Well, you didn't forget it. 

The system adjusted. 

Once it incorporates it, then you 
forget whatever it was initially.

But those are where you have 
those brilliant flashes of insight. 

That insight is you simply 
perceiving the Tao as it is 
for a certain period of time.

I'm going to say something
that can be revolutionary
at sometimes a practice.
(Given perceptions of practice.)

“Insights are not limited. They're not rare.” 

You can enter into a constant 
state of insight to the point where it's hugely 

What happens is that, if you're 
getting off on a tangent (from an excess of insight), 
you're not really going to be harmed by 
it, because all that you're going 
to do is generate more social 

You're already there(dominated by social mind). 

So it's like, you know, you're 
in a leaky boat, and some water 
splashes into your leaky boat. 

It's not enough to sink you. 

It's just a matter if you were scooping water out, 
and now a couple more cups are inside 
of it.

And initially, it can be 

But what happens is that there is 
a definite change in the way that 
tao mind functions. 

And the other thing that happens 
is that you can place this up 
against reality,
meaning that if the tao mind 
that you're forming is more true, 
you have greater access to the 
Tao, and you also accumulate more 
karmic power faster.

And those are real factors that 
have definite and measurable 
consequences in your life.

So as we expose ourselves to the 
tao mind over here,
we have an insight. 

And that insight is really 
processing and the opportunity to 
move your social mind more 
towards tao mind. 

If this occurs too rapidly, it 
can be destructive. 
So that's something to keep in 

And a lot of practice is really 
designed to create opportunities
to be exposed to the Tao Mind (aka Tao when with a capital T)
and also tolerate the process of exposure.

And so you go through. 
Both opening the door (to the other side), 
and standing what you can see on 
the other side.

As you get good with that, you 
gradually move yourself into the tao mind.

Now, for some of you that have 
been here before, you'll have 
heard me say that enlightenment 
is a word that's used by 
outsiders, and it really is. 

It's not something after a 
certain point of practice you 
even really use the word for, 
because it's just a general term.

As you start getting into 
practice, you begin to realize 
that there are all these factors 
inside of it,
and that enlightenment was just 
this big word that people use to 
describe the end state for people 
over here (pointing to a group illustratively).

Now,what it usually is is,
keep this in mind. 

The definition of enlightenment 
varies by the system and the 
spiritual tradition that you're 

So the Hindu concept of 
enlightenment is different than 
the Buddhist concept of 
enlightenment, which is different 
than the Taoist concept of 

There's not a complete overlap 
between those things. 

There is partial overlap between 
those things.

Hindu enlightenment is more about 
achieving oneness with the external universe. 

And they have a very specific way 
of talking about that.

Now if you really think about it, 
what is enlightenment and the Taoist 

Well, you're getting an accurate 
representation of the true univers.

You're achieving oneness with the 

And so there are overlaps between 
those, as you go along.

Now, basically, the definition for the 
enlightenment border (i.e. boundary)
in 4 Ascendant is,

“Your primary teacher is the Tao.
Humans are no longer necessary.”

And that's a strange definition to be created,
but basically it's the one that's 

It means that your interactions 
with the Tao are designed to 
directly educate you. 

And you have the ability to 
directly interact with the Tao.

Once that's done, you are outside 
of the human world. 

Because of that, you are 
considered enlightened. 

That's their very specific 
definition that they've come up 
with across 1500 years.  It's like, 
“Yeah, all the weird stuff that's 
associated with the enlightened 
people, it happens after they stop
needing their human teacher.”

Now, you might still consult with 
your human teacher, you might 
still get feedback from them,
but you no longer need them 
for forward progress.  That's 
between you and the Tao and the 
successes or failures that you 
have personally, as you go along. 

And that's something else to keep 
in mind--at no point does enlightenment 
guarantee either omniscience or 

You do vastly gain more power, 
but that's largely because of karma,
not because of just more 
perception and more capacity. 

You also gain those things, but

it's not the reason for it.

Ok, any questions about this?

Good, everybody go and get enlightened.

Now we'll, actually, we'll start 
off on a simple, usable series of pathways
to move yourself forward. 

For last month, we dealt with
the issue of acceptance
when we were dealing with the first three 
levels of spiritual attainment.

Before we go into this, remember 
that the majority of things that 
you want from life are going to 
come out of doing the first two layers.

And that's ok,
because you really don't know how 
far you want to go until you 
start going through the process.

And then you'll sit back and go, 
“Yes, I want to do this particular 

And part of pursuing monkliness
for something—the 4 Ascendant 
doesn't actually have monks, 
because it's not a temple 
tradition-- but I'll outline
the typical 
titles for you today.

But basically the definitions 
of these layers....

Your object, if you're really 
seeking to become fully enlightened,
and you may not be, it may just 
be an appealing concept to you 
right now. 

As you go through the process, 
you'll make the decision. 

That's the big thing to keep in 

What you're really setting out to 
do is achieve this thing called 
mind of clarity. 

That's where in temple, you would be basically 
crossing over from being a novice 
monk to being a monk once you've acquired mind of 

(Please refer to the article on the Three Level Method for the illustration.)

These first two levels:

What do we have here? 

We have hygiene,

Ae have positive power.

And these (words) are modern words for 
the same (ancient) things. 

If you were to pull out the old 
books, I can go through and point 
out exactly what they're talking 
about when it comes to these terms.

Hygiene, positive power, calm.

Up here we have acceptance, stillness,
and invocation.

Most of the things you want 
within life will come from working
with these first six ideas
as you come through, and gradually integrate them into yourself.

Now as you go along, these will continue to get stronger. 

Even after mind of clarity, you 
don't abandon these things, 
because really, after mind of 
clarity, you realize what type of 
tools they are and what they're 
really designed to do for you.

And initially, these are designed 
to get your brain into the right spot.

What do I mean by getting into 
the right spot?

This is a concept,
I guess we've actually started to 
quote some of our own terms, of ness.

And it's that reasonableness of 
thought that falls into ness. 

Now, what that (i.e. -ness) means is that, for 
the most part, you recognize the 
thoughts that you're going to 
have as coming from you. 

It comes out of a combination of 
your past experience, how you 
perceive the world, the choices 
you've made, or what we call pack 
as we go along.

And it's that familiarity 
that determines what thought 
you're going to have, and 
basically what you're going to do.

Interestingly enough, this also 
leads to a side factor,
and that will become
perhaps a target of conversation 

And that is, the future is 
largely predictable:

And you gamble on the future being 
largely predictable every single day.

You don't gamble on the fact that 
all a genetically reared 
Tyrannosaurus Rex might go 
running down the street right now,
as you're heading towards your 
'Cause if you were gambling on 
that, you'd be carrying some sort 
of anti Tyrannosaurus Rex weapon.

So you anticipate that the future 
is, for the most part, 99 percent 
of the time, going to be 
completely predictable. 

And you know, it will be, you 
know the thoughts you're basically 
going to think, 
you know the things that you're
basically going to do, and you 
know the things that you're 
largely going to encounter. 

It's only a small amount of time 
that you're going to enter into
anything that you can consider 

And that amount of randomness 
disappears as your awareness increases.

So most of what we view as being 
unpredictable disappears. 

And a large part of it is 

And that's where I Ching comes 

So I Ching basically says that 
people and events move in predictable 

Now,why is “ness” important for 

For one simple reason, unless 
you're currently in the position 
where you can sit back and 
conceive of the world as an enlightened 
person does, you cannot become enlightened.

Your objective is to move 
yourself into a position where 
those thoughts are realistic.

Ah, and so this “Ness”, this 
compliment, or this combination 
that's really you, where those 
thoughts can be familiar and 
realistic to you, that's what has 
to move.

How do we move that?

Using this over here (insight).

That's what it boils down to. 

In a nutshell, 
insight is not magical.

We oftentimes think of it as 
being magical. 

We oftentimes think it's this 
rare thing. 

But it's not. 

All you have to do is move your 
ness to a position where insight
is possible and frequent to you.

And then you have to want to keep 
it there. 

Because you may not want to.

We hope you've enjoyed this 
episode of Living the Tao--a 
Spiritual Podcast.

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