Tao of Womanhood: Ten Lessons for Power and Peace

Tao of Womanhood: Ten Lessons for Power and Peace

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by Diane Dreher

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The Tao of Womanhood is for every woman who is searching for both external power and internal peace. It's for the woman who wants to be tough but nice, who wants to take care of things and everyone else but needs to be reminded to look after herself, who feels pulled in too many directions and yearns to live a full, balanced life. It's for the woman who


The Tao of Womanhood is for every woman who is searching for both external power and internal peace. It's for the woman who wants to be tough but nice, who wants to take care of things and everyone else but needs to be reminded to look after herself, who feels pulled in too many directions and yearns to live a full, balanced life. It's for the woman who wants to be a strong, proactive leader at work and at home, and lead a life of harmony and inner peace.

A spiritual resource that combines the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching with straightforward advice and illuminating anecdotes, The Tao of Womanhood is a prescriptive, practical road map. Using Taoist principles, teacher and spiritualist Dreher explains how any woman can learn to incorporate calm into her busy modern life by learning how to

  • Say "no" without feeling guilty
  • Respond without being frantic or reactive
  • Seize opportunities
  • Summon the strength to change
  • Clear the space necessary for continual growth transformation

Calm and reassuring, The Tao of Womanhood imparts the invigorating message to all women — whether stay-at-home moms or corporate executives — that leading a balanced and fulfilling life does not mean surrendering peace of mind.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Although Dreher often combines obvious statements with sappy prose, e.g., "As you trace the patterns in these pages, you'll find yourself in some of them," her soothing book will give the reader many good ideas and helpful hints about balancing her life. What sets this book apart from other self-help efforts is the combination of Eastern and Western ideas. An instructor in literature and creative writing at Santa Clara University and author of The Tao of Inner Peace (HarperCollins, 1991), Dreher uses terms from the Tao such as misogi ("rituals of order"), ahisma ("compassion"), yohaku ("contemplation"), and musubi ("honoring your own energies with those around you") to clarify her ideas. She follows each chapter with practical pointers for greater power and peace, ways to take action using the ideas presented. For instance, to develop courage, Dreher suggests that the reader study the life of a woman she admires by reading a biography about her and answering a list of questions. Both informative and encouraging, these pointers are probably the most useful aspect of this book. With a helpful glossary of terms; recommended for public libraries.Barbara O'Hara, Free Lib. of Philadelphia

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HarperCollins Publishers
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The Lesson of Oneness

In the beginning was the Tao
Which gave rise to yin and yang,
Sunlight and shadow,
And the energy
Of all existence,
Yet beneath the dance of life,
The Tao is always One,
Mother of ten thousand things,
Source of all creation.

— Tao, 42

The oneness of Tao recalls for me the winter mornings when I was eleven and awakened to a world of new-fallen snow. There, outside the window of my new home in Grandview, Missouri, was one expansive world of white — snow covering the trees and rooftops, smoothing the rough edges, blending everything into monochromatic harmony.

For children in the Midwest, snowstorms create spontaneous holidays. Roads are impassable, schools are closed, and days are dedicated to play. Eagerly downing our oatmeal and hot chocolate, donning our jackets and mittens, my brother and I would rush out into the sparkling world.

We'd crunch through the snow and ice in our boots, ride our sleds, and build snowmen. I'd watch the snowflakes as they settled on my sleeve, each one a tiny star-shaped, six-pointed crystal. A marvel of oneness in multiplicity, each snowflake was uniquely itself, while reflecting the same universal design.

Last December, my husband and I took a vacation in the High Sierra. After a busy season at work, I looked forward to cross-country skiing through silent snow-covered woods that recalled the winter playgrounds of my childhood. For a few days, at least, our hectic lives would be transformed into a winter world of white. But whenwe arrived, the snow was patchy except on the highest peaks.

Yet the oneness was still there. Leaving behind the crowds at Squaw Valley and Incline Village, we packed a lunch and went for a hike by the Truckee River. Its usual gentle flow was now a torrent of rushing rapids. Walking beside the powerful river through puddles and patches of snow, I found the same serenity I had when cross-country skiing or watching snowflakes as a child. Looking from the snowcapped mountains to the stream of snowmelt rushing down to the river, I saw that all these varied forms were water, the source of all life, transforming itself as it transformed the terrain. Beneath the apparent multiplicity was an underlying oneness.

Like the water whose essence endures throughout its changing forms, the oneness in your life is always there, if you know where to find it. Beneath the dance of ten thousand things on the surface, life has its own dynamic unity. The energies of yin and yang, snow and water, sunlight and shadow, alternate in our lives as well as in nature. What we are and what we do is an integral part of all that is.

Too often, as we rush from one task to the next with a chorus of voices clamoring for our attention, we see only the frantic surface of life. Yet we can regain that sense of oneness described for centuries in the Far East, carved on precious jade, painted on silk tapestries. Held within our hearts in moments of stillness, it is the essence of all Taoist art and the first lesson in the Tao of Womanhood.

Dynamic Balance: Finding Unity In Multiplicity

Recovering Your sense of oneness, living in greater harmony, begins with a shift in perception. Conditioned by individualism and specialization, our Western minds focus on separate parts, while the wisdom of the East emphasizes relationships. Living in a world of machines, we seek a static and uniform status quo while in the world of nature life occurs in dynamic flow.

The first step in the Tao of Womanhood is realizing that you are part of the natural world, where all life is interrelated and nothing in the universe stands still. Shifting from a static to a dynamic paradigm opens your eyes to new options. As you see the relationship among the separate parts of your life, you'll experience more of the underlying unity.

If anyone's life is fragmented, you'd think it would be Libby's. She's a trained actress who teaches five courses a year, directs plays for her university theater, and works as an adviser in the deans' office. Married to an art professor, she has five children, two boys and three girls, ranging from seven months to fifteen years.

Yet far from being frazzled and fragmented, Libby is one of the most upbeat, balanced women I know. She embraces the many facets of her life with a spirit of resilient optimism. How does she do this? Flow.

Libby met me in her theater office one May afternoon. Slim, smiling, and constantly in motion, she looks relaxed and youthful, almost like one of her students. "People ask me if I feel fragmented," she said. "I don't. Perhaps it's because as an actress I'm used to playing many roles, perhaps it's because I've been doing this for years." Libby's dynamic view of life transforms potential fragmentation into flow. Everything is somehow part of a larger whole.

One reason she's found so much wholeness is because she sees beyond the surface, asking questions and seeking new possibilities. This year, when she began working in the deans' office, she told them she needed to find a way to continue nursing her infant son, James. "All three deans were very supportive of this," she said. But she wouldn't have had their support if she hadn't asked for it, expanding what was into what might be.

Her training as an actress helps Libby recognize strategic moments and manage the unexpected. "One day," she told me, "my daughter wanted to bake a cake." This was not Libby's preference. She'd gotten home late, but she "had to respect" what she knew was a strategic moment for her daughter Elly, a chance to learn and grow.

Libby watched her bake the cake and then make a mistake, putting an egg in the frosting because she'd misread the instructions. Practicing what she calls "mastery of emotions" from her training in theater, Libby recognized that here was something her nine-year-old daughter needed to learn. At the appropriate time, she handed her another box of frosting mix and watched Elly bring the process to completion, decorating the cake and beaming with accomplishment.

The cake was so pretty the family decided to save it to enjoy the next day. But that afternoon, the family dog, Coco, was hit by a car. After they'd rushed their injured dog to the vet, Elly ran back into the kitchen in tears and redecorated the cake with the affirmation, "Coco lives." The next day, Libby got Coco out of the emergency hospital,which was charging an exorbitant fee, and took her to a kindly vet who set her broken leg. To everyone's relief, Coco recovered.

"There's no time off when you're a mother," Libby says. She credits her own mother, a therapist still active in her seventies, for giving her an example of competence and flexibility.

Libby actively defines for herself what it means to be a woman. "Being a woman is not being a pretend man," she says. Ultimately, each of us needs to transcend other people's assumptions and create her own personal definition of womanhood.

Libby says her colleagues kid her about being "always in motion." "I try to move as much as I can," she says. It's how she stays fit — with young children at home she can't commit to a set workout schedule, "so I move, swim, whenever I can." But, in a deeper sense, her love of movement reflects her view of life as a dynamic process.

Within this dynamic dance, Libby also finds time to treat herself. "You have to find your private moments in everything," she says. "Buy the sweet scented candle — even if it's expensive — because if you don't learn to feed yourself, you'll wither and feel angry." It's up to each of us to ask for what she needs, take charge of her life, and create her own harmony.

The Tao Of Womanhood. Copyright © by Diane Dreher. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Diane Dreher, Ph.D., is the author of The Tao of Inner Peace, The Tao of Womanhood, and The Tao of Personal Leadership. She holds a Ph.D. in English from UCLA, with credentials in spiritual counseling and holistic health. Diane leads workshops on balance and personal growth nationwide. She teaches Renaissance literature and creative writing at Santa Clara University and cultivates her garden at home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Tao of Womanhood: Ten Lessons for Power and Peace 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've ever read by Ms. Dreher. I was looking for a book specifically about being a great woma who is following The Way and how such a woman would do so and be like. Let me say I not only found what I was looking for but so much more. It's hard to find Taoist material written well in western form and Ms. Dreher is now one of my new found favorite authors. I have already purchased other books from this author now and am enjoying her style and keen sense of not only the principles of The Way but she has a way of holding you intensely as read. I found myself eager to turn the next page. This book and Ms. Dreher are truly a treasure to anyone interested in learning more about Taoism and learning more about becoming a better you. This is a delightful read...
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