How to Build a Taoist Temple
Arny and Amy Mindell
Once upon a time there were four Taoists who had nothing much to do. Each lived in a different part of town. Without the ability to call one another and talk about things on the phone, they had to depend upon something else to connect them. In fact, that was their whole job—to follow that “something else.” Most people thought these four were very funny or else very weird. No one could ever tell why those four did what they did. Even the Taoists themselves did not know!
Anyway, one day something got in their heads at about the same time. Each thought to herself, “Why not build a temple?” Quite spontaneously they all decided to leave their homes and began walking through the streets of the town, not knowing the others were doing the same!
While meandering through the city, one of them suddenly stopped abruptly, distracted by a raging fight on a street corner. She always thought weird things, and this time was no different. She thought to herself, “What a great place for a temple” and immediately began collecting rocks from the gutter, twigs and beer cans from the street, and dirt and broken glass from the sidewalk. She used them all to make the most sacred place, muttering all the while to herself as she worked, “Just building, doing nothing much.”
Just as she settled into her work, the people who were fighting turned away from each other, quickly looked at her, and then, turned back to each other and continued their fighting, screaming at each other, “You good for nothing!” They threw rocks at one another, and some at her as well. She caught the rocks and joyously said mainly to herself, “Thank you, thank you!” as she added them to her structure which was growing rapidly. Just then, a dog came by and urinated in the gutter. She held out a broken cup and said again, “Thank you, thank you,” and mixed it with the dirt to form mortar.
A kind of stucco-like building began to emerge from her work. It became so large that she could not see the conflict anymore. Nevertheless, she could hear their voices yelling on the other side of the wall. One of them was screaming at the other, “You never ‘take my side! In fact, you insult me. You good for nothing… I hate you!”
As soon as she heard this, the Taoist muttered to herself, “Thank you, thank you,” repeating each of their words ever so slowly, treasuring some awesome presence she sensed behind each syllable. “Thank you, thank you,” she muttered. “This is the energy I need to build my temple. I was otherwise so tired today.”
Finally, the structure was almost complete. She felt well within its walls, but knew she had to leave because she was all alone inside. As she got to the door, she could not see but heard the screaming begin once again! Without a moment’s hesitation, she joined the noise and screamed at the top of her voice as well. She yelled, “We never met before, who the hell are you?” Now the screaming of the others abated as they came around the corner and looked in the doorway. To her surprise, she heard them say, “Well, how do you do? We know each other!” And she recognized the three other Taoist priests!
That is how four Taoist priests built a temple. Three had a conflict and the other loved it!
Amy Mindell, Ph.D., is in private therapy practice in Portland, Oregon. She teaches at the Process Work Center of Portland and, together with Arny Mindell, gives workshops in many places around the world. She is the author of Metaskills: The Spiritual Art of Therapy and Coma: A Healing Journey. When she’s not writing, teaching, or taking care of her extensive families, Amy loses herself in making puppets, writing music, dreaming and dancing.
Arny Mindell, Ph.D., is the seminal figure in the development of process work. The author of numerous books on its theory and applications, he works with conflict and other situations with individuals and groups around the world.