How do you gracefully leave a flailing party early, without causing the rest of the crowd to abandon ship with you?
Although people may associate the Tao with the mystical or metaphysical, it is actually a practical philosophy that can be applied to every aspect of life — including awkward social situations. When one practices the Tao in this manner, solutions to life’s little problems come not from clever tricks of the moment, but from having lived consistently and intelligently, in accordance with the Tao.
To see how this works for making graceful exits, we can take a look at a Tao lesson from The Tao of Happiness. That lesson begins as follows:
To be mindful of where you are is to have situational awareness. Tao cultivators blend in with the environment by observing local laws, customs, and social norms. They go with the flow and draw no attention to themselves, so that they can be comfortable and relaxed in any place, facing any situation.
The most important idea from the above is to draw no attention to yourself, when it is not necessary to do so. In studying the Tao, you realize that the need for attention often stems from an emptiness within. When you possess internal fulfillment, that emptiness requiring external approval naturally fades away. This makes you a calmer, more confident, and better person. You are able blend in at a party, feeling quite comfortable and relaxed, as the know-it-alls, loudmouths and show-offs try their best to keep all eyes on them.
When you sense the party has gone flat, and it is an appropriate time to leave, you flow with the decision without making a show of it. There is no need for you to conspicuously gather up your stuff and make excuses to everyone within earshot. You let your host know, because an important part of your cultivation is to be impeccable in expressing courtesy and appreciation to others. The host, most likely wishing to avoid a mass exodus, easily falls into alignment with your plan for a quiet exit.
You let go of the party in your mind as you depart. There is no need to regret leaving early, or worry about the state of the party from that point on. It may be quite some time before people even notice you are gone, and you know quite well that the party will either keep going or wind down without your involvement. It is already in the past, so you turn your attention to the present, as you continue on the path — the Tao — of happiness.