Tao Te Ching

How To Be Lived By The Tao

Connecting To Your True Source Of Power

Tao Te Ching - How To Be Lived By The Tao. 
Connecting To Your True Source Of Power. Image of chinese symbol for the Tao.

Introducing The Tao Te Ching

The Tao Te Ching is one of those books that many people read, few understand, and even fewer put into practice.

It encapsulates Taoist philosophical thought comprising ideas and concepts of Chinese origin with a focus on living in alignment and harmony with the Tao.

What is the Tao?

We are told that the Tao has no name, it can have no name.

However, in the dualistic world we live in, the Tao is conventionally also known as The Way which means the natural order of any or all of: the universe, God, how things really are, reality, emptiness, consciousness or the energy of life.

The theme of the book

The title "Tao Te Ching" translates in short form as "The Book Of The Way" or "The Immanence Of The Way" and in long form as ""The Book Of The Way And How It Manifests Itself In The World".

The theme of the book is living in harmony with the Tao [reality, consciousness, God, the energy of life etc]. This theme is described and expressed as living in harmony with the natural world. 

It is thought to have been written about 2,500 years ago, is popularly attributed to Lao Tsu sometimes referred to as the old master but, as with many sacred texts such as the Christian gospels, the end product is the result of a team effort of various writers and editors and is reflective of the time and the context in which they wrote.

Actually it is misleading to refer to the "end product" because there have been so many translations from the Classical Chinese into English and other modern languages and each reflecting to some degree the thought, insight and experience of the translator.

My own personal preference is the translation by Stephen Mitchell which is illustrated with Chinese paintings of nature selected by Asian art expert Dr Stephen Little.

Here is a free public domain translation of the Tao Te Ching.

The Tao is beyond words

But, regardless of the version and translation, what you read is more analogous to a modern musical performance of an ancient song than any solid credal statement of belief.

In my view the strength of this analogy is illustrated in the opening words of the Tao Te Ching which states quite clearly and emphatically that:

    The tao that can be told
    is not the eternal Tao.

    The name that can be named
    is not the eternal name.

    The unnamable is the eternally real.

    [Tao Te Ching 1]

The difference between the “world as-it-is” with the “world as-it-is-thought-about” and spoken about, is vast.

There is always a context, and framing, in our use of words.

The concepts we employ, the categorizations we apply and the words we choose and use to articulate a direct experience put us in a double bind.

Why? Because for all that we gain by being able to speak about an experience we lose a greater amount of the full meaning of that experience by speaking it.

Zen koans on steroids

The written style of the Tao Te Ching can take your your breath away with the poetry of its aphorisms and then leave you scratching your head with the apparent irreconcilable contradictions they contain.

It's like reading zen koans on steroids!

Quite clearly, the purpose and meaning of the Tao Te Ching lies in the truth to which it points.

    Words are not the meaning
    they are the pointers to the meaning.

    [Lost For Words]

The Tao is experienced - it is felt in your heart

So, if you shift your focus to the meaning that lies behind or beyond the words:

  • the meaning that transcends the words...
  • the meaning that can only be fully grasped by experiencing it...

...then everything changes and divisions and barriers evaporate as you open your heart to it.

    My teachings are easy to understand
    and easy to put into practice.
    Yet your intellect will never grasp them,
    and if you try to practice then, you'll fail.

    My teachings are older than the world.
    How can you grasp their meaning?

    If you want to know me,
    look inside your heart.

    [Tao Te Ching 70]

The Core Teachings Of The Tao Te Ching

The tao is not a belief system.

The words in the Tao Te Ching are not a belief system.

This is not something that you can grasp intellectually.

As we have already established, the words are just pointers to the Tao.

The only way to know the Tao is to experience it, and it is experienced in your heart not your head.

You can experience the Tao spontaneously, but to experience it on a daily basis as a way of living requires action and practice.

What I am going to outline to you now may temporarily satisfy your mind with a workable concept of the Tao, but it will fade faster than the mist in the early sunshine of a summer morning unless it encourages you to take action.

For the rest of this section I am now going to refer to the Tao as  Consciousness as it is a word that is more accessible to the modern mind.

This is my personal  summary of the teachings in the Tao Te Ching:

  • 3 Parameters of Consciousness
  • 3 Behaviours that facilitate Access to Consciousness
  • 3 Qualities that flow from Living in Consciousness

I have included a quote - usually one of many - to illustrate each point and have shown the number of the section of the book in brackets against each quote.

3 Parameters of Consciousness

The 3 Parameters of Consciousness

[1] The Expression Of Consciousness

The expression of Consciousness is PARADOX 

"True words seem paradoxical." [78]

  • Everything is interconnected and a part of a one-ness or non-duality - there is no separation.
  • Yet despite this innate one-ness or unity there are 2 sides to absolutely everything - the yin and the yang.
  • These 2 sides are opposite, or contrary, to each other and yet they are dependent on each other. For example: there can no up without down, light without darkness, male without female, expansion without contraction, wealth without poverty or good without bad. 

This paradox exists within us - on one hand we have the capacity for experiencing the one-ness and unity of the enlightened mind and the awakened heart, and on the other hand we have the capacity for exercising a wide range of thinking skills in the everyday world of duality.

[2] The Key To Living In Consciousness

The key to living in Consciousness is BALANCE

"Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other." [2]

  • This is all about achieving a balance between the harmony and peace of the inner world of consciousness with the requirements of surviving and functioning effectively in the outer world of duality.
  • The balanced life is one where you recognise the full spectrum of possible responses and choose the most appropriate one for the situation you find yourself in.
  • This balance occurs when you draw daily guidance and inspiration from your inner world  of consciousness and execute and implement with your thinking mind.

[3] The Process Of Living In Consciousness

The process of living in Consciousness is FLOW

"Act without doing;
work without effort." [63]

"Less and less do you need to force things,
until you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone. " [48]

  • Going with the flow is about achieving the balance of being and doing.
  • It is about learning to become comfortable with uncertainty, and learning how to see the potential hidden within it. Uncertainty is where things happen.
  • The  2 foundations to embracing uncertainty are acceptance and flexibility.

3 Behaviours That Give Access to Consciousness

[1] Non attachment

"Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.

When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever." [2]

[2] Flexibility

"Yielding is the way of the Tao" [40]

"The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world." [43]

[3] Mindfulness

"Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace." [16]

"Free from desire, your realise the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations." [1]

3 Qualities Of Living in Consciousness

"I have just three things to to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures." [67]

[1] Simplicity

"Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being."

[2] Patience

"Patient with both friend and enemies,
you accord with the way things are."

[3] Compassion

"Compassionate towards yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world."

How To Use The Tao Te Ching

"Only in being lived by the Tao
can you truly be yourself." [22]

"Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine." [54]

The Tao Te Ching is not a detailed instruction manual.

It's purpose is to point to the Tao [The Way].

This is very necessary as the human default setting is for your ego  to want to be in control.

But when this happens, and your ego usurps your spiritual nature, you remain disconnected from your true source of power.

In my experience, we can use the Tao Te Ching as a source of inspiration, a wake up call, and a reminder to stay connected to our true source of power.

Being Lived By The Tao

Being Lived By The Tao

The teachings in the Tao Te Ching point to a major realignment of how we normally function.

This is about a 180 degree shift from living MY life to a life that is lived by the Tao.

This is difficult for the natural egoic mind to comprehend as it requires a renewal of your mind.

Renewing your mind is based on practices, not beliefs, that will have a profound and positive effect on your life.

This all takes work and effort as the human mind runs on deeply ingrained and habitual patterns of thought.

Neural pathways in your brain get stronger with repetition and you will be training your brain to establish new pathways through new activities, new patterns of thought, and new behaviour.

Based on my own personal experiences I recommend the following 3 core practices and 2 applied practices as a means of renewal.

Each of the links below will take you to a page which explains how to do the practice and offers additional supporting resources.

Core Practices

"Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?

Can you step back from your own mind
and thus understand all things?" [10]


"The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them." [29]

"Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready." [16]


"Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you." [44]


Applied Practices

"When the ancient Masters said,
'If you want to be given everything,
give everything up,'
they weren't using empty phrases
Only in being lived by the Tao
can you truly be yourself." [22]

Dying To Self

"In the pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone." [48]

Going With The Flow

Supporting Material

The following articles will provide depth and context to these practices. I have shared a lot of my experiences and tried to make this material as accessible as possible, and I have also provided extensive cross references to supporting material on this site and quality third party material.

    Only in being lived by the Tao
    can you truly be yourself.

    [Tao Te Ching 22]

Next Article: Dying To Self - Everything Does Not Revolve Around Me

Return from the "Tao Te Ching" to: Walking The Talk

Contact me

English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


  1. Like A Prayer - Life Is A Mystery

    It Isn't The Process Of Prayer That’s The Problem, It’s The Way It’s Framed. Regardless of what we feel about Madonna or her song the topic of prayer often arouses strong reactions. Usually, it is som…

    Read More

  2. How Things Really Are - The Inbuilt Design Flaws

    Chaos, Disorder And Decay Is The Natural Order Of Things. Nobody has the perfect life. We all struggle and strive to attain health, wealth and personal happiness. Yet these three big areas: our health…

    Read More

  3. Intuition Or Anxiety - Are There Angels Or Devils Crawling Here?

    How To Tell The Difference Between Intuition and Anxiety. How do you know whether the voice of your intuition is real or just the product of your inner anxiety? Several months ago I was having a drink…

    Read More

  4. What Is Truth - How To Tell A Partial Truth From The Whole Truth?

    How the truth and nothing but the truth is often not the whole truth. My great aunty Flo broke her arm and died. It is true that she broke her arm in 1923. It is also true that she died in 1949. But t…

    Read More

  5. Duality And Life Beyond Your Thinking Mind

    Duality and life beyond your thinking mind focuses on the limitations of time, foreground and background, duality and "stuckness". The first aspect of duality and life beyond your thinking mind focuse…

    Read More

  6. The Conscious Mind Is Limited - Be Aware And Be Prepared

    Being aware is the first stage of being prepared. The conscious mind is limited in so many ways. There are some who would argue that there is no such thing as conscious thought and that it is represen…

    Read More

  7. Your Inner Map Of Reality - Here's Why You Think The Way You Do

    The big picture of how your inner map of reality creates your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. Your inner map of reality is based on the filters of your own ethnic, national, social, family and rel…

    Read More

  8. The Failure Of Cancel Culture - Suppression Not Engagement

    Why we need to wear our beliefs lightly and develop negative capability. Throughout history people have campaigned to fight beliefs, ideologies, and injustices that they perceived to be oppressive, di…

    Read More

  9. 4 Big Reasons Why We Get Stuck In Our Attempts At Personal Change

    Most People Spend Their Entire Life Imprisoned Within The Confines Of Their Own Thoughts. This first of the 4 big reasons why we get stuck is, in my view, the most important. The "self-help industry…

    Read More

  10. How Do I Change And Why Is It So Hard?

    We Would Rather Die Than Change, And We Usually Do In my experience, the vast majority of people who say they want to change don’t change. Most people reading this won’t change because they don’t real…

    Read More

  11. The Illusion Of A Separate Self - Windows 11 With Self Awareness!

    Beyond the content of your mind you are so much more than you think you are. When we talk of "myself" this is the conventional way of referring to our self image which is in fact the ego's constructio…

    Read More

  12. Finite And Infinite Games - Dazed, Confused & Ultimately Transcendent

    This is not an instruction manual, it is a wake up call! Over this past week I have read Professor James Carse's highly regarded "Finite And Infinite Games - A Vision Of Life As Play And Possibility"

    Read More

  13. The Gap And The Gain - How Your Brain Sabotages Your Happiness

    How Your Lizard Brain Sabotages Your Happiness We are hardwired to measure our progress in any and all areas of life where we have goals and aspirations. We can't not do it. But what we measure and ho…

    Read More

  14. How To Wake Up - 4 Simple Practices To Help You Wake Up Now

    So What Exactly Does It Mean to Wake Up - What Is "Enlightenment"? There is nothing magical, mystical or mysterious about waking up we’re actually having glimpses of enlightenment all the time. Enligh…

    Read More

  15. Situational Communication - Different Strokes For Different Folks

    Situational communication is about taking account of 3 often ignored factors about the other person. You are a situational communicator when you recognise that effective communication is not an event…

    Read More

  16. How To Influence Without Authority - 6 Key Tips

    The secret to how to influence without authority is that you get what you really want by giving other people what they really want. We live in an interconnected world and knowing how to influence with…

    Read More

  17. Change Questions To Change Your Outcomes

    Asking The Right Questions Is Critical For A Successful Change. Every time we initiate a significant change - whether in our personal life or in an organisation - we will most likely over-estimate our…

    Read More

  18. Group Culture - The Invisible Software That Rules Your Life

    Group culture is: "How we do things round here". We like to see ourselves as free agents making our own choices and living authentically but the reality is that The Matrix has many layers and we are u…

    Read More

  19. Why Getting From A to B Is Not Aways A Straight Line

    In circumstances of significant change, the progress from A to B will not be in a straight line. We run our lives largely on auto-pilot. In most circumstances your experience of getting from A to B is…

    Read More

  20. The Art Of Persuasion Planning For Success - Here's How To Do It!

    To be successful in the art of persuasion you must ensure that certain things happen. To be successful in the art of persuasion you must establish a framework of what has to happen to get you to that…

    Read More

  21. The Art Of Persuasion Advanced Communication Skills - Gaining Buyin

    Create The Environment Where They Want To Buyin to Your Proposal In order to build the win-win you have to uncover what it is that the other person really wants or needs, and to do that you have to as…

    Read More

  22. The Art Of Persuasion The One Fundamental Principle - Create A Win-Win

    The art of persuasion is based on the simple idea that you get what you want by enabling the other party to get what they want. Being a nice friendly person with good inter-personal skills may be a go…

    Read More

  23. Communication Persuasion And Change - Key Skills To Survive & Succeed

    It's not the strongest that survive, nor the most intelligent, but those who are most responsive to change, the most persuasive, and the best communicators. We are living in an age of unprecedented ch…

    Read More

  24. The Eisenhower Box - What Is Important Is Seldom Urgent

    What Is Important Is Seldom Urgent And What Is Urgent Is Seldom Important. The Eisenhower Box is a time management and decision-making model devised by President Dwight Eisenhower to help him prioriti…

    Read More

  25. Zen Enlightenment [Satori] - The Stink Of Zen

    Lost In Our Delusions About Enlightenment. There is something in human nature - a desire to glamorise, sanctify, objectify and idolise – that elevates people who have offered deep insights to the huma…

    Read More

  26. 5 Zen Mindsets For Mastery - In Any Area Of Your Life

    The Wisdom Of A Person Who Masters In Any Art Is Reflected In Their Every Attitude. The state and quality of your mind has a very large bearing on the quality of your performance in any area of life t…

    Read More

  27. Dealing With The Toxicity Of Online Dating - 6 Key Tips From A Clinical Psychologist

    Toxicity Is The Price Tag Of Accessibility. In the early days of online dating, users were vetted and had to go through a registration process and agree to comply with a code of conduct designed to en…

    Read More

  28. Why Understanding Ergodicity Is Critical To Your Long Term Survival

    How Not To Be Fooled By Randomness. Ergodicity is an ugly word from the world of mathematics. It is an umbrella term for two sets of conditions of probability and outcome. These two conditions form th…

    Read More

  29. Dealing With Imposter Syndrome - Ego Is The Enemy

    How You Frame A Situation Has A Profound Impact On How You Respond To It Emotionally. Imposter syndrome is a psycho-emotional experience of a fear of being found out as incompetent despite ongoing evi…

    Read More

  30. The Challenges Of The Road Less Traveled

    Issues You'll Face When Playing The Long Game. The challenges of the road less traveled is loosely based around the phrase popularised by M.Scott Peck with his book "The Road Less Traveled". This arti…

    Read More

Get new posts by email:


Support This Site