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Although there are many definitions of Tao, this one word communicates an entire philosophy, an outlook on the fundamental nature of life and the universe. The word Tao is nothing less than an expression of the profound unity of the universe and of the path human beings must take to join, rather than disturb, that unity.

Early Taoist philosophy was profoundly influenced by observations of nature. Taoist philosophers determined that everything has its complementary opposite. They also saw that everything can only be understood by comparing it to its opposite. Day is only day in relation to night, cold only cold in relation to heat, and soft only soft in relation to hard. Looking deeper still, they realized that these relationships are in a constant state of flux: Day flows gradually into night and back again. All things, then, are interdependent. By observing the processes of nature, the Taoists say, we can come to some understanding about the meaning of our lives and about our place in the world. These concepts are the cornerstone of Taoist philosophy.

Taoist philosophers also noticed that what happens in nature is effortless. This does not mean that there is no struggle, but that events occur without premeditation. Consider the life of a plant. The seed falls onto the ground. If the soil is fertile, and if it receives warmth, light, and water, it may emerge as a seedling. It does not require instruction to know how to take nourishment in through its roots or how to photosynthesize light and unfold into a mature plant. Given the knowledge it contains, the plant is complete within its own nature.
The Taoist asks: why should life be different for people? Why not allow situations to unfold as they may rather than trying to manipulate others and orchestrate events? This belief in Taoist philosophy is known as the doctrine of Wu Wei i.e doing-by-not-doing, and it lies at the heart of Taoist practice.

Nature is complete without us, and we must recognize this fact and begin to participate with nature as a partner in the universal scheme. Our mission, according to Taoist philosophy, is to return to a natural way of life, unencumbered by complicated social institutions and intellectual ideas. Doing so, Taoism suggests, will return us to a state of natural grace – Tao.

"Natural forces within us are true healers of disease."