The strict English interpretation of the Chinese word Tao is "way, or the way". This translation points to so much already. Could Taoism hold some truth for us? Traditionally, a Taoist would be an individual searching for a way, or someone who is on an excursion along the way, or on a highly specific spiritual path. Typically this path is a form of spiritual advancement adding to one's own knowledge of self or of reality as a whole. For some Taoists, the meaning of Tao might be known as the way to discover a strategy or guideline to abide by, in order to access a certain level of truth. Different methods of reasoning and mainstream society utilizes the term Tao which could contribute to some of the ambiguity we now hold about it today.
In Taoism, "being" can be an exemplification of what one craves for just as what an individual genuinely needs. Which makes it important for us to be able to individually discern between the two.
In the West, there is a mindset that has emerged which has created the idea that human instinct is something to not be submissive to. While there is some truth to that, because we are no longer living in flight or fight - hunter-gatherer lifestyle anymore. In the modern world, we all have to develop our own point of view on what we see is authentically true for us individually. Aligning ourselves, and submitting ourselves to the internal insight of the Tao, can be of benefit to our lives and our well-being.
To Lao Tsu, "The Way" isn't simply a clear path, a particular way of life or way of reasoning. It is not a specific technique or guideline either. Which in the modern world and collective consciousness is so desirable. We all just want to be told how to think, and we all just want to be shown the way. But it's not that easy.
Similar to Zen lessons which were created after Taoism, the Tao is worthy of a lot of attention to try and understand and integrate. The Tao can best be portrayed as tricky, elusive, abstract, and strange. It is supernatural, limitless, and everlasting, going before even the introduction of the universe.
The real aspect to grasp is that all that "is" moves in a single heading direction and it arrives at the pinnacle of development in this spontaneous "way". This elusive concept of the Tao also holds a large degree of trust. Trust in the Universe, or trust in the Tao. Trust that everything is perfectly imperfect, and trust that everything is the way it should be because it is the way it is. We have to be careful not to use this as a bypass in our own life. That mindset that, "I don't have to do anything because if it were meant to be different then it would be". This is just a trap of the mind to feel into. The point is to be able to accept the way things are, but we still need to take action in our lives. And when we align our action with this universal flow called the Tao, magic can happen.
To be in the Tao we are in non-opposition. We are in acceptance, and we are also in action. We are moving with the current of the Tao. Just like moving with the current of the river. The world as we know it, the universe as we know it.. is not stagnant, it is always changing and always moving. We too, when in accordance with the Tao, are also in this all-changing current.
The reality of what precisely characterizes the Tao, is that it is the most genuine version of the real world. The most authentic and objective expression of the Universe that we are aligning ourselves with.
It may be formless or shapeless. Yet, if we listen carefully, It tends to be communicated, yet can be lost at the very moment we try to take hold of it. It very well might be known, yet may or may not be visible, heard, smelled, or tasted.
It is subjective in nature, yet its subjective nature aligns itself to the objective truth. The Tao is established in itself, and within us, if we choose. It is the universe as a whole, expressing itself within each being and each thought and action.