If we had to express the view-teaching of our practice as pithily as possible, we could probably just say “as we are”.
The Chinese character ziran (自然) translates as “self-so”, meaning naturally so of itself, not the product of some contrived effort or intention. Dao is self-so. For the purposes of this article, let’s translate ziran as “as we are”.
Our Daoism is not based on the concept of original sin or a fall from grace or even the idea that we need to grow and develop our inborn potential or transform ourselves into some kind of immortal being. Maybe we lose our way from time-to-time, and maybe we’d like to grow – OK, but how to get it back, and how to find our appropriate process of growth? Laozi’s essential message is to leave things as they are and to leave ourselves as we are.
Not to fixate on conditions, mind you – conditions are always changing. Things as they are means things as they go. Natural process – not our idea about how the process should go.
This view does not inspire us to reach for spiritual heights. No. It inspires us to relax spiritual aspirations. Yes.
If we take this view into our formal practice & informal conduct – whoa! what a significant shift takes place in our experience. Somehow it transforms us thoroughly.
My teacher said, “the qi comes back home”. What may have been entangled in some aspirational fantasy simply comes back into the central channel.
When we abide in this manner, regularly over a period of time, not only does the qi become more and more calm and more and more clear, it takes on a different quality. My goodness, it becomes fine and sweet.
In our tradition, view is the most important thing. We don’t want to be “methodistas”. But we do each need to put together a practice routine comprised of a suite of methods. These may or may not be “Daoist” in nature. How could that possibly matter? But forms are really helpful vessels for applying the practice.
So, whatever our suite of formal practice methods, and whatever comes up in the informal conduct of daily life, our practice is to leave things as they are, leave ourselves as we are, keeping the qi at home as the myriad phenomena continuously shift and transform – practice like this, and the ground of what we really are just may open up beneath our feet.