Act without acting
Engage without engaging
Know without knowing
These opening lines present the paradox of Tao, especially the first line which returns to the theme of non-action. People sometimes misunderstand this concept to mean that we all should sit around binge watching our favorite show instead of going to work, taking care of the kids, paying bills, pursuing hobbies, and all the things that make up our day to day lives.
How do we act without acting? We act without acting when we have a sense that action is happening through us but not by us. When we are fully present and respond naturally to our circumstances rather than trying to force other people or circumstances to conform to how we think things should be. This ability to respond naturally results from an inner alignment and harmony with reality.
Big small many few
Respond to injury (hatred, bitterness) with Te
This, to me, is the central and essential practice of the Tao Te Ching. First, all injury (by whatever name you want to call it) is the same, in the sense that every injury gives us a choice of how to respond. Second, our response to any injury can be the same, meaning that no matter the nature of the injury, we can respond from that place of alignment and harmony. In that case, the response is not a reaction from a defensive/offensive perspective. Rather, our response is an allowing of grace (Te) to manifest through us.
A Course in Miracles teaches that everything we do or think or say is one of two things: an expression of love, or a call for love. Everything.
When we have misperceived ourselves as separate and in conflict, we often call for love through anger, judgment, fear, manipulation. When we correctly perceive ourselves as connected and in harmony, it is easier to allow love to express itself through us and out into the world.
Let me be clear. No, the Tao Te Ching is not teaching us to go hug a serial killer. It is teaching us to practice compassion as we make sane choices about our safety and boundaries. Then, just like the arrows Buddha turned into flowers, injury is transformed into the gift of grace. Effortlessly. Action without acting.
Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. ~Buddha