The Tao is the underlying principle of the universe, and followers of Taoism seek to align themselves with it through practices like meditation and mindfulness. The word Tao means “way” or “path”. This can be understood in two ways: as the path or practice of life, and as the ultimate reality which underlies existence.
Taoism has a long history in China, it is also one of the oldest, dating back to at least 400 BCE. Its ideas were developed during the Warring States period and they later influenced Confucianism, Buddhism and traditional Chinese medicine.
The Taoist canon includes a wide range of texts, including the Tao Te Ching, which is considered the main Taoist scripture. The book was written by an unknown author who called himself Lao Tzu — a name that means “Old Master.”
The Tao Te Ching is a collection of 81 short chapters or poems that express the central ideas of Taoism, which teaches that everything in the universe contains opposites: yin and yang. Yin represents things like darkness and femininity; yang represents things like lightness and masculinity. The two are complementary forces; neither can exist without the other.
The Tao Te Ching teaches that everything in nature moves toward balance through these two forces. Humans must do the same by living in harmony with nature and practicing moderation in all things.
The basic idea is to live one’s life according to nature by not interfering with it unnecessarily and accepting its changes without complaint.