Introducing the Tao to Friends


Derek, if one is still in the process of learning various lessons in the Tao, what can one do to introduce others to the philosophy in a non-invasive way? I would like to help someone special better understand life, but do not know how to go about it without contrivance. Is there a gentler, subtle way to generate authentic interest in the other person? I’m not a fan of zealotry, but I do honestly think that the Tao could help people.


Your thoughts on introducing the Tao to others demonstrate great compassion. I have no doubt that the Tao can help them in tremendous ways. In fact, I have personally witnessed friends make incredible changes for the better when they connect with its teachings.

The way of real Tao cultivators may be contrary to expectations. They make no attempt to influence others, either in overt or subtle ways. They do not initiate a discussion on the Tao, nor do they drop hints. Instead, they focus only on what they do. Their actions, behaviors, attitudes all speak louder than words; by saying less and doing more, they actually have a greater effect on people.

You may think friends won’t notice what you do unless you point it out to them, but this is where it gets interesting. If you really live the Tao, people will notice, become curious, and approach with questions. Lao Tzu calls this “wordless teaching” and it always works, almost like a law of nature.

If you are not following the Tao correctly, the opposite occurs. People pay no attention to you and have little interest in your ways. It simply won’t occur to them to ask you questions about life. Among themselves, they may even dismiss you as being a bit strange.

I know someone who describes a Tai Chi teacher as follows: “He never pushes his beliefs on us, but that only makes us more intrigued to learn more.” This teacher is a someone who has attained true mastery in the art of wordless teaching. You can too, with the following three steps:

  • Be open. When you have elevated yourself to another level, the questions will start coming. Welcome them with a receptive mind. Brushing people off with a false display of modesty would not be your best response here.
  • Be patient. Allow for time to work on yourself, with the understanding that spiritual cultivation won’t happen overnight. Transform your desire to share into motivation for bettering yourself.
  • Be restrained. Limit the scope of your answer to only the questions asked. Resist the temptation to exploit the opening by talking about everything else you have learned. You’ll only overwhelm people and drive them away. Answer the question as clearly and completely as you can; make relevant suggestions to learn more; and then come to a graceful and natural stop.

When you act without contrivance in this manner, you help people without seeming to do anything. You avoid calling attention to yourself, but you end up drawing others closer in spite of it… or perhaps because of it. If you haven’t seen someone demonstrate this in real life, its power may surprise you. Give it a try and enjoy the process!

Derek Lin
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