The starting point for understanding the philosophy of Lao- Tzu in his work Te- Tao Ching is understanding what he means by the Tao, or the Way. The Way seems like Lao- Tzu's name for ultimate reality. He continually points out, however, that he does not know its true name, he simply calls it he Way. For Lao- Tzu, the way is that reality, or that level of reality, that existed prior to and gave rise to all other things. This includes the physical universe, Heaven and Earth, and all things in it, what the Chinese call the "ten thousand things". Chapters one, two, three, six, seven, eight, ten, twenty- three, forty and forty- two are all included in this explanation of how things came to be. It is a unique, philosophical look at the creation through the eyes of the Chinese people.
The Way in a sense is like a great womb. It is empty and devoid itself of differentiation. Yet somehow it contains all things in seedless or embryo form, and all things "emerge" from the Tao in creation, as babies emerge from their mothers. But, the Way does not simply give birth to all things. Having done so, it continues in some way to be present in each individual thing as an empty power. This power is not static but is constantly on the move, inwardly pushing each thing to develop and grow in a certain way, in a way that is in accord with its true nature. Philosophy can be a bit confusing because it is such a unique way of thinking. Te- Tao Ching is no exception. .
The intent of the opening lines of chapter ten is more difficult than the others to sort out. The lines in question are these: 1- In nourishing the soul and embracing the One- can you do it without letting them leave? 2- In concentrating your breath and making it soft- can you make it like that of a child? 3- In cultivating and cleaning your profound mirror- can you do it so that it has no blemish? These lines all allude towards different things, and to make them part of the same theme is very hard to do.