Although it is not easy to offer a definition of Taoism, thinkers classed as philosophical Taoists do share a one basic insight - that, while all other things move spontaneously on the course proper to them, man has stunted and maimed his spontaneous aptitude by the habit of distinguishing alternatives, the right and a wrong, benefit and harm, and reasoning in order to judge between them.
To recover and educate his knack he must learn to reflect the situation with the unclouded clarity of a mirror, and respond to it with the immediacy of an Echo to a sound or shadow to a shape. For Zhuangzi the fundamental error is to suppose that life presents us with issues which must be formulated in words so that we can envisage alternatives and find reasons for preferring one to the other.
In responding immediately and with unsullied clarity of vision one hits in any particular situation on that single course which fits no rules but it is the inevitable one. This course, which meanders, shifting direction with varying conditions like water finding its own channel, is the dao, the Way, from which Taoism takes its name; it is what patterns the seeming disorder of change and multiplicity, and all things unerringly follow when he attends except that inveterate analyser and wordmonger man, who misses it by sticking rigidly to the verbally formulated codes which are the philosophical schools present as "the Way of the sage" or "the Way of the former kings". The spontaneous aptitude is the de, the "Power", the inherant capacity of the thing to perform its specific functions successfully.
How am I to train the power in me so that I am prompted to act without the aid of reasons, ends, moral and prudential principles? By cultivating the spontaneous energies, which Zhuangzi conceives in terms of the physiological ideas current in his time. He assumes that the organ of thought is not the brain but the heart, and also that everything in motion in the universe is activated by ch'i (qi), "breath, energy", conceived as a fluid which in its purest state is the breath that vitalises us... in the main tradition of Chinese cosmology all energies not only in the body but throughout the cosmos are classed as Yin or Yang, accounting for the alternations of dark and light and of all other opposites. Zhuangzi however, seems to follow an older scheme of "Six energies", Yin and Yang, wind and rain, dark and light. Thinking in terms of the traditional physiology, he commends us to educate the spontaneous energies rather than the use of the heart to think, name, categorise and conceived ends and principles of action.
Zhuangzi is also sceptical about the organ with which we think, which, it may be worth repeating, is not the brain but the heart. Why do we continue to trust its thoughts?... in any case all men have hearts, and if each of them, wise or foolish, takes his own as the final authority, how can they agree? Does the heart reign over the body at all? Isn't it rather that the body is a system within which the organs take turns as ruler and subject? The body does indeed have a "genuine ruler" which articulates its members, but that he is the Way itself, the mysterious order which runs through all things, which we follow spontaneously as soon as we cease to use the heart to analyse alternatives. (Zhuangzi 2.3)