Te is a major concept in Taoism. It means about 20 different things (see the wikipedia article), but most often is translated as “virtue.” Not so much virtue like exceptional moral fiber, but more like “the virtues of a cold glass of water on a hot day.” Still, it’s a maddeningly difficult concept to grasp, never mind practice.


Having te means using the power and nature of what’s in front of you, to the best of your ability. Every so often I have a really goofy, stupid experience that helps me remember what it is, and how to use it. Take this mustard packet.

 I got it when I bought my lunch today, at a little deli near my office. (Baked fish and a side of steamed broccoli.) I picked up several packets of this and mayo, with the intention of pouring them out and mixing them up into a sauce to dip my kinda boring lunch into.

The first couple of packets opened up super easy. I got ‘em all emptied out and stirred together, it was a party. But THIS bugger, I just couldn’t get it to tear. So I put it aside.

Eventually, I ate up all my yummy sauce, and wanted more. So I picked up the troublemaker and tried again. It just kept slipping from my fingers, and wouldn’t tear.

Then I realized I’d been trying to tear it at the wrong end, the one without the little arrow.


Or, more appropriately, te!

I turned that sucker around, laughed at myself, and tore it open.

It’s amazing how much easier things get when you’re paying attention to how you do them.

AuthorMako Allen