According to the earliest Taoist texts, when human nature is aligned with the rest of nature, order and harmony are the result.  From this perspective, the purpose of self-cultivation is to return to a mode of existence that is natural, but has been obscured by social conditioning.  Repeating certain actions, such as physical exercises, is a way of training the body so that it is free to react in a spontaneous, natural way — the preparation through repetition makes it possible to act, at a certain moment, without thinking, in pure spontaneity (zi-ran).  That spontaneity is the mode of being that is experienced fully, at all times.

Humans can deviate from the natural order.  When they do so, they bring destruction upon themselves and those around them.  Confucian scholars were criticized in the Taode jingfor imposing rules and social expectations.  According to theTaode jing, social mores and threats of punishment cause more harm than good, as they are methods of forcing appropriate behavior rather than allowing it to occur spontaneously and naturally.

Alignment With The Way