1. The spirit of the valley never dies.
What is the spirit of the valley? The bottom of the valley is the way. Once found, there is nothing underneath. The valley way is the path of least resistance. The spirit of the valley is the tendency of the valley to bring us to this point.
So why does it never die? In practical terms this tendency to ground zero always applies. There is never a situation where this tendency is inappropriate. It can never be overused (use will never drain it). Any excuse for not letting it apply is simply that: an excuse.
2. This is called the mysterious female.
Why call it anything? And why the mysterious female? - For the sake of enhanced awareness. We are subject to very powerful but invisible forces. There is the pull of the conditioned - the allure of certain of the myriad things. There is also the pull of the Unconditioned - the urge to resolution, to realisation. However, to describe things as such is too intellectual and abstract. To communicate in more immediate terms the author refers to the allure of the female. From a male perspective this verse could be understood sexually but, if we do so, it is important not to limit it. We are talking about a fundamental allure which never dies. If this allure can be directly experienced - rather than projected out there onto certain subsets of the myriad things then we have reached
3. The gateway of the mysterious female
Being with this allure of the mysterious female is the gateway to the heart of everything:
Is called the root of heaven and earth.
The actual practice is not unlike trying not to scratch a spot. It is very difficult not to scratch a spot if one's universe consists solely of the spot, the itch, and the practice of not scratching it. Broadening the perspective, taking our cue from the current line and thinking in mythic terms, we see things from the perspective of the mysterious female and the root of heaven and earth and the itch, as an itch, disappears. We have arrived back at that point (the root) of awareness from having been lost in the 'inner' world of thoughts, fantasies etc (heaven) or the 'outer' world of people and physical objects (earth). And what now? It is sometimes difficult to maintain this poised awareness. The tendency is to be pulled back into the dominion of heaven and earth. It is sometimes very difficult to see the way. The memory of it might be there but this is insufficient...
4. Dimly visible, it seems as if it were there,
Compare this with the line in chapter 4: Darkly visible, it only seems as if it were there. These lines, though similar, are from different perspectives. Chapter 4 is from the perspective of one on the way. From this perspective, the ante-cognitive, there is no objectification. There is nothing to speak of but there is no nothing either. In the current line, we are not quite home and dry. There is a sense of something - dimly visible - a presence which seems as if it were there. It might seem vague, feeble but it is our signpost and must be followed (used) -
Yet use will never drain it.
If we turn to it, no matter how unpromising it might seem it will never let us down. It is in this sense that use will never drain it. It will never be exhausted, never fail.