Monday, April 24, 2017

Wu Wei

One of Taoism’s most important concepts is wu wei, which is sometimes translated as “non-doing” or “non-action.” A better way to think of it, however, is as a paradoxical “Action of non-action.”

It is a kind of “going with the flow” that is characterized by great ease and awake-ness, in which--without even trying--we’re able to respond perfectly to whatever situations arise.

The Taoist principle of wu wei has similarities to the goal in Buddhism of non-clinging to the idea of an individual ego. A Buddhist who relinquishes ego in favor of acting through the influence of inherent Buddha-nature is behaving in a very Taoist manner.
The practice of wu wei is the expression of what in Taoism is considered to be the highest form of virtue one that is in no way premeditated but instead arises spontaneously.

Laozi tells us:
The highest virtue is to act without a sense of self
The highest kindness is to give without a condition
The highest justice is to see without a preference

When Tao is lost one must learn the rules of virtue
When virtue is lost, the rules of kindness
When kindness is lost, the rules of justice
When justice is lost, the rules of conduct

Every creative individual has experienced a certain “flow” at one time or another.

It may be most evident when you paint or play a musical instrument, because these activities make it quite easy, indeed natural, to slip into this non-physical river of energy we are trying to describe. When you are immersed in the flow, you experienced timelessness and you let go of the idea of “self.” Your awareness expands to encompass all aspects of the activity you are engaged in, and your hands seem to develop a mind of their own, no longer requiring your conscious direction. You can even settle back in your mind, enjoy being a spectator for a while and marvel at this work that seems to be coming out of nowhere. Much later, long after the experience is over, you may realize that while within the flow, you were suffused with a pure bliss. This is all part of the power of wu wei.

Wu wei is a state in which one is relaxed, free yet focused. It is the antithesis of strife and struggle. We only struggle to do things when we are emotionally attached to the outcome. Wu wei is all about effort without attachment. 

When you give of yourself by going with the flow, you benefit others according to whatever comes naturally and feel absolutely no need for rewards or any sort of peer approval. In this realm of true altruism (which the cynical among us would argue does not exist), there is no room for concern about what other people may think. You let go of any desire to be seen as a Good Samaritan or a philanthropist, and this frees you to focus on doing the right thing. 

“The Tao never does,
 Yet through it everything is done.
 If princes and dukes can keep the Tao,
 the world will of its own accord be reformed.
 When reformed and rising to action,
 Let it be restrained by the Nameless pristine simplicity.
 The Nameless pristine simplicity
 Is stripped of desire (for connection). 
 By stripping of desire quiescence is achieved,
 And the world arrives at peace of its own accord."

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