We spend most of our life worried about things that never happen, blaming ourselves for situations that we can not modify or despairing for events that do not happen. In this way we waste so much of our mental energy and create negative emotional states that, in time, take us away from our goals and make us feel bad.
But there is another way of living, a much quieter lifestyle that allows us achieve our goals with less effort, keeping our emotional balance. The key comes from Taoist philosophy, in particular from the concept of “Wu Wei”.
The concept of non-action
One of the most powerful concepts of Taoism is the “Wu-Wei”, which literally means non-action or inaction. However, it is also one of the most misunderstood in the West since our culture gives priority to action over all things.
To understand its essence we must deepen the Sanskrit, in which there are two different words to express two ideas which we often interchange:
Akarma = inaction
akarmakR it.h ^ = do nothing
These are two different concepts, inaction is a natural state that does not require any effort. On the contrary, if we want to avoid doing anything we should strive for it by the way it is not a natural condition. If we self-impose ourselves immobility, if we force ourselves to do nothing, we can not relax.
For example, when some people sit to meditate they try to do nothing and strive to empty their mind. This is one of the reasons they find it so difficult and often abandon this practice. However, if they should let their mind flow freely, if they simply remain inactive, they would realize that they can reach more easily the desired state of relaxation and tranquility.
The Wu Wei proposes just to learn to flow through inaction. But it is not about doing nothing, if we have to do something we do it, but during the action we continue to flow. It is a state of mind that allows us know when we should strive, and when it is a waste of time and energy.
The flower grows without effort, naturally
The flowers grow effortlessly, naturally. However, let’s imagine for a moment that a flower develops a consciousness similar to ours. It is likely to start worrying about the flowering process it faces. Maybe it will ask what color would have its petals, if it could speed up the process by using the fertilizer, how much it costs and if can afford it or even ask if will be more beautiful and bigger of the flower growing beside. So what it is a natural process could turn into a real trauma.
Obviously, we have more concerns, and make decisions based on the mental states that they generate, instead of focusing exclusively on facts. Such concerns, preconceptions and prejudices are exactly the opposite of the flow. Every time we try to predict the future, and we worry about what may happen, we are going against the principle of Wu Wei, which means that we are wasting energy and strive in vain.
Do nothing but leave nothing to be done
The Wu Wei does not promote inactivity, it teaches how to do things spontaneously and naturally, without being overwhelmed by concerns that nail on forced paths. This concept does not imply laziness, passivity or avoid acting. In fact, one of its most important principles states that “we must leave nothing to be done”, because the idea is to conquer the world with less effort.
This concept involves two fundamental changes in mental attitude:
1. Learn to trust events
2. Take profit of the circumstances
This does not mean we should not have goals and ambitions, but we should not turn them into a source of concern that takes us away the calm and the emotional balance. On the contrary, we must pay attention to take advantage of favorable circumstances that allow us to achieve these goals with as little effort as possible, without adding unnecessary mental pressure.
Similarly, it implies that when we finish a task, we must not think of it anymore because, otherwise, we would remain attached to the past, we would keep our mind occupied and would not be able to see the new opportunities when they arise.
The Wu Wei is a calm state of mind in which we trust our abilities and the flow of life. It implies to remain calm even in the darkest moments, because we are sure that sooner or later the sun will rise again.
How to apply the Wu Wei in everyday life?
Of course, at the beginning is very difficult to apply the concept of Wu Wei as we are culturally “programmed” to worry and despair. But if we take a step at a time, and we do it consciously, very soon we will be able to fully embrace this philosophy of life.
- Learning not to worry. Apply the old principle “If there is a solution, why get worried. If there is no solution, why get worried”. This is not about solving problems, but to watch them in the right perspective and take appropriate action. Instead of worrying, something that will not lead you anywhere, start designing solutions. You'll feel better and safer.
- Learn to trust. Trust in life and in your abilities. Only then you can take advantage of opportunities when they arise. If you do not trust yourself, the fear of failure will cause you to fail. But you also have to learn to trust the cycle of life, many people waste the opportunities just because, unconsciously, they believe not to deserve them.
Wu Wei: Learning to flow with lifeJennifer Delgado