Action Without Action

Lao Tzu, traditionally the author of the Tao T...

Lao Tzu, traditionally the author of the Tao Te Ching (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Prompts for the Promptless:  Wu Wei

Wu wei, or non-doing, is a Taoist practice involving letting one’s action follow the simple and spontaneous course of nature rather than interfering with the harmonious working of universal law by imposing arbitrary and artificial forms.  In other words, it is the action of non-action.

“As the planets revolve around the sun, they “do” this revolving, but without “doing” it. As trees grow, they simply grow without trying to grow. Thus knowing how and when to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think, “now I should do this,” but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing. The goal of spiritual practice for the human being is, according to Laozi, the attainment of this natural way of behaving.” – Wikipedia

I don’t know about your world, but mine is full of workaholics who have forgotten how to relax.  They get anxious and restless if they’re not doing something.  When they have problems they try to fix them by getting to their root to make the changes that will resolve them.  Sometimes there is no solution, and that makes them crazy.

They want rules and guidelines and proper methods of doing things and strict adherence to the rules.  They probably wrote a book of rules that tells us how to follow the rules.  They feel perfectly justified in throwing a fit when someone else has a different stupid rule that doesn’t agree with their much superior ones.  They rarely take the time to consider how they actually feel about anything because they’re just too busy doing what they think they’re supposed to be doing and they’ve got deadlines to meet and a schedule to keep and fun is something they’ve put on hold.

These people believe that everyone exists as a separate being, full of power and might, and thus able to exercise wilful control over everything that happens to them.  The strong survive, and the winner takes all.  I suppose they believe this is normal, natural behaviour.  They may say they are looking for peace and harmony and balance, but their forceful and unnatural methods aren’t working out so well.

Wu wei refers to the cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the cycles of the natural world we are a part of, where we are connected to every other living thing.  It is a kind of “going with the flow” that is characterized by great ease, so that without even trying we’re able to respond perfectly to whatever situation arises.  It doesn’t mean wandering around aimlessly, or being lazy or passive or inert (although that sounds pretty good to me too.)  It means listening to the intelligence of our bodies and our emotions as well as our brains, not swimming against the current or going against the grain.  It means being spontaneous and natural and doing things simply because we feel like doing them and because they feel right.  It means being kind and helpful and loving until we don’t remember how to be any other way.

There will always be problems to solve and issues to deal with and conflicts to resolve.  I think I’ve been practicing some version of Wu wei without even knowing it,  because I’ve always found the best thing to do initially when faced with a problem is nothing.  Leave things alone.  Let the natural process take its course. Unless it’s an urgent life or death situation, in which case I guess I could probably drum up the ambition to dial 911.  Thinking

But if I’m confused and stressed about a nagging problem and don’t know what to do, I don’t do anything.  I wait, I watch, I see what happens next.  This doesn’t mean the problem is ignored or that I’m pretending I’m not aware of it,  it means I’m giving the situation a time out until I can think more clearly about it and make a decision I can act on and not regret, without making things worse in the meantime.   Many problems can be solved by time alone.  Lots of times things will fall into place on their own.

So slow down.  Be patient.  Relax.  A little non action may be good for the soul.  Sit still awhile, and just be.

15 thoughts on “Action Without Action

  1. Pingback: Prompts for the Promptless – Ep. 4 – Wu Wei | rarasaur

  2. One of my favorite geek shows regularly counsels “time and patience” as the cure-all to everything. In my mind I agree, but it takes a certain strength to put your fate in the hands of the universe. 🙂 I admire your strength!! 🙂 (& thanks for participating!!)


  3. I am a nonactionist. It has not exactly served me well, possibly because I am doing it wrong. Also, I am not relaxed. Are you sure that is integral to the nonaction process? Because I have no might and no power. I let things happen all around me, and nothing good is coming from it. I’ll wait a little while longer and see what happens. Actually, I will wait a whole LOT longer, because nonaction is kind of my specialty. I just kind of…zone.


  4. One area where a bit of non-action is not going to help and that’s with the car I’m driving. It’s brakes are faulty and would simply have to do something about it. And also something about getting the money to pay for it!


  5. Pingback: Caging Love’s Wu Wei | rarasaur

  6. Pingback: Prompts for the Promptless – Ep. 5 – Meraki | rarasaur

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