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Soulful Sundays: Wu Wei

"The Way never acts yet nothing is left undone." - Lao Tzu




Wu wei is a Taoist concept that roughly translates to "effortless action" or "actionless effort." Paradoxical in nature, wu wei is central to behaving in balance with the universe in the Taoist worldview. It is not simply an excuse to be lazy, but a call to do less on purpose--to make no unnecessary action.


Utilizing wu wei, we tune into the opportunities and limitations of our current situation, not forcing any rigid agendas or expectations. When we remain patient, then we harness the available energy, instead of fighting it.


I was first introduced to wu wei when I began reading Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, a historic book of short poems about the nature of the Tao, or the "Way." The Tao Te Ching (pronounced Dow-Day-Ching) and its companion book, the Hua Hu Ching, are great resources if you would like to dive deeper into this subject. I pick one poem at random upon waking and one before going to bed.


So what does it mean to take no unnecessary action? Think of a goal that you deeply wish to achieve. This could be losing some weight, running your first 5k, squatting a new personal best, increasing your bone density, switching jobs, or reducing your daily pain and suffering. There are steps along the way to getting you to your goal. You (or someone knowledgeable) can probably plot them out. Skipping steps 1-10 and starting on step 11 usually won't turn out well. For success, a more disciplined approach is required.


The best way to catch a feather is not to swipe for it; rather moving into the right position and allowing the feather to land effortlessly in our palm is wu wei in practice. When we take the same perspective with reaching our goals--engaging only the necessary amount of action needed to accomplish the next step--success is more likely. We can now use the conserved energy for other immediate or future endeavors.


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