Daoism / Meditation

Effortless doing and the Daoist art of Wu Wei

A useful video clip from The School of Life in the series on EASTERN PHILOSOPHY, “Wu Wei” which literally translates as ‘non-doing’. Though of course literal translations rarely tell us much about the true meaning of things. The School of Life have done a pretty good job at explaining the concept which is central to Daoist philosophy and is probably better translated as ‘natural action’ or action that doesn’t’ struggle or enter into conflict. It is the attainment of harmony with nature and the flow of the cosmos. In ancient Daoist texts Wu Wei is often associated with water which flows around objects, is soft and yielding yet can undermine the very foundations of the largest mountain. Water always finds the path of least resistance and seems effortless. It can fill up an empty waterbed and accumulate until it has enough volume to break over the sides. It can carve a route through any terrain. It can not be grasped yet it can surround you and support you. Wu Wei is not against action rather; it is how one acts that is key. The intention and motivation for action, weather or not the action is in harmony with the processes of nature. These are the important factors for consideration. In psychology there is a notion of ‘flow’ or being ‘in the zone’ which is sometimes thought to be a similar concept. Flow is characterised by complete absorption, focus and involvement. What one may be doing maybe frenetic and chaotic even, nonetheless there is a feeling of peacefulness that comes from the absorption. Personally I think this feeling of Wu Wei comes for me, when I drink good tea and my focus becomes intensified but at the same time there is a calmness, a feeling of centeredness. Perhaps that is also Wu Wei.

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