In Daoism, one of the most fundamental principles is the concept of Wu Wei.
The literal meaning of wu wei is: “without action or without striving”, and is often meant to symbolize effortless doing, as in the grass growing.
It’s not that there is no action, but the grass does nothing contrived, artificial, or with struggle. It does so spontaneously and without effort.
The practice of wu wei is a fundamental tenet of almost all schools of Daoist (and some Confucian) thought.
The conundrum is one cannot actively pursue wu wei or it then becomes its antithesis known as You Wei, or action born of effort/struggle.
Wu wei can be better seen as observation of one's behavior, and most importantly Reality as it is, versus what one’s Mind tells them it is. Wu wei is alighted upon once an individual accepts themselves for who they are and releases the imagined control over their world and their life and allows the Dao to flow and then merge with that flow.
Now, as a word of caution, do not mistake the distinction to mean that wu wei is good and you wei is not. This is a very western way at looking at life, but it only leads to more distinctions of the mind and therefore more you wei. Instead let’s look at this another way.
In Daoism we say when Yin becomes full it becomes Yang and when Yang reaches its Zenith it becomes Yin. So is the case for you wei and wu wei. Without the understanding and experience of you wei you cannot know and understand wu wei.
But ultimately what’s important is this: how does this apply to everyday life? Simply put it means to live and abide with one simple principle: enough is enough.
The culprit of you wei is the Mind.
Only the Mind can believe in the concept of lack, scarcity, and not being enough. Yet from the bounty of this world and laws of nature there is always enough. This does not negate the states of feast or famine, but it does mean that there will be times of feasting to last through the times of famine.
If we can accept our world and reality as it is then we can see that there is always enough. The magic here is to accept and allow this concept. But as long as there is Mind there will be fear and the need to exert imagined control and authority over the world. The result can only be suffering.
The point at which you wei becomes wu wei is simply the point at which one loses their mind! There are stars which put constituent elements into the universe based on a feedback system which tells the stars what elements to release. Volcanoes are the same here on earth. Even the human body adheres to this by a mother’s breast receiving information from the baby’s mouth and saliva telling her brain what nutrients and antibodies the baby needs at each feeding!
This is the Heaven, Man, and Earth of the same universal principle: everything is provided as it is needed when it is needed. Each of us is born into this world because we are exactly what is needed in the world at this time.
How can we never be enough!
There are limitless examples of this, but all the evidence in the world is useless without adding the magical ingredient, acceptance.
Accepting and living by the principle that life doesn’t require 110% or 90% allows for the effortless growth and living of each person.
You cannot be loved and accepted more by God/Nature/Universe/et al by doing more. You are already enough. Simply learning and creating who you choose to be is what you are here to do and thereby you fulfill the measure of your creation, which is the whole reason for you to be here at this time from the beginning.
In Daoism we often refer to something called The Uncarved Block.
For most Daoists the lesson goes something like this: In the Dao De Jing, Lao Tzu says “the name that can be named is not the name, naming is the origin of all Things”. In a nutshell this means that if you use language to separate things from each other, you ultimately deny yourself any chance of seeing the interconnectedness of all things. Or the “Not Two-ness” of the Universe. But what does this mean for everyday people? How can we use this in practical life?
The answer is simple. When you say “I am ______” you in effect carve the block that is your true self. If you are an Orthodox Jew from Russia then you effectively nullify any chance of experiencing who you would be if you lived with the Buddhists in Tibet and explored the person you could be if you were born in Tibet.
To bring this to an even more everyday level, when you say “I am a depressed person” or “I am a bad person” then you are taking away any possibility of experiencing reality in another way. How many people believe they are depressed?
You cannot BE depressed. You must DO it. You have to use your body, mind, and language in very specific patterns in order for that to happen. If you accept that you were NOT born that way and with the interruption of those patterns enough life WILL change.
If you believe you are a bad person then you will behave in a way to make that true. But how many ‘bad’ people do great things all the time? And vice versa!
The ultimate reason this comes about is due to fear and a need for control. Using language is a way to control your environment. If she is a bad person then he must be a good one. But these terms are very subjective in the first place and on what time line do you use for comparison?
For a person who lives in the Way, to be the uncarved block is about allowing yourself to flow with a situation and using the skill of being clear and still to allow you to see the situation as it is, not as your Mind tells you it should be.
To accept and allow reality to be what it is and then flow with it. An example would be, I do not usually eat meat, however I am NOT a vegetarian or vegan. I just have a tendency to not eat meat. But if faced with a situation where there is only meat to eat then I will have no conflicts and I will be able to effortlessly flow with the situation.
But for those that are staunch about it and will not eat meat under ANY circumstance then as ‘vegetarians or vegans’ (which by virtue of the distinction is carving themselves) then they will go hungry or possibly starve.
This is how carving the block creates suffering in our lives. When we resist what is, we suffer.
Life is a collection of circumstances. We cannot know where it will flow day to day. But if we can learn to relax into it and enjoy the ride we will find the miracles along the Way. For those who cannot it is because they are stuck in their identities (the carvings they have made for themselves) then life will seem bitter, hostile, or unjust.
The Way is to live simply, spontaneously, compassionately, and go with the flow.