Wu Wei's concept contains a deep philosophy that "acting without action" is the best way to deal with life. Liabilities? №. Only a more careful observation of our surroundings with a wise and methodical adaptation of ourselves to provide a more effective response, here's how.
What Wu Wei Means
Wu Wei in Chinese literally means "Not action". This word may seem like an invitation to relax, to be passive, lazy or apathetic. But it actually encompasses the meaning of the noblest type of action.
The word Wu Wei should be understood with the deepest meaning of "act effortlessly" or "act without acting". Concretely this translates into following the flow of life by pandering to situations without resisting.
The sense of peace resulting from greater flexibility helps to maintain harmony with whatever we are doing. This mental condition of serene acceptance of things projects into a state of deep concentration and fluidity that allows greater efficiency.
The Wu Wei In the Philosophy of Taoism
Wu Wei is closely linked to the Taoist idea of the natural world. According to this philosophy, we should always spontaneously follow the Tao, or "the way" as nature does with its elements. Be sure to swim always in the direction of the current therefore and never against, like a bamboo rod that bends with the wind.
The Wu Wei implies "letting go" of ideas and situations without violently forcing them in a precise direction. It invites us to set aside the plans imposed by our ego and listen calmly and carefully to what the surrounding environment is asking us. Only after doing so, and only after feeling our feelings about it, will it be possible to act in the right way. The fundamental text of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, says:
" The Tao never acts, yet nothing remains unfinished.Dao De Jing
As repeatedly reported in the text, we should be like water, able to adapt to any shape. And that can get around the problem and obstacles by going further or have an effect, despite its weakness, on what is hard and strong, gradually eroding it with its persistence.
The concept of water as a weak and powerful element at the same time is also present in Chinese martial arts such as Wing Chun which is based on this very principle: adapt to the opponent's move, without countering it with rigidity to return an answer more effective. Bruce Lee, who was a student of it, expresses it fully in the famous phrase:
"Empty your mind, be shapeless, like water. If you put water in a cup, she becomes the cup. If you put it in a bottle, she becomes the bottle. If you put her in a teapot, she becomes a teapot. The water can flow or it can break. Be water my friend."
Non-Action As Strategic Action
In Wu Wei's concept lies the idea of achieving a higher result through a strategic passivity. Use force not to oppose with impulsive violence but to methodically eliminate the obstacle and only at the right time. In the Taoist manuals it is repeatedly expressed not to oppose with a plan or method to situations but rather leave them free to act frantically, observing their evolution and adapting in the meantime ourselves for a more effective response.
Many Chinese poets compared the application of Wu Wei principles to being mildly drunk. They led as an example the moment when the total absence of rigidity and anxiety related to that condition helps us to be more fluid than when we exercise more control over our minds.
The concept of Wu Wei captures a wisdom that we may sometimes feel the need for. Especially when we run the risk of harming ourselves by imposing ideas that do not fit our real needs.