Wu Wei: The Principle of Effortless Action

There is always something to be done; deadlines to be met, goals to be achieved or plans to be kept. Hustling is the way of life. But even when you successfully achieve all of them, it doesn’t feel complete. More deadlines, goals and plans are piled up and slowly it becomes a race, only you are swimming against the current.

That is a very difficult position to put yourself in. EVentually, the stress and pressure starts to seep out the fun and joy from the things that you loved doing, and the goals and plans you had for yourself fade into the background as unimportant, which only adds to your tensions. 

The antidote to the slow fatigue that develops overtime as you push against the flow was found in early daoist text which described the concept of Wu Wie, more aptly translated as ‘effortless action’. It means to surrender the struggle for control and respond to the situation effortlessly. 

“The breath of the flute player; does it belong to the flute?” – Rumi

The body is a part of nature through which life flows. By allowing it to go with the flow and do what it knows best, we are also allowing it to be at it’s best. 

Wu Wei describes a life where you feel at ease with your actions. The most used example being that of an athlete. The passion, perseverance and hard work comes naturally to them, because they are using Wu Wei – going with the flow. We all experience something similar in our daily lives when doing something that uses up all our focus, but feels effortless because we don’t need to think while we act. For example cooking, painting, knitting etc. 

So, how to use the concept of effortless action deliberately? And here is where the paradox comes in, you have to put in some effort. 

Start by using meditation to relax and calm your mind. Regular Meditation has neurological effects which allows your mind to be less noisy as you go about your day, which implies less interference as well. 

Regular meditation would also allow you to handle stressful events. Having a calmer mind would allow you to know the correct actions to effortlessly reach the solution. The key element of Wu Wei is also knowing when not to act

Another method would be to alternate between work and taking breaks. Studies indicate that short bursts of work followed by breaks would allow you to work more effortlessly and efficiently. Find aspects of the job that you enjoy and focus on them rather than the parts that you dislike.

Let go of the results. Yes, actions have consequences, but these consequences aren’t the result of that one action alone. Often, these extraneous factors end up being uncontrollable. Doing our best and holding on to the results of that work allow unwanted obstructions that clog minds that want to work.

Importance of Professional Counseling: A friend or family member may listen to you, but they aren’t professionally, technically qualified or experienced to offer you professional advice. If you wish you can contact us at MindTribe to receive help from our team of expert psychologists.

About MindTribe.in.

MindTribe Founder Dr. Prerna Kohli, India’s eminent psychologist, established the company to leverage the strength of the online to make counseling affordable and accessible to everyone. MindTribe provides counseling, workshops, support groups, forums, and eLearning.

About the Author.

Namita Sankar is a psychologist at MindTribe.in. You can learn more about her by clicking here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MindTribe.in, the Founders, or management team.

Acknowledgement: All images used are open source and from Unsplash.

 

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