In traditional Chinese culture there is a term, associated with Taoism, called Wu wei. The concept of Wu wei translates to non-doing or non-action. This concept is centered around the idea of letting go of human conditions, and flowing with the natural world around us. Acting without desire. The idea of not forcing actions, and actually doing less.
The way I see Wu wei is to force less action, and instead let actions flow naturally as they will. Perhaps living in a more spontaneous sense, and not acting against the natural flow around us. How often do we spend time fighting our circumstances, instead of letting them flow to us, around us, and from us?
Wu wei is often associated with water, in a quite beautiful way. Water flows naturally, without regard to what is before it. It twists and turns, caring out its place in the landscape, never forcing itself in one direction or another. Obstacles may force it to turn or dip, but no force ever comes form the water itself.
So why am I rambling on about an ancient philosophical concept? When I first heard about the concept of Wu wei, it seemed simple and elegant. What really hit me, was the fact that we have no language equivalent in the english language.
In english, there is no sense of non-being. No sense of non-doing, non-action. We can put words or ideas together to try to relate: "Don't force it," "It will happen once you stop trying." But there really is no verb to represent the idea of non-doing.
We can be at rest, relaxed or recovering. But these are all still action based. The action of rest. The action of being relaxed. The action of recovery.
But we do not have a modern concept for the action of not creating action.
I have become ever more interested with the concept of space. In such a high stress, fast paced society, the Western world rarely takes time to breathe. We are in a constant state of forward motion, on to the next thing, the next job, the next car, the next vacation. Always and forever moving forward.
We rarely take a moment of space. Of breathe. Of break.
I am a firm believer that it is when you stop, rest, and reflect, that true breakthroughs will come. Think of something as simple as trying to get pregnant. How often do you hear of someone trying endlessly to get pregnant, and once they give up, it happens. Once we stop forcing, big things happen.
Unfortunately for most of us, we live in a constant state of forcing. Forcing to the next job, idea, economic level. We are in a constant state of hustle. Forward on!
So why is it that our culture never adopted a similar idea of space? Of the importance of taking times of non-action?
It is so important for us to all cultivate a sense of space in our lives. We all need time to rest, refuel, and most importantly, reflect in order to make connections. Creativity, ingenuity, invention and insight come from the ability for push past our boundaries of understanding, and then rest, giving our subconscious the time to make deeper connections.
I can't tell you how many times I have a break through moment on a thought in the shower, on a run, driving my car. Once you take the moment of pause, you give your mind to make deeper connections within that concept, or to other seemingly unrelated concepts.
I know that our culture is in need of more space. We are working ourselves and each other literally to death. If we al are reaching for the good life, we need to take a step back.
If we allow ourselves space; moments where there is no necessary action, but we instead follow our natural flow, our natural curiosities - it would be amazing to see where we end up.
I am going to continue my study into this concept of space. We need to cultivate a life filled with more moments of space. And I hope to stumble upon answers that will enable us to do just that.
In the mean time, remember to give yourself moments of grace and rest. Sometimes finding a state on non-doing, is exactly what you need to do.