Wuwei: Going With The Flow

Elizabeth Reninger Written by Elizabeth Reninger
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Taoism | Meditation | Compassion

One excellent way to cultivate an attitude of acceptance, a way-of-being that quite naturally supports tolerance, is by exploring the Taoist practice of wuwei -- the action of non-action. Wuwei is a kind of effortless effort that allows us to “go with the flow” -- to tune into and respond with consummate subtlety and skill to the patterns and rhythms of the natural world, as well as to the various “social worlds” that we are a part of.

Wuwei: Going With The Flow

So often in contemporary western cultures, our days become heavily and rigidly structured. We have schedules to abide by, deadlines to meet. We rush from one thing to the next; we multi-task; we eat on the run -- swept up in an insane and largely unconscious momentum, fueled by habit-energy, by all kinds of “should’s” and “ought’s” and highly-charged hopes and expectations. This hyper- and “edgey” way of living tends to create a kind of coarseness and insensitivity which is the breeding-ground for judgment and intolerance. We lose our capacity to feel deeply, to perceive clearly -- and so rely upon concepts and mental categories for our decisions about how to act toward others; instead of relating to them directly.

When we practice wuwei, we relax, and allow for a kind of spaciousness and fluidity -- in our bodies, in our attitudes, in our way of relating to our daily schedule. We learn to listen deeply, to what might be called our “inner guidance” -- to that current of love, joy, interest and enthusiasm bubbling up and flowing, quite naturally, inside of us. We allow our movements, from moment to moment, to be guided by this inner knowing, this inner joy. We take the advice of Joseph Campbell and “follow our bliss.”

And so there is an ease and gentleness, as well as a subtle precision, to our thoughts and words and actions. We remain constantly open to the infinity of options, the multitude of possibilities, which nurtures a childlike wonder and awe: We don’t know what’s going to happen next, so when it happens, we’re able to experience it completely, with a joy and freshness that nourishes us, energizes us, and inspires us to share with others the fruits of our moment-by-moment discoveries. We’re able, truly, to love the world, and all of its inhabitants, because we’re awake and present for it as it arises.

Updated: May 13, 2011

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