Updated: Aug 6, 2021
Creating the State of Effortless Action Through the Art of-Wu Wei
Wu Wei is a Daoist philosophy that originated from Ancient China in the 3rd-4th Century and literally translates to “effortless action.” It has also been described as the practice of taking no action that is not in accordance with the laws of the Universe.
Wu Wei is the art of letting go of social norms, moving away from ego-based action and pushing against our natural compass.
Often when action appears difficult or challenging it is a clue that we are pushing too violently in the wrong direction and not listening to our higher selves.
Ever heard of the phrase 'Swimming Upstream?' This perfectly depicts the feeling of exhaustion we feel by moving against our natural flow.
Living in a state of Wu Wei (Effortless Action) instead allows us to respond to life's difficulties with grace and balance, by intuitively listening to our bodies, the environment and any influential synchronicities that may present itself along our paths.
To start living in a state of Wu Wei, it is important to find a balance between our action and inaction, finding that place of intuition within ourselves where we can surrender to a higher power, whilst also moving in the direction of our full potential.
This concept seems alien to us in our western culture, where we wear exhaustion as a badge of honour to prove how valuable we are. However, what happens when the action is taken away and we can no longer keep doing? What happens when we are presented with things we cannot control or change? When we cannot push or drive into action anymore. When we lose our health or financial stability? The safety net falls away, and we are left with ourselves and the hole of unworthiness that we were previously too distracted to see.
According to Chinese Therapeutic Practices, to live in this state of Wu Wei is to live according to our optimal health potential.
The health benefits of living in this state of balance resemble those from other spiritual disciplines such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation and alternative holistic practices.
These health benefits include:
Decreased stress, anxiety and depression.
Reduces blood pressure
Benefits heart health.
Regulates nervous system functioning.
Boosts serotonin levels.
Generates feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
So much more that we aren't even aware of yet.
So...how can we create this state of being in our lives?
The Tao Te Ching states:
‘He who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak,
but its grip is powerful.’
The Master's power is like this.
He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.
We might find this state through our physical bodies in regular yoga practice, through intuitive dance, movement-based practices or by exploring our natural positions of ease and tension. We can also navigate this position of balance in our minds through different types of meditation and mindfulness practices.
In order to reach our maximum capacity for Wu Wei we might include routines and habits that keep our body, mind and soul in a state of flow learning how to heal and release old conditioning.
We could also learn to observe the self- talk or as Michael Singer calls it 'The voices in our head'. Learning to differentiate between the voices of the ego and that of the higher-self.
Top tip: The voice of your higher self is typically founded in love. It does not criticise or evoke fear. To test this simply ask the question what emotion do I feel because of this thought? If they are negative emotions like fear they are ego based if they are based in love they are coming from your higher-self.
Steps for practicing the art of Wu Wei
1- Sit in meditation and do a body scan to notice how you are feeling. Ask yourself where trapped emotions may be stored.
2- Ask your higher self what emotions are stored in these areas: Only use emotion words like grief, anger, fear...
3-Nurture yourself through the pain. Recall any past events. Use nurturing words, soothing tones, affirmations of comfort and compassion. You might stroke your face and say it’s ok sweetheart. Soothe the inner child. Imagine you’re talking to a child you know. Use the same soothing tones with yourself.
4- Set an intention to release and let go of trapped emotions.
Example statement: I lovingly intend to release this emotion of ... from my body in all directions of time. I lovingly let you go- NOW!
This is not a quick fix though. It does take time and work but if you're willing to put in the time and do the work you can get the result you want and start living the life that you deserve.
In order to find this state of Wu Wei in your life: sit in contemplation meditation for 10 mins a day. Use a timer, wait until your mind is calm and ask yourself:
Where do I feel imbalances, uneasiness, unhappiness or pain in my life?
How does it manifest or show up?
What realistic and actionable steps can I take to change it?
Write them down so you can reflect back on them.
There is no right or wrong answer whatever comes up is what’s right for you.
A key facet of Daoism is the understanding that these polar forces, yin and yang, are necessary in a material, dualistic world and to embrace the paradox reaching equilibrium of the two opposing forces. It is here we find the ‘way’, the point of Dao, where the illusionary veil of duality disappears to reveal oneness behind all phenomena.