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The Art of Doing Nothing


"Non-action is the real action.

One hundred acts are not as good as one moment of silence.

One hundred exercises are not as good as one moment of standing still.

Big action is not as good as small action.

Small action is not as good as non-action."

Qigong Master Wang Xiang Zhai

In the Chinese painting above, we see the characters for Wu Wei, which mean Doing Not Doing. It is the Taoist art of going WITH the flow of Life (the Tao), instead of opposing it, and having all of your needs met in the process. Many people who are new to Taoist philosophy are very attracted to this idea of allowing your life to unfold with the least amount of effort, and receiving everything that you need, at the time that you need it. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Of course, most people in the world (perhaps even you), are 'doing' just the opposite. They spend their days in a constant state of motion and activity, doing everything they can to try and make life work out the way they think it should work out. In the process they not only exhaust themselves, but they often push away the very things that they most want in their lives. Like a rat on a wheel, they convince themselves that if they just work harder and do more, they will arrive at the destination of happiness, which is always just over the horizon, and around the bend.

In the practice of Wu Wei however, we first drop this restless sped-up doing, which is too say; we first slow down and literally 'do nothing'. This is not however, a lazy, shiftless kind of doing nothing, but an active practice of being highly alert and sensitive to the changing energies of the present moment. As we 'do nothing', we adopt an inner attitude of patience, enjoying the here and now until it is time to move. Wu Wei (Doing Not Doing) is an active practice which always reveals the perfect time to do what needs to be done or not be done. As we live more and more from this relaxed center, we begin to have more energy and enthusiasm for whatever life presents, while noticing that 90% of the challenges we go through work out by themselves, with very little effort on our part.

Can it really be that in simply 'doing nothing', life will work itself out easily and effortlessly? The only way to find out is to put it too practice for yourself. What we may find is that when we begin to live our lives in a relaxed and open state of acceptance of where we are right now, the current of life will take us exactly where we need to be, at exactly the time we need to be there. All we have to 'do' is 'do nothing', and enjoy the scenery along the Way, watching it all work out in the process of life itself.

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