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In Doing Nothing, It All Gets Done




"Stop trying to control.

Let go of fixed plans and concepts

And your life will unfold

By itself."

Tao Te Ching

Many people who are drawn to Taoism are attracted by the mysterious practice of Wu Wei, which simply means; doing not doing. Another way of saying this is; it is a state of 'being in the flow', or effortless action, where everything unfolds on its own, with as little effort as possible. This 'not-doing' is actually a form of doing, in that we learn to be still and wait patiently for the right moment to act, and then give all of our focused attention to whatever needs to be done. In Zen we hear the teaching, 'Let go or be dragged', and in Taoism we could say, ' Go with the flow, or drown'.


If we are honest however, we usually take the opposite approach; we often try to force things to work out the way we think they should, and in the process we tie ourselves into knots of stress, fear and unhappiness. Instead of trusting the flow of Life (the Tao) to unfold everything in the most perfect way, and at the perfect time, we often make the situation even more frustrating and difficult than it already is. We might also notice that this constant 'forcing' rarely, if ever, gives us the desired results. So the question is, how do we live from a state of Wu Wei; and in Taoist philosophy we are told that, if we want things to work out easily and effortlessly, the first step is to enter a state of Stillness (meditation). From this 'inner still-point', we let go of the illusion of control, and flow in the direction that the current of our life is already moving in. Through this 'going with the grain', we move into harmony with, and act from, the power and wisdom of the Tao, which is always unfolding everything for our highest good.


Wu Wei is not about being lazy and allowing life to run over us; in fact it's just the opposite. With patience and trust in the way things are, we wait until everything comes into view, and then act with a relaxed enthusiasm, knowing that everything is happening exactly as it needs too. If there is nothing that we can do right now, we wait patiently until there is. This practice gives us the ability to allow the Tao to steer the vehicle of our lives in the direction we need to go in, while acting (or not acting) in the most efficient and effortless way possible. In this carefree state, we realize the truth of the words found in the Tao Te Ching, "In doing nothing, it all gets done."

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