I have to be
honest. I haven’t been writing fresh content for my blog lately. I can blame
Covid-19. I can blame not feeling
like it. I can blame laziness. Truth is, after the world closed up for a few
months in 2020, I found that I was burned out. Disenchanted with my publishing
career came a close second (a.k.a. overworked and underpaid). So I knew it was
time for a reevaluation. This put everything into perspective for me, and has
taught me how to relax and be calm. One major lesson I learned during the pandemic
was to embrace the concept of Wu Wei.
In its purest meaning, Wu Wei reminds us to align with the present, and accept
the flow and course of nature. Simply put, ‘go with the flow’. Easy said. Not
so easy done.
Wu Wei means—in Chinese—non-doing
or ‘doing nothing’. It sounds like a pleasant invitation to relax or worse,
fall into laziness or apathy. Yet this concept is key to the noblest kind of
action according to the philosophy of Daoism—and is at the heart of what it
means to follow Dao or The Way.
According to the central text of Daoism, the Dao De Jing: ‘The Way never acts yet nothing is left undone’. Huh?
How’s that possible when it comes to writing your magnum opus? Or even your
mini opus? This is the paradox of Wu Wei. It doesn’t mean not acting, it means
‘effortless action’ or ‘actionless action’. It means being at peace while
engaged in the most frenetic tasks (insert anything creative here) so that one
can carry these out with maximum skill and efficiency. Ever heard of being ‘in
the zone’? That’s Wu Wei. Being at one with what we are doing, in a state of
profound concentration and flow. Got it?
The hustle and
bustle of the pre-Covid-19 world was getting to me. Too scheduled (my fault).
Too many plans and not enough time to enforce them (also my fault). Too much
pressure to be the perfect author/writer (more of a wake-up call). Too much
‘keeping up with the Joneses’. So when the world stopped in March 2020, so did
I. What a breath of fresh air! No commitments. No obligations. Just a pause, a
break, a respite. That’s when I found that Wu Wei was the prescription that I
(and I believe the world) needed so desperately.
You can find
evidence of Wu Wei everywhere in nature: in the tree that bends in the wind,
then adjusts itself back into its original shape, and in a flowing stream—submissive
and weak—until the water has gradually eroded the rocks to cut a path. Wu Wei
involves letting go of ideals that we may otherwise try to force too violently
onto things (or ourselves), and invites us instead to respond to the true
demands of situations, which tend only to be noticed when we put our own
ego-driven plans aside. What can follow is a loss of self-consciousness, a new
unity between the self and its environment, which releases an energy that is
normally held back by an aggressive, willful style of thinking. Try writing
when anxiety is knocking at the door or you’re pushing against deadlines or the
demands of the day. Doesn’t work, does it?
A good life could not
be attained by Wu Wei alone—but this Daoist concept captures a distinctive
wisdom we may be in desperate need of, especially in these post pandemic times.
We are in danger of damaging ourselves through old patterns and belief systems
that do not serve us anymore. Change is happening at a fast rate, and writers
need to adapt if they want to survive in the publishing world. So the next time
you find yourself staring at a blank page or screen, get up and go for a walk
or make some tea. That way you’ll be swimming with the current of creativity,
instead of wallowing in a pool of despair.
Have you heard of
Wu Wei? If so, do you mindfully practice it? If not, are you willing to give it
a try? Trust me, this concept will change your life. Either way, I’d love you
to share your comments. Cheers, and thanks so much for reading my blog!