The Art of ‘Non Doing’ otherwise known as Wu-Wei – Lao Tzu

omkara Yoga & Mind

Lao Tzu was a philosopher and poet of ancient China. He was the founder of philosophical Taoism which is over 2000 years old and still popular today. Lao Tzu is known as the reputed author of the The Tao Te Ching which describes the ‘Tao’ (Path), offering instructions on how to live a virtuous, happy and spiritual life.

These spiritual texts can be easily mis-understood, however those who devote themselves to the path, will find that these guidelines are always available, even when one falls off the path. Over time the practitioner will understand that the ‘Tao’ is always there to encourage living harmoniously with a step by step approach towards enlightenment. The teachings transcend the concept of life and death as they exist as one thread which can be accessed at any time depending on when one is is ready for the consciousness/wisdom of the teachings to land. “Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.” Lao Tzu.

In order to follow the Tao we need to go further than simply philosophising. We need to put these teachings into practice in our daily life. In doing this we introduce higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.

By gaining an awareness of life’s unceasing flow of change, we see that the universe manifests itself as a natural order governed by unalterable, yet perceivable laws. Paradoxically, it is the constancy of these governing principles (the tides, the rising of the sun and moon, the changing seasons) that allows people to recognise and utilise them in their own process of transformation. As we cultivate this awareness of life’s essential unity and learn to cooperate with its natural rhythms, we begin to attain a state of being that is both fully free and independent and at the same time fully connected to the life flow of the Universe. From the Taoist viewpoint this represents the ultimate stage of human existence as it is seen as being at one with the Tao.

A key principle and important concept of the Tao is that of Wu-Wei, or “non-doing” which mustn’t be misunderstood for laziness, inertia or mere passivity. Rather, Wu-wei implies action that is spontaneous, natural, and effortless. As with the Tao, this behaviour simply flows through us because it is the right action, appropriate to its time and place, and serving the purpose of greater harmony and balance.

This ‘effortless action’ explains that beings (or phenomena) that are truly in harmony with the Tao behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way without adding any personal resistance or new direction to the natural order of things.
From this point of view, this paradox of ”action without action” or “effortless doing” can be thought of as a purposeful acceptance of the way of the ‘Tao’/ Path and living in harmony with it.

The goal of spiritual practice for the human being is, according to Lao Tzu, the attainment of this purely natural way of behaving.”In the original Taoist texts, ‘wu wei’ is often associated with water and its yielding nature. “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” ? Lao Tzu.