Action of the Tao: Wu Wei

Those who stand on tippy toes do not stand firmly; those who rush ahead do not get very far; those who try to outshine others dim their own light. Lao Tzu

Why do we always end up wasting our efforts trying to control a situation with questionable results? Why do we attempt to gain knowledge chasing external objects, exhausting our bodies in the process and burdening our minds only to end up in discontent?

As humans, we tend to act in ways that are counterproductive in our attempts to alter the natural way. We simply end up making things worse. We tend to remove ourselves from the natural flow of life. Trying to alter what nature has intended is like paddling upstream, or swimming against the tide. This is exhausting, pointless and gets us nowhere.

What if we pursued a less strident way?

We humans attempt to conceptualize things that are beyond our understanding. The result is the creation of deception, the establishment of artifice. These deceptions and artifices make life understandable for us humans, but by trying to comprehend we suffer at the expense of meaning.

Taoists find meaning when they learn to know and feel the Tao even though we cannot comprehend it. Complex and paradoxical as it might seem to the western mind, the art of not trying can yield great accomplishments and lead to deep meaning.

“The five colors blind the eye. The five tones deafen the ear. The five flavors dull the pallet. Racing, hunting, and galloping about only disturb the mind. Wasting energy to obtain rare objects only impedes one’s growth.” Tao Te Ching

The five senses of the human body are ego driven. They keep us grounded in society’s illusions. When we focus our attention onto any aspect, be it visual, tonal, tactile, taste or olfactory information must necessarily be filtered out.

If all the data was absorbed, the human mind would be overwhelmed. We filter out information according to our senses in our younger years. What had left impressions form the basis of our conscious and subconscious mind and forms our programming.

This information becomes our foundation for working with our concept of reality.

People also search for physical aspects in order to appease the craving of a void within. They believe something in the physical world will gratify the longing for satisfaction and yield a sense of completeness. But nothing at the human level can ever fill the void unless the search leads one inward. And the more busyness one tries to fill up the moments with, the further away the true treasure will be found.

Seek and you shall find is not suggesting the need to run around searching through the human experiences in order to find satisfaction, chasing external objects, exhausting our bodies in the process and burdening our minds; as noted, this only leads to discontent.

First, we must train our ego for sustainable enlightenment, otherwise the ego will spend our life cycle trying to distract us from the authentic goal, which is to connect with our Source, and realize our birthright.

When we understand that human senses are surface level, that the spiritual senses are found within we can apply these aspects to the physical realm and experience human emotions with a deeper, more meaningful appreciation.

The art of not trying, what the Taoist refers to as wu wei, yields a heart working from the core of unconditional love; to have the feeling of gratitude with no human strings attached; to trust without conditions; to be able to believe with no limitations.

This takes power beyond the physical world. This is action without acting. This is wu wei. Paradoxical? Perhaps. The Tao reminds us that our humaness can never lead us to everlasting peace and joy by striving.

 We must search inward to master this truth.

By giving form and making rules we exclude everything outside of these artificial boundaries in our effort to get a sense of control. And our ever-changing world makes our illusion obsolete tomorrow.

The principle of wu wei suggests non action will allow us to go inward, be quiet and still, until the time is right and then we do not try, but act, with the conviction and effortlessness of flow state, in a smooth, painless manner.

When we are quiet and still, when we commune with our inner world, we tend to be able to see things more clearly. The truth will come to you. Remember, the prize does not chase.

In the west, our tradition sees nondoing as uselessness and unproductive, without progress. But the Taoist might counter do not confuse motion with progress.

The Universe is in a constant state of flux. When that flux encroaches on our illusion of structure and comprehension we tend to overreact and make things worse than they already are. So often, problems seem to work themselves out and our trying to fix things or improve things leads us to distance ourselves from the natural course.

Why do we humans repeatedly act in ways that are unnatural? We kid ourselves that we are trying to better the world, but the results are questionable. We need look no further than the environmental degradation of our mother Earth.

Perhaps it is time to embrace the natural, to fill the human void by going inward to connect with source and to practice wu wei, growing comfortable in nondoing until guided to do naturally.

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