The Wu wei is a concept of Taoism which translates as ‘no action’. It is a principle according to which the best way to deal with a situation, especially a conflicting one, is not to act and not to force any solution, but to let things flow and come by themselves.
Most of us will find it strange that there is a philosophy that invites us to inaction. We live in a society that induces people to behave in the opposite way. We live, in fact, saturated with activities, feelings and thoughts. And, when we don’t do anything, we feel weird. We come to think that it is simply a waste of time.
The Tao Te Ching ( Book of the Way and Virtue ) was written 25 centuries ago by the philosopher Laozi. This philosopher thought that the best way to live was to synchronize with the flow of nature and the cosmos. It is precisely from this approach that Wu wei draws inspiration : letting things take their natural course and adapting to it.
The values and virtues in the Wu Wei
The Wu wei proposes a simple life because it is the one that best results in peace and harmony. This simplicity means not taking ambitions and desires too much to heart, as they are the main sources of worry and suffering, rather than of fulfillment.
Simplicity also contributes to a more peaceful life. When we focus on achieving great success and satisfaction, this is impossible. We must therefore appreciate who we are and what we have, instead of complaining about who we are not or what we do not have.
Similarly, the Wu wei argues that simplicity helps us to accept things as they are, not to oppose the course of events and not to pretend to have control over them. These are values and attitudes that contradict the Western mentality, but which allow us to cultivate a greater emotional balance.
The Wu Wei and the excesses
The Wu wei makes us reflect on the fact that excesses are the main source of problems. Contrary to what many think, it is not deficiencies, but excesses that cause us more discomfort. Consequently, the Wu wei invites us to focus mainly on four points:
- Accept that problems are our own creation. Problems do not arise out of nowhere, but are created by our actions and our mind.
- Don’t make a mental effort to solve problems. Do not represent them mentally, nor create ad hoc solutions . The idea is to let them fade away on their own, without feeding them.
- Learn to appreciate the natural course of things. This means adopting an attitude of observation in front of events, without thinking of having to intervene on them.
- Let the mind flow. Don’t try to give a specific direction or approach. Limiting ourselves to allowing her to take her own course, especially when we are calm.
Wait and observe
One of the pillars of Wu wei is learning to wait and observe. It starts from the idea that energy must be conserved for the moments in which the action becomes unappealable. Those who observe and wait for the right moment will know how to act with great wisdom and also with enormous vitality, since they have not wasted energy in irrelevant actions.
It is also supported the idea that those who know how to observe and wait will solve any situation with great ease. It will hardly involve an effort. This does not mean neglect or passivity, but synchronization with the natural course of reality. It should be emphasized that nothing remains immutable, in fact what exists changes constantly, with or without individual actions.
It is therefore a question of not resisting the flow of reality. Much of our actions are bound to make us resist. This generates a counterproductive negative force, because instead of helping to self-preserve, it incites us to harm ourselves in this struggle. What is sought, therefore, is to allow everything to happen naturally, without opposing.