“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~ Lao Tzu
For some Personal Development seems to mean a lot of hard work, or even the opposite of how they would like to live. While it is good to have some challenges, the real mastery comes when things get easy again. By easy I don’t mean no problems, I mean that life flows naturally as in the principle of Wu Wei.
Wu Wei - Action of Non-Action
Wu Wei (chinese, literally “non-doing”) is an important concept of Taoism and means natural action, or in other words, action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort. Wu wei is the cultivation of a mental state in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the flow of life. This going with the flow, although it may be greatly productive, is characterized by great ease where we spontaneously act perfectly.
This means that we do the right thing effortlessly and spontaneously, without trying.
What does Wu Wei really mean?
It sounds a bit like magic!? But if you think about it, haven’t you experienced such a state yourself already? A state where things just flow and you almost lose track of time? When you become one with your world and what you do seems to come out of very naturally? You are in the zone.
But the moment we actively think about what we are doing, this states seems to get compromised. This state is clearly above thinking. Or – if you don’t like this idea – it is on another level than action by thinking. Wu Wei is something different than the directive action coming out of desires and goals. I think this motivation is equally perfect and it doesn’t compete with being and acting from the flow. But on the other hand I think to be aware of that state brings the best of two worlds together.
Wu Wei vs. Laziness
Sometimes the idea of going with the flow is understood as laziness, of not doing what is necessary. This is not what Wu Wei means. Laziness is usually not the right action, but more often than not an expression of procrastination. Wu Wei means the right action in any given situation, action that flows naturally because we are connected to the flow of life.
That means when you go with the flow and are just lazy, maybe being lazy is not the right thing to do at the moment. Maybe it is, and then it is perfectly fine. If you know better and are still lazy, that is not Wu Wei. There is a big difference.
How can we reach such a mental state?
1. Getting in the Flow. First I think we can get into flow by intensely focussing on what we do. By that we merge with what we are doing. Time seems to vanish and we become one with what we do. Our actions are of highest quality and feel effortless. That’s flow:
From “How to Focus“:
If we focus with great intensity and for a certain period of time we come into a state of flow. In sports many call it The Zone, when you are so focused that you become one with what you do in the moment . Time vanishes. It is like we totally forget anything around us. In that state we are most effective and that surprisingly without too much effort. For me it is without doubt the greatest and final kind of mental focus we can achieve:
1. Focus with intensity on your task, dive totally into it and become one with it
2. Do it for a reasonable period of time, at least 15, better 30 minutes
3. Avoid any distractions by creating the necessary environment
2. Clear your mind. When there is too much thinking going on, natural flow is very difficult. Compulsive thinking closes the door to the state where Wu Wei can happen. Often it helps to just take a break. Get out of your normal environment and get away from it all to reconnect. Get in touch with nature.
It can also help to realize that we are not our mind. If thoughts come that are distracting and clearly not helpful, try to not react to them and simply let go of them. They come and go …
3. Personal Development. The third way is more profound and long-term. I think growing personally by working on ourselves and especially our minds we will naturally grow and increase our self-awareness. I think this brings us to the state of being, the mental state in which Wu Wei happens.
Any personal development we do is obviously an investment into ourselves, and I think eventually it will open our minds, show us more perspectives on different views and make us more compassionate and helpful towards others. It will increase our self-awareness as a side-effect of personal growth.
4. Growing Awareness Consciously. The fourth way is to consciously grow awareness. You can do this by reading mind-opening and spiritual books. Meditation is a common practice which helps to clear your mind.