Apr 2, 2011
Wu Wei - Doing Without Doing - April 3, 2011
At the very heart of Qigong training, coming from its Taoist roots, is the idea of "Wu Wei", which is Chinese for "Effortlessness". Wu Wei is an important concept that involves knowing when to act and when not to act. Wu Wei has also been translated as "creative quietude," or the art of letting-be. Wu Wei is about letting the Tao or Source of All flow through you so that your life is not a hard struggle; it is about not straining or forcing things to happen but letting them happen as they should in due time. For example, Trees grow by growing, not be "doing something" to grow. Planets revolve by revolving, not by "doing something" to revolve. Thus knowing when (and how) to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think "now" is the right time to do "this", but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing. Qigong, in the form of Neigong, is also used to even make the practice of martial arts become effortless. It is used so that you can adjust your balance, body alignments, posture, and movements so that you can move and be with Effortless Power. The aim of wu wei is to achieve a state of perfect equilibrium, or alignment with the Tao or Source of All, and, as a result, obtain an irresistible form of "soft and invisible" power.
Being in a state of Wu Wei means knowing the power of letting go. The distinguishing characteristic of Taoism is that of being natural. According to meditation master Bruce K. Frantzis, "Wu wei is not “non-action”, but action that operates by simply following the natural course of universal energy as it manifests without strain or ego involvement. Ultimately, wu wei boils down to recognizing what exists at the absolute depth of your heart and mind. Rather than allowing your ego to get involved, you find relaxation and letting go of any need to do. When the ego is active, strain and stress follow." Qigong and especially Qigong Meditation methods teach you to use their full effort without strain. If you can remove the strain, then any action becomes relatively effortless by definition. Continues, Bruce K. Frantzis, "In this light, “not doing” doesn’t mean you don’t do anything. You can raise your hand, which is an action, but it’s a fairly effortless action if you’re a healthy human being. Ask yourself these questions: Can you remain relaxed enough that you don’t tense, force, apply your mental will or project your energy outward to accomplish a task? Can you allow action to naturally and spontaneously emerge from within you?"
In the beginning, one encounters Internal Resistance. Just ask yourself, for example, something like, "What if I didn't have to work?" and then see how suddenly the chatter inside the mind comes up and starts giving you a million reasons why you have to "work". This resistance is the Ego looking to preserve the status quo to keep you safe, to prevent any unknown and unforeseen consequences. But, any time you are uncomfortable you are growing. Letting go of this internal resistance is letting fear go. Fear is taking a past experience and projecting it onto a future experience, which totally destroys the moment where an opportunity can be received. Fear starts in the past and future and denies the present. But, by letting go of what no longer serves you, you can take action and take the steps that will prevent your future from becoming your past! Hanging on to feelings (resentment, anger, hurt, shame, etc.) or judgments or conclusions force you to be in your own way, these emotions block you, stagnate you, congest you. From there physical injury starts to develop in the body, in the form of pain, inflammation, infection, and infestation. So, there is a big relief in letting go. Qigong allows you to observe what you have blocking you inside, breathing through it, and letting the sigh of relief release the stagnant emotion. You feel the block opening and this trapped energy moves out and goes higher and higher from where it was locked in until it is no longer felt inside again.
Taoist Qigong meditation teaches you how to put forth as much effort as possible without strain. We start by defining the line of effort and strain with simple qigong exercises. Says Bruce K. Franztis, "Through practice, you discover that if you cross the line— if you go past a certain point in body or mind—an internal fight arises, you hit internal resistance. The trick is to figure out how far you can go forward without encountering resistance of any kind. When you play the line without overdoing it, you can achieve more and progress faster. However, as soon as you strain, internal resistance begins to build. Keep in mind that this line of effort and strain is constantly changing. Where you find yourself today is not necessarily where you will be tomorrow or six months from now. So it’s not as simple as identifying the line once and staying behind it. Taoist philosophy recognizes that the Universe already works harmoniously according to its own ways; as a person exerts their will against or upon the world they disrupt the harmony that already exists. This is not to say that a person should not exert agency and will. Rather, it is how one acts in relation to the natural processes already extant. The how, the Tao of intention and motivation, that is key." So, Wu Wei is letting go and then taking action in a way that feels natural, like it was always meant to be.
According to Wikiipedia, "It is not an imaginary state that we aspire to but one readily achievable and frequently entered by those performing repetitive movements which require energy and concentration. It may be experienced by athletes, performers, musicians, ramblers, students of the nei jia (the internal schools of martial arts) students of the wai jia (the external schools), yoga practitioners, students of certain schools of meditation and others. The majority of those who have entered wu wei have no fore-knowledge of the event and only know that something extraordinary happened that they couldn't put into words. . . The goal for wu wei is to get out of your own way, so to speak. This is like when you are playing an instrument and if you start thinking about playing the instrument, then you will get in your own way and interfere with your own playing. It is aimless action, because if there was a goal that you need to aim at and hit, then you will develop anxiety about this goal."
One of the biggest problems or obstacles that people put in their own way is being impatient, of not allowing themselves time to integrate what they have learned through Qigong or elsewhere within themselves. Continues Bruce K. Frantzis, "Over the years, I’ve observed many students try to go around the line. The ones that are successful at advancing their qigong, bagua or tai chi practice (and life in general), know that when they hit any internal resistance, they’ve just got to switch to something else for a while. They take a rest and allow time for integration. Once whatever is causing the resistance is integrated, they can once again move forward. If you can observe yourself and see how much you can do while remaining relaxed and open, you might find that you can’t do as much at first. Back off—whether in your practice or your daily life—and maintain a level of output that doesn’t cause tension. Then, as you begin to do more, tasks will become easier without the necessity of activating your force of will or the drama that has become common to the modern man. In modern life, we’re constantly chasing after things in the external world. But you will never find peace in any external object. Any external object you get will eventually become boring and lose its appeal. Practicing the principle of wu wei, of effortlessness, will allow you time for integration. In the internal arts, you learn form in order to master a technique, then you forget the form, and eventually experience the formlessness of wu wei. This formlessness is the ultimate goal of all the internal arts. This fundamental Taoist concept of action arising from an empty mind without preconception or agenda will help you discover the joy and happiness inside yourself."