The Daohead Collective

Wu-wei erh wu-pu-wei. (Doing nothing but nothing left undone.)

wu wei (defined)

Of all the 'gates' there may be in a person's life, wu wei ('effortless effort' or 'actionless action') is often one of the most difficult to pass through, and of all the Daoist teachings, it is one of the most difficult to understand, and to apply. In fact we cannot apply it, but can only learn to 'allow it to apply itself.' The analogy of water is sometimes used to describe wu wei, as illustrated by Ishida:

"When water, running down the side of a mountain, is blocked by a stone in its path, it builds up behind that stone, filling and conforming to the space available. When that space is filled, the water washes over or around the stone. The water does not contrive to do this, nor to continue in its downward direction; in fact, by filling the space behind the stone, it may even 'flow upwards in order to flow down.' It does not contrive; it is incapable of contriving, and nor does nature contrive on behalf of water. Although, or perhaps because water is the most adaptive of all the elements, it possesses wu wei in the greatest abundance, and in acting without motive, acts with wu wei.

All of this is to say that water responds to its environment, and to act with wu wei, this is all we need to do. Whilst developing an understanding of wu wei may be difficult, acting with wu wei is simplicity or naturalness itself, but in order to act in this way we must remove that which stands in its way. In life there are many such barriers, but the most usual are probably ego (to do what we want, and to have others conform to what we want) and 'conditioning' (to behave in a manner in which we have been 'trained' to behave, usually as a result of upbringing). To overcome these barriers we must 'let go' of the ego, and of our 'conditioned selves,' for it is only then that we can act with wu wei, which is to perceive and accept situations as they are, and respond to them in harmony with them."