wu wei

Wu Wei is Chinese for “effortless action”. Pronounced “ooo-way”, it is akin to achieving the state of “flow” where you are at your very best howbeit in a very relaxed, natural way. 

The art of “trying without trying” is inherently a paradox but mastering effortless action is the flip side of “purpose tremor” and “performance anxiety”. Anyone can walk a 12” wide board lying on flat ground; put it 100’ up in the air and “performance anxiety” kicks in big time, not because your skill set has deteriorated but because the downside (literally!) has gotten so great. Most of us put the key in the keyhole the first time, every time but put a cocked gun to your head and threaten annihilation as a consequence of failure and self-sabotaging “purpose tremor” becomes a major risk factor.

So… “You cannot try, but you also cannot not try.” We need to try, we need to intelligently persist but we also need to know when to back off, when to take a break, rest and recuperate and perhaps try another path or even seek out another mountain top. The key, as it often does, lies in balance (Scott Peck’s 4th and most important tool of discipline in “Road Less Traveled”). Moderation in all things including moderation.

I’ve found flow most often in the tasks that I’ve practiced over and over and over again. It has been said that it takes 10,000 hours of focused, coached practice to get to the first level of mastery of any craft. I do know that I play my best racquetball when I’m in the zone, in a delightful, contradictory state of intense relaxation. And I also know that if I’m ever losing some of my best comebacks occur when I release winning and simply resolve to hit the ball as hard and low as I can; no other goal, no other purpose.

Effortless Action. Flow. Success through attraction rather than striving. Embrace harmony, choose contentment. Use the wind, tack as need be but never, ever fight the wind. Better yet, be the wind.

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier