Wu wei is the Taoist concept of non-action. It's moving in an organic, non-contrived, wholly mindful way, unencumbered by either positive or negative expectations.
In a very real way, all of that, and indeed all of Taoism can be summed up in one word:
Wu wei is the simple, yet challenging work of fully doing what you must do, and NOT doing what you must not.
I know, this sort of double speak makes your head hurt. Mine too, sometimes.
Today, I experienced it around getting ready for work.
I slept in a little. Cuddling with Missy is so very nice. The bed was warm, my overnight diaper was wet, and Missy had naturally thrown her arms around me as we slept. All of that is a formula for wanting extra time to enjoy it. But around six, I got up, knowing I had to get going if I wanted to make my 7:00am train.
I blew that. There were two emails that I needed to send, that took a bit longer than I thought.
(In a related, wholly unglamorous note, I sent those emails from my phone, from the bathroom, dictating them, as I got ready. This is the sort of juggling I do, to be able to live my superhero lifestyle.)
No problem. I mindfully adapted. I packed my gym bag with a fresh towel, and shifted my workout to after work instead of before.
As I got dressed my cats, Yin & Yang reminded me:
- They love me.
- They weren't about to let me leave the house without bringing my daily allotment of cat hair on my clothes.
- They really wanted their breakfast.
I checked my watch. There were two more trains this morning. There was a distinct possibility that if I stopped to give the cats breakfast, never mind make some for myself, I'd miss the 7:45. Then I ALSO remembered it was trash day, and I needed to deal with that, too.
I had visions of screwing up my whole day, whole timetable.
Then I remembered wu wei. What did I have to do? The cats needed their breakfast. I needed mine. The trash needed to go out. I needed to go to work, and work out after.
The exact order, manner, and timing of these things didn't matter at all.
I relaxed. I got the cats their breakfast, and made myself a small nice one too.
Then I took out the trash, got on my way, and made the 7:45 train with time to spare.
Here's the funny thing about this. When I look, contemplatively back on the brief anxiety I felt, and then the joy and ease at the relief of moving past it, I see that, at the time, that brief anxiety was exactly what I needed to be doing, so that I could witness it, and transcend it.
Now, I'm on the train, and calm, centered, relaxed. I'm looking forward to my work day and approaching it from an engaged, yet relaxed, mindful state.
I have no idea exactly what will be required of me today. But I'll do what needs to be done.
I'm grateful for it.