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What Does Wu Wei Mean? - Green Dragon Books

What Does Wu Wei Mean?

Wu Wei photo

Taoism uses “polar opposites,” like the Yin and the Yang (male and female) in its concepts. Many people recognize the Yin Yang symbol when seeing it. Another paradox or principle is the “Wu Wei,” translating to “doing nothing.” It does not mean just waiting for things to happen. Instead, taking part in natural or effortless action lets you take on tasks at ease. This approach helps you master skills and become more efficient over time

Author James Downton breaks this tenet of Taoism down simply in his book, The Woo Way. The title plainly has the pronunciation of the Chinese term “Wu Wei.” The subtitle is “A New Way of Living and Being.” Anyone stuck in a rut has the power to change through awareness and choices. Getting a better grasp on how you react and being more mindful have positive effects. You can gain more control over what you think, say, and do.

Knowing that you have the power to change is the first step if you’re struggling with life right now. You can’t control the things around you, so you need to go with the flow. Adapting how you react to situations can give you a better approach to handling life. Becoming a “Woo Master” doesn’t happen overnight, and Downton’s guide has 27 chapters. The goal is to get readers dissatisfied in life to see there’s a possibility of a new, improved way of living.

When old way is not working, new way opens.”

Everyone faces different struggles in life, and no one is the same. You may compare yourself to others or long to fit in with a group. Some people are overachievers, control freaks, or can’t admit when they’re wrong. Others seek security in people or things, while some may have feelings of inadequacy.

Being judgmental towards others and situations without knowing the facts is detrimental. Narrow-mindedness and making your mind up without knowing the entire story affects you. Without an open mind, you’re less effective. Having the wrong view of others primarily creates inner turmoil for you. Others go about their life not knowing your opinion or being affected by it. Have you ever had a first impression of someone and saw later that you were completely wrong?

For those who aren’t a Woo Master, your inner voice tells you stories where you undermine yourself. You may be a prisoner of your past, now unhappy in the present and not hopeful about the future. Self-doubt sows seeds where not only are you discontent, but your relationships suffer. Having open communication is critical in life on both sides. You need to understand that words and actions aren’t the same. As you learn to get a better read on people, your relationships will improve.

Backing your words up with actions leads to living with more integrity. You need to work on gauging your reactions. Think before you speak so you don’t say something you may later regret. The Wu Wei principle or “doing nothing” will benefit you in situations like these. Not spouting off hurtful words is effortless action. You can improve and strengthen relationships by being more aware and taking a step back. Through honesty, trust is built, including what you tell yourself.

Downton discusses how to improve relationships in Part 3 of The Woo Way. As a well-known sociologist, he even devotes a chapter to family dynamics. He gives insight into communication, personality types, and how to achieve understanding.

By adopting the Wu Wei approach to life, you can achieve balance, wholeness, and wisdom. If your inner voice questions everything you do and say, you don’t want to avoid it. By embracing the contradictions, you become more balanced. You may project your feelings onto others, purposefully or unknowingly. Being more mindful of these reactions also leads to balance.

Instead of seeking wisdom from others, you need to find it within yourself. Downton tells a fictional version of his story in, Blooming. He was seeking advice on how to master life from someone else. The lesson is, only you can cultivate your inner wisdom and improve your life.

The Woo Way closes with the chapter, Creating Your Life. Like William Ernest Henley said, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” You can create a new path, purpose, or principles at any point in life. As the saying goes, “It’s never too late to start.”