What does the beginner who has not yet started and the master who has practiced for many years have in common? The answer is that they both do nothing, but they do it very differently. For the beginner who has not yet started, doing nothing is simply doing nothing. For the master, however, their years of practice at their art, whether it’s magick and the occult or any other kind of skill, their version of doing nothing has the foundation of many years of training. The master can “do nothing” because they are always doing the thing they have trained for so long in. Their practice has become automatic so they no longer need to think about it. This well-trained automatic practice is Wu Wei.
What is Wu Wei?
Wu Wei describes action without taking action. It’s like the way of nature; unhurried, without effort, simply doing things in their own time. This can also be thought of as the state of flow, where it feels like you are putting forth very little effort to do the things you set out to do.
Think of it this way. Everything is already happening. There is no need to force, and no need for striving. In this manner, you can achieve harmony with nature and everything that exists. However, the beginner may mistake their lack of effort for the same lack of effort that a master possesses. In a beginner, the mind is chaos and the body is undisciplined. A beginner is not yet in harmony with nature, because they do not yet have an understanding of what that means.
In the beginning of any practice, it is imperative to develop discipline. Those new to a practice may be totally overwhelmed in trying to understand every aspect of the skill they are learning. This is ANY new skill, by the way. We could be talking about meditation or martial arts just as much as we could be discussing playing the violin or learning to code.
If the beginner perseveres, they will work through a long period of discovering patterns that they can understand. Those that have gone before them have left teachings, essentially recipes that can be followed to create a model of what mastery would look like.
This middle period can be frustrating, but it is rewarding. By following these models, the beginner advances one step at a time until there is no more struggle and effortless mastery is achieved. Someone who is a master at meditation can sit for hours, quietly undisturbed. A master violinist can play Vivaldi and makes it look as easy as breathing. This level of mastery is Wu Wei.
As a beginner, you might feel like your practice or your discipline is a struggle. Try letting the emotion of struggle fall away. Simply say, today I will sit in meditation for 30 minutes. Eliminate any statements in your mind that add difficulty, like “Sitting for so long is hard,” or “I can’t sit still while I have so many ideas!” Allow these thoughts to float away, and as you continue your practice, you’ll be closer to effortless mastery with each session.
Why is Wu Wei important?
Wu Wei seems like a paradox. How could mastery look so easy? And yet, this state of ease and flow is accomplished after much practice. The difference between Wu Wei and laziness is that laziness is a not-doing. Laziness and procrastination are the opposite of Wu Wei, since the things that must get done are not getting done.
Wu Wei is important because it is a steady state of doing what must be done, with the pace of nature. This is described as unhurried, but think of that pace as a steady and confident walk, as opposed to the sitting still of laziness. Embodying Wu Wei shifts your perspective from struggle to journey. The attitude it teaches is, “This is where I am and what I must do, so I accept my situation and will do what must be done.” There is no sense of striving to exert your will onto the world. Mastery of Wu Wei looks like careful attention to the present activity, it is being mindfully present for the moment you are in right now.
Is Wu Wei Taoism?
Wu Wei is a core concept in Taoism, but it does not represent all of the teachings therein. Taoism isn’t so much a religion as a philosophy for a way of living. Lao Tzu, whose name is loosely translated to “Old Master,” is believed to have written the short 81 chapter text of the Tao Te Ching over 2500 years ago. Many of these teachings are likely passed down from Chinese shamanic tribes which evolved to the codified teachings later called Taoism.
Wu Wei is the proper adherence to the Dao
In Taoism, everything is the Dao. The Dao is The Way. The Dao simply IS, it does not struggle, it does not hurry, and yet the seasons change and the plants grow. There are 3 overlapping types of Dao: the Human Dao, which includes all aspects of human life and death, the Heavenly Dao, which describes how the natural world functions, and the Great Dao, which includes all things that ever have existed or will exist. The Dao encourages a steady, flow-like pace in harmony with nature and your own capabilities. If a thing must be done, then do the thing.
Are you ready for the practice that is no practice?
After habitual practice, the unconscious mind takes over. To create a regular practice, it is essential to create a solid foundation and support structures that will allow you to grow. This growth will allow you to understand your own True Will and create a future where success feels effortless, like it was automatic. It’s time to take your next step, from beginner to master. Take that step here, in the Alchemy of Chaos course, which will give you the skills and tools you need to embody effortless action.