Wu Wei, The Art of Solving Problems Effortlessly
Wu Wei, or solving problems effortlessly, is a philosophy of life that can help a lot in this century of competitiveness in which all that everyone seems to want is recognition and power.
Of course, this Eastern philosophy may seem outrageous when you think of the personal goals you want to meet and the problems you must resolve. However, this method can help you lead a stress-free life.
This perspective is described in the Tao Te King, the most relevant book in Taoist thought and philosophy. According to legend, Lao Tse wrote it around 600 BC, “Wu Wei” loosely translates to “Old Master.”
For Lao Tse, that which is good and virtuous pertains to the way the cosmos works. It’s a natural, constant, and fluid change. Just as the universe flows, so must we. Thus, this philosophy arose as a result of this way of understanding the universe.
The essence of Wu Wei
Wu Wei can also mean “no action,” “growth” or “no effort.” The main idea of this concept is to allow things to flow in their natural state, without altering their course. Zen calligraphy represents it with a circle.
Many will think it’s about ceasing to act, but the truth is it doesn’t mean letting go of your dreams or suspending your goals. According to the Tao Te King teachings, Wu Wei isn’t about total inertia. It’s about understanding the balance of things and allowing everything to flow, without exerting pressure or hindering the universal mechanism.
People often lose energy fighting against things they can’t change, in many cases, and this is what Taoist teachings intend to prevent. Studies state that Wu Wei consists of “action without acting,” that is:
“Acting in such a way that you let things be.”
An example to better understand this philosophy is to watch plants. They grow without effort, by Wu Wei. It just happens. In addition to plants, Taoist texts also exemplify Wu Wei with the passive nature of water.
Water may seem weak to some but can actually erode rocks and flow anywhere, through the smallest cracks even. Even though it can be split into droplets, water eventually becomes part of the vast ocean. Water has another great ability: the ability to flow down into “the dark valley,” the place where all biological life regenerates.
Read about how A Mind that Knows How to Be Grateful Knows Inner Peace
Ways to incorporate this philosophy into your life
As you read above, the most notorious characteristic of Wu Wei is harmony. It doesn’t interrupt or impede anything, it just flows. So, it isn’t a matter of renouncing any manifestation of the will, but of going along with it, as most natural processes do.
Here are some guidelines to put this philosophy of life into practice:
- Allow everything to flow and let calmness prevail
- Observe how things change without interfering
- Stop and see how, for the most part, you actively create the problems
- Allow them to dissolve, without them messing with your mind
- Look at the opportunities that life presents you and take them, but without spending too much energy
- Stop thinking about any problems or situations once they’re over, as it’s a waste of energy. Focus on new opportunities, instead.
- Also, always remain calm. Everything will work out., no matter how many stumbling blocks you may encounter.
- Also, let go of worries. This doesn’t mean you won’t do anything, on the contrary, by remaining objective and calm, you’ll be able to develop smarter strategies that won’t drain you mentally.
- Finally, trust. The Wu Wei philosophy encourages you to develop confidence in your life and how it unfolds. It’s also about trusting oneself.
Wu Wei for a more peaceful life
By applying this philosophy of life, you’ll realize that things are simpler than you think. It’s your thoughts that make everything seem like a dead end.
Therefore, focus on wellness and incorporate this way of understanding life. Peace and stability are around the corner.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Moeller, H. G. (2012). Taoism. In Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-373932-2.00217-9
- Lawson, S. (2004). Wu Wei. ACM Multimedia 2004 – Proceedings of the 12th ACM International Conference on Multimedia. https://doi.org/10.1145/1027527.1027768
- Loy, D. (1985). Wei-Wu-Wei: Nondual Action. Philosophy East and West. https://doi.org/10.2307/1398682
- Slingerland, E. (2015). Wu-Wei – Doing less and wanting more. Psychologist.
- Shun, K., & Slingerland, E. (2004). Effortless Action: Wu-wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. https://doi.org/10.2307/25066756