No Wu Wei!

This week’s Prompts for the Promptless challenge from Rarasaur is a concept completely alien to me: “Wu wei, or non-doing, is a Taoist practice involving letting one’s action follow the simple and spontaneous course of nature rather than interfering with the harmonious working of universal law by imposing arbitrary and artificial forms. In other words, it is the action of non-action.”

As I understand it, this means doing without thinking, switching off my brain and letting nature, or instinct or habit take over. Sounds easy, but I find it almost impossible to do for more than a few minutes at a time. Aware that it would probably be good for me, I started thinking (see, thinking again, always thinking) about things I do that might encourage wu wei in my life.


Running – Before the Jam was born there was a period of about three years during which I ran fairly frequently. At first I hated it, but I got fit enough to run for about 40 minutes without wanting to die and found some routes that were beautiful enough to make it seem worthwhile. (I also liked the way it made my thighs look.) A lot of people say they lose themselves in exercise, particularly running or cycling but I always used the time to think. As well as wondering which track would be next on my iPod, if I should speed up or try to go a bit further, I would plan lessons and shopping lists for the coming week. Wu Wei rating: 0/5

Knitting – This won’t mean much to non-knitters, but I can just about wu wei garter stitch. I get to the end of a row of knit stitches without really thinking about what my hands are doing. On a good day, I can even manage a nonchalant purl row. Obviously anything with a pattern, colour or shaping requires concentration. Also, I like thinking about knitting. When I’m rattling through those easy rows, I’m often thinking about what to knit next, or which yarn I’d like to use. Wu wei rating: 2/5

book hangoverReading – This is probably the closest I get to wu wei, and I’m not even sure it counts. Reading depends on the “arbitrary” marks on a page which represent words, creating an “artificial” (in that it’s constructed) world. Having said that, I have been known to emerge from my latest book disorientated and surprised at how much time has passed. Sometimes when I read I stop thinking; after I read I think, deconstructing, interpreting and connecting what I have read. Wu wei rating: either 0/5 or 4/5

I know I think too much, but even when I try not to (e.g. a meditation session during a recent spa visit) I end up thinking about not thinking, then trying to think about things that are vague enough to not really count as thinking. I think (!) that I’m a lost cause… Time to stop writing and sleep – dreaming is the closest my brain gets to ‘off’.

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4 thoughts on “No Wu Wei!

  1. I think your reading counts, especially if you don’t think of it just as reading but as the ability to fully imagine a world with its characters, logic, and rules. Or the immersion in introspection.

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