Wu wei – in Chinese – means non-doing or ‘doing nothing’. Though many people confuse it literally with doing nothing or lazing or relaxing – wu wei actually means ‘effortless action’ or ‘inspired action’.
There is no effort, stress or anxiety when you act from this state of effortlessness. It is a place free of struggle, anxiety and seeking.
In inspired action – there is no ego. No forcing, no holding back.
There is no “personality” or “self-identify” involved in the act. The act is spontaneous and free of wilful intentions. The act is pure, transpiring from stillness – the space of silence within: What I do flows from me like a river. I am at peace with myself, and I do the thing for the sheer enjoyment of doing it. I am not seeking attention or validation. I do not want to be better than anyone. And neither am I desiring self-recognition or fame. Neither do I have any assumptions that my life should turn out in a certain way – my way.
I allow the ego to soften its grasp on me, my life.
Indeed, to take inspired action, we are to be like the bamboo that bends in the wind or the plant that adjusts itself to the shape of a tree. To bend oneself in the wind or adjust oneself to the changing vagaries of life – without resisting or holding back – requires a mind that is free of the ego.
Bruce Lee spoke of such mental agility: “Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.” He discovered that to master the martial arts he had to train his mind to become empty of the ego so that his movements could become fluid like water. Each move would emerge from a place of inspiration – or the force of life.
Every move Bruce Lee would make, henceforth, would be an inspired action: a movement flowing out of him like a river. As the river flowed through him, he became the river. It was as though when he moved ‘lightning was shooting across the heavens or a whirlwind’ was darting across the floor.
That is the nature of fluidity and ingenuity of mind every great artist, athlete, musician, scientist and leader practices. And perhaps that is why watching Bruce Lee or Micheal Jackson in movement, in action, was like watching the phenomenon of mind over matter – as though they touched “heaven at perfect speed”.
They were extraordinarily swift and surreally perfect.
In Richard Bach’s book ‘Jonathan Seagull’ : “You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”
When your mind is empty, formless and shapeless – you will arrive at anything you want and achieve extraordinary feats. And all you have to do is to arrive at the present moment with an empty mind and the river of life flowing through you.
Radhika Mia is an author, visual artist and community-builder based in Johannesburg, South Africa.