“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash.”
– Bruce Lee –
When one lets go of forms, one becomes formless. And formlessness, while is no form at all, is essentially all forms, as it exists as an intermediary state of forms, possibilities undecided unless decided. It is a state of complete open-mindedness and acceptance of the harmonious ebbs and flows of nature. In other words, to put aside one’s ego and let go of all ideals, is to immerse oneself in a kind of serene concentration.
Wuwei directly translates as ‘inaction’ or ‘doing nothing’, yet one would be mistaken to understand it as a license for apathy or laziness.
“The way never acts,
yet nothing is left undone.”
– Tao Te Ching –
On the contrary, wuwei means to be completely at one, or ‘in the zone’ with what we’re doing. In Taoism (Daoism), it is believed that wuwei is the noblest kind of action and is the key to following the Tao (Dao) or ’the way’.
“When we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us, we reach the level of Wu Wei. Then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort. Since the natural world follows that principle, it does not make mistakes. Mistakes are made–or imagined–by man, the creature with the overloaded Brain who separates himself from the supporting network of natural laws by interfering and trying too hard.”
– Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh –
Philosopher Alan Watts uses the example of a sailing boat as an art that hinges on the practice of wuwei. He says that rowing is a rather thoughtless way of pushing a boat across the water.
A lot of strain and effort is required to move against the current of water, but sailing, on the other hand, uses the force of nature, to tap into the power of the wind is to be a skillful sailor.
Rather than going against nature, sailing requires that you ‘flow through nature effortlessly’.
In wuwei, one must recognize the spirit of nature within themselves, and act accordingly.
By Gray L.