Week 1 was an interesting week from a Taoist perspective in that I had ample opportunity to practice Wu-Wei, or non-action and other Taoist principles.
First, I gave notice at my job and started my own business (though of my course, my business is basically me doing my current job for more money). This happened naturally, and with minimal force on my part. This seems like a good example of Wu-Wei in practice.
Second, I took a few days off of work. One was because of a snow day, and the second was because….well….I just didn’t feel like working. I took some of my PTO and just hung out and read. In theory, I have the capability to work remotely. The government closed on the snow day but my company was still open. I could have tried to find work to do and be “productive.” Instead, I just spent the day reading books. It was fantastic. A great example of not forcing work to happen.
Third, due to the ample free time I had, I took many walks, both alone and with my girlfriend. The walks were very pleasant. I substituted walking for running this week as my form of exercise and I suspect this is a more sustainable way to work out for those who have trouble maintaining a running routine
Fourth, I tried Tai Chi twice this week and, like meditation, it exposed my inability to focus, my losing battle with my monkey mind. I realized how action oriented my thought process is, and that I’m conditioned to seek stimuli and make progress, and not just be. The inability to just be may be one of the driving causes of malaise in my life. I think I will need to spend more time on cultivating stillness in my mind.
So, the overall takeaways for this week?
- Sometimes, good things happen from not taking action, or rather, taking minimal action.
- If you can get away it, not forcing yourself to work when you don’t need to is highly pleasant.
- Easy physical activities (like walking) may have many of the same benefits as difficult ones (running) and may be more sustainable in the long run. It may even bring additional benefits (opportunity for reflection, good conversation, etc.).
- Monkey mind is a serious problem that may impact your ability to be generally content.
Short recap today but in the spirit of Taoism, I’m trying not to force writing to happen. If you’re looking for more things to read on the internet, here’s a good article titled “Against the Insufferable Cult of Productivity.”
I’ll leave you with this chapter of the Tao Te Ching to contemplate.
Give up learning, and put an end to your troubles.
Is there a difference between yes and no?
Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense!
Other people are contented, enjoying the sacrificial feast of the ox.
In spring some go to the park, and climb the terrace,
But I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile, I am alone, without a place to go.
Others have more than they need, but I alone have nothing.
I am a fool. Oh, yes! I am confused.
Other men are clear and bright,
But I alone am dim and weak.
Other men are sharp and clevere,
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.
Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and depressed.
I am different.
I am nourished by the great mother.
– Chapter 20, Tao Te Ching