Wu Wei Wifi Cafe
Today, I’ve decided to do nothing. In fact, I may do nothing from here on in.
Now before you go ahead and think that I’ve reclined into a life of indifference and apathy, allow me to explain.
You see, “doing nothing” is the central tenet behind the ancient Taoist principle, Wu Wei. It may sound counterproductive, but in truth, it works in quite the opposite manner.
Another way to think of Wu Wei is as the paradoxical “Action of non-action.” It is an ancient eastern philosophical principle long overdue in our modern western world.
If you think deeply enough about it, you’ll realize that there is something wrong with us, though it’s not entirely our fault. Society has misguided, misled, and deceived us into believing that we must always be frenetically accomplishing various tasks. If we aren’t doing something, then we’re doing nothing, and that’s a massive taboo in today’s world.
Journey Versus Destination
Resting and playing, which I might add, is typical in the animal kingdom; we equate with “wasting time.” Forget the journey; it’s only about the destination now.
A frantic unabated race to absolutely nowhere. We are overstressed, overworked, overbooked, and overburdened.
Like an ill-fated runaway train, we know we should jump off but can’t bring ourselves to.
I have found my venture into digital marketing to be a microcosm of this current state. The learning curve is steep, and the sheer volume of information all-encompassing. It’s hard to know where to start and just when to end.
From social networks to web design to driving traffic and initializing autoresponders, it can all be a little too much too soon. You learn fast enough to pare down and direct your focus. If not, you’ll quickly find yourself accomplishing very little, if anything at all.
While technology, with its inherent benefits, can be a helpful tool, it hides a very dark side. There is something fundamentally unnatural about spending countless hours in front of a screen. A slow stalking malevolent serpent gradually makes its presence known soon after one embraces the digital world full-time.
This past year I have spent many an hour in front of my laptop working on my brand. During this time, I noticed a distinct change in my mental state—a slow but sure drift from symbiosis to psychological and physical imbalance.
As is true with drugs, sex, and alcohol, dopamine can take on a very negative characteristic.
Dopamine is the feel-good chemical that gets you high. That same high you feel when your post gets a “like” or “retweet.”
Psychologists are quite aware of the negative impact this is having on young people. Whereas, before the digital age, children would turn to family and peers to affirm their self-worth, self-respect, and sense of belonging, social media has now coopted this role.
As a result, we see increased rates of depression, anxiety, and, most tragically, suicide.
More recently, studies have shown a direct correlation between various mental disorders in children and the overuse of technology. According to Richard Louv, columnist and member of the editorial advisory board for Parents magazine, decreased time spent in nature has resulted in what psychologists refer to as “Nature Deficit Disorder.”
Bad News Good News
It’s not just dopamine that affects you adversely but overexposure to negative news stories that pop up in your browser. I don’t care how disciplined one thinks they are; it’s called clickbait for a good reason.
I am not a stranger to that of which I speak. Being a little older and somewhat wiser, I’ve developed coping strategies to better deal with mental malaise.
Wu Wei, pronounced “woo way,” is one such method. The Tao te Ching, the basis for Wu Wei, translates as “the way of the world.” The fundamental building block of Wu Wei is the concept of “actionless action” or “effortless action.”
The Wanting Mind
Strengthening our connection with nature as well as each other helps to relieve mental stress and tension. This tension arises from what the ancients referred to as the “wanting mind.” The misguided notion that we’d be happier if only we had that particular thing or circumstance.
Finding ourselves at point A in our lives, we falsely believe we would be happier or more fulfilled at point B. In doing so, we unconsciously devalue our current status, disengaging to the detriment of our mental state.
There is no future time when all will be well and fine. Believing that someplace or thing holds the key to our happiness cheats us out of the contentment and joy we could be experiencing at this very moment.
If we are too busy with desire or ambition, we will miss a thousand moments of the human experience.
Head To The Hills
The natural world has become sequestered. A spectacle that we laud from the pages of our Facebook and Instagram accounts. A wise philosopher once said, “If you are unhappy, go for a walk. If you are still unhappy, then go for another walk.”
It’s not only the fact that nature is our natural habitat, but as Lao Tzu points out, it reminds us of essential virtues that we can and should adopt into our lives. The resilience of trees, the strength of mountains, the flexibility of water, and the joy and happiness of flowers.
More Being Less Becoming
The ancients recognized their place within the Tao and sought to learn from it. We have lost this innate wisdom, viewing ourselves instead as being separate and distinct from nature. As songwriter Joni Mitchell so poignantly penned, “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
Our thoughts are often consumed by who we want to be rather than who we already are. Wu Wei encourages more being and less becoming.
Absolving yourself of the belief that you must achieve this or have that alleviates the stress and anxiety that is hindering you from accomplishing your goals. With the desired outcome, no longer our singular focus, the journey becomes more meaningful.
You become like a leaf floating along with the stream. Its strength becomes your strength. No longer forcing your way past obstacles but rather, flowing gently over and around them. Effortless effort. Actionless action. This is Wu Wei.