Wu Wei and Water - their shared qualities:


1. water/wu wei supports and carries effortlessly

Chinese character for swimmer is literally "one who knows the nature of water."  A good athlete can enter a state of body-awareness in which the right stroke happens as if by itself, effortlessly, without interference with the conscious will or resistance from the water.  We can't tell the dancer from the dance.  

When in perfect harmony, "in the zone," with the Tao, you vanish into the deed, moving with the Tao as if effortlessly, overcoming and transforming.    Example of Fly Fishing or distance running.    Contrast with Newton's 3rd Law of Motion (for every action there is a equal reaction - a push back) and "competition."

Tao Te Ching 63:1-17



2.  water/wu wei is supple and soft, and adapts itself to surroundings and endures

Example of "tree with a twisted trunk" or of "bamboo"

Tao Te Ching 76:1-13



3. it is the suppleness and softness of water/wu wei that also subdues what is hard and rigid

Tao Te Ching  17:1-9


Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water

Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and the strong

This is because nothing can replace it

That the weak overcome the strong

And the soft overcomes the hard

Everybody in the world knows

But cannot put into practice (78:1-7)


There is no greater misfortune than feeling, "I have an enemy."

For when "I" and "enemy" exist together there is no room left for my treasure (Three Jewels).

Thus, when two opponents meet the one without an enemy will surely triumph (69).




4. with patience, in its stillness, water/wu wei can offer clarity and focus on the Tao

In viewing the night's stars and going out from a lit home, your eyes must adjust to the darkness

Tao Te Ching 15:13-16



5.  water/wu wei is neither ethically good nor evil

Taoism is unencumbered by social concepts of sin, evil, as it is not a black/white, either/or world.

Example of the Story of the Farm's Horse and "who knows what's good or bad?"

Tao Te Ching 27:11-16


If resisting evil, desires, attachments are not the great challenge, then what is the great challenge?

Back to #4, seeking clarity, overcoming opaqueness of the muddied waters

Irony, when you are free from the moral, human-derived categories, you have access to the Tao and the greater "jewels" of the "nameless,"  the "pregnant void"



6. water/wu wei nurtures, and is virtuous - De - and is compassionate - "the Three Jewels"

Tao Te Ching 67:7-17

1. love and compassion for all living beings - ego/"self" vs. "other" are dissolved into oneness - no dualism

 Tao Te Ching 34:3-5 & Footnote p. 68 #2


2. moderation, along with simplicity and patience


3. humility - don't be arrogant and take self too seriously - by example, the humble person will lead


The aim of wu wei is to achieve a state of perfect equilibrium or alignment with the Tao (Yin Yang) which results in attaining an irresistible form of "softness," as water, inaction, effortless action that allows you to overcome things, the self, others and the world, and access ch'i  -  life breadth


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