I don?t teach stillness, and in fact, it cannot be taught. It can only be experienced. What I do teach, as my students know, are the skills we use to cultivate stillness: qigong, taiji and meditation. In addition, I discuss basic Daoist concepts in my Tuesday Evening talks. Last night?s talk was a brief introduction to the Daoist concept of Wei Wu Wei.
In the Taoist texts, wu wei is often associated with water and its yielding nature. it can assume any form or shape it inhabits. In Chapter 8 of the Dao de Qing, Laozi wrote:
The supreme good is like water,
Which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus, it is like the Dao.
Our posture at the beginning of taiji is referred to as Wu Wei: absolute yin, perfect stillness. We breath in, and we begin.
Wu may be translated as not have or without; Wei may be translated as do, act, or effort. Thus, the literal meaning of wu wei is “without action”, “without effort”, or “without control”, and is often included in the paradox wei wu wei: “action without action” or “effortless doing”.
These are foundational tenets in Daoist thought. One cannot actively pursue wu wei just as one cannot actively pursue the Dao. It manifests only as a result of cultivation. As Laozi wrote in Chapter 14 of the Dao de Qing:
Look, and it can?t be seen.
Listen, and it can?t be heard.
Reach, and it can?t be grasped.
Another aspect of wu wei is action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort. In this sense, wu means “without” and wei means “effort”. The concept of “effortless action” is a part of Daoist Internal Martial Arts such as Taiji Quan, a moving meditation, and corresponds to the basic teaching of Daoism – being natural.
Daoism recognizes that the universe already works well and harmoniously according to its own ways; as a person exerts their will against or upon the world, they disrupt the harmony that already exists. This is not to say that a person should not exercise will. Rather, it is how one acts in relation to the natural processes already present. The how is key.
In Chapter 2, Laozi wrote:
The Master acts without doing anything,
And teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
Things disappear and are let go.
She has but doesn?t possess, acts but doesn?t expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.
The literal translation of Dao is ?way? or ?path.? It is associated with a life of simplicity, quietude and harmony. Being a person ?of the Dao? means being attuned to cycles of change; being consciously aware of our place within the fabric of life; and acting in the world according to the principles of wu wei – naturalness, ease and spontaneity.
In our Daoist Longevity Practice of daily qigong, Taiji and meditation, we cultivate stillness. Why? Stillness brings us into the present moment.
Why be in the present moment? Clarity; seeing each moment merely as it is . . . . . perfect and complete.
Our immersion in each moment can be so true and full that we are in perfect harmony with it. No effort is required to act within that harmony, and correct action arises as if on its own: natural and spontaneous. A tree does not try to grow tall; it simply does. That is its nature.
And as for us, having acted, we simply move on to the next moment. Wei wu wei, or as Laozi writes:
Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.
Cultivating stillness. Clarity. Action without effort, in harmony with the natural order of the moment.
This is where we wish to live our life, a life fully engaged in as many moments as possible. In that way, we can enjoy the universal wish for a gracious death with no regrets, for we truly lived.