Friday, June 2, 2017

WU WEI - The Art of Doing Nothing

The Art of Doing Nothing
"Sitting quietly. Doing nothing. Spring comes. And the grass grows by itself." This Haiku poem
by Matsuo Basho (1600's) floated into my inbox one morning after the US election. Sitting quietly and doing nothing was definitely not part of my game-plan that day. But, I tucked it away thinking if things "settled down" I'd revisit it at a later date.

Things didn't settle down! After the inauguration the country was more divided than ever before. Visible agitation and personal anguish were expressed everywhere. Some felt we were on a runaway train back to the dark ages. Friendships became irretrievably broken. Sadly in other cases, long term marriages or relationships ended because of election results. The very active "group-mind" behind the right and the left were at polar opposites. Neither side could agree on any topic.

After a few months sitting in this symbolically stretched-thin rubber band, I was at a loss on how to move forward. Then I remembered two spiritual teachers and the practices they taught me for when things seemed most bleak. The first was to be consciously aware of what you're doing and the second, reflect on what is actually transpiring behind the obvious appearances. So I took stock of my daily life. Being tied to the computer (which supports our many projects and seminars) was partly to blame. Bombarded by constant news flashes I was swallowed up with
anxiety just like everyone else. I had to do something pro-active. I clicked a few buttons and disabled the News Briefs, Facebook, and Twitter posts. Instantly my knee-jerk reactions to every breaking headline or post stopped. Ease entered the work-day. I focused on creative work instead of the chaotic news cycles with their inane talking-head commentaries.

Then, "Spring came and the grass began to grow by itself." I remembered the Haiku to "sit quietly and do nothing." What an indulgence that seemed. I looked up the concept of sitting quietly and doing nothing and found Wu Wei. It's one of the greatest principles in Taoism known as "action in non-action." That sounds like a contradiction but it's not. It's actually allowing our actions to happen effortlessly and finding that the actions are in fact, part of a greater flowing alignment. So I sat quietly, doing meditation practices, sending healing and blessing to governments around the world. A contented feeling washed over me that "the grass would grow by itself" or in other words, "All is well."

While I wasn't immune to the daily news, the practice of Wu Wei allowed the second spiritual
practice to form. I started looking behind what was actually transpiring and saw a bigger picture emerge. Reasoned individuals who had long been silent were mobilizing in support of their views. People who didn't care what was happening in the outer world, began to care again. They were marching, writing Congress, completing polls, contacting friends, attending Town Hall meetings, and some even taking the dramatic first step of running for public office. They were organizing into waves of action in a flowing alignment.

I'm much older now than the days when I too marched on Washington for various causes. Those marches in the 60's and 70's set in motion civil rights, the US withdrawal from Viet Nam, women's rights, Roe v. Wade and gay rights. The ones marching and lobbying today, along with those content with the status quo, will also see the results of their efforts playing out in the years to come. If actions are in alignment with a common purpose, and intended for the good of all, we'll experience the results of all their efforts.  It's happened before and it will again.  In fact, it's much like experiencing an exquisite cup of tea.

Why tea? Consider what transpires unseen and unknown behind a cup of tea. Things are happening behind the scenes.  It grows in the higher elevations of the earth. Tropical clouds
overhead create the rain that waters the tea bush. Human hands lovingly pick three or four perfect leaves from each stem, drying them for days before the crop goes to market. Auction houses buy the tea then ship it to the various countries to be purchased by brand or type by ordinary consumers.

Each cup of tea you enjoy contains an immense geological, geographical, political and social history. The visible and invisible efforts of the elements of earth, water, air, fire, and human hands create that exquisite cup. That's exactly what's happening in the external world. Our collective consciousness is affected by the activities of everyone who demonstrates for change. Some do it quietly on the internal world, seemingly doing nothing. Some do it fiercely in the outer world by marching, organizing, and lobbying. All put their desires into action, aligning with a purpose.

Wu Wei says there is "action in non-action." Whether we're active or not, the tea still grows. In time a delicious brew awaits us. Or as Julian of Norwich said, "All is well!"

                                                                                                 Jo Mooy - June 2017