The art of doing nothing! Or is that even possible?
Lao-Tzu observed that "it is upon disaster that good fortune rests." - a broken leg, a missed appointment, a snow storm, surgery. Ten days ago I had major surgery, I have been recovering and feeling stronger each day. I am committed to allowing my body time to heal. I am a very active person and like to be busy with many things. As I have allowed myself the quiet time to heal and rest, so many wonderful things have happened. My thoughts and ideas have flowed so freely and in such an inspirational direction.
For Lao-Tzu the most powerful strategy, oddly enough, involved Wu-wei, which translates as "Not doing." "Not forcing", or "Not striving". Wu-wei is NOT advice to "do nothing." It's about suspending the all-too-human fixation on what SHOULD or SHOULDN'T happen. To NOTICE what IS happening.
At first, this looks like you're doing nothing because, after exhausting your repertoire of quick-fix solutions and habitual patterns, you're finally open to analyzing the previously ignored dynamics standing in your way. By marshalling this acutely aware, fully engaged form of patience, you begin to notice "What WANTS to happen."
Unexpected solutions appear on the horizon of consciousness, seemingly of their own accord, creating the mystical sense of a higher intelligence taking over. I have always believed in inspiration and thoughts coming to me that "were not my own", but I have also been trapped in a busy, get a thousand things done in a day routine that can rob you of these magical moments. Not many of us have the luxury of turning off the world, even when we want to, but learning to practice this kind of patience can fit into your life. I had an experience with this practice, something that perhaps I could orchestrate for myself on a more regular basis.
I was attending a leadership training workshop with a group of about 15 people. We broke for lunch each day and would gather in small groups to eat and chat about the days events, we shared ideas, talked about life back home and in general started to get to know one another. It was wonderful to find new friends and learn about them in this time we had together.
Wu-wei was something not commonly practiced in my life. One day we were invited to eat our lunch in silence. We could sit with each other and be in a group but we could not talk. It felt a little strange at first but as the silence kept going my thoughts took on a whole new life. I quickly grabbed my journal because the thoughts coming to me were profound and needed to be written down for future reference. The lack of interruption and the energy that came from everyone practising this intentional form of patience was palpable.
I have seen people sooooo uncomfortable in this exercise, all they wanted to do is talk (especially on their phones), so eager to distract themselves away from their own thoughts, their own purpose or lack thereof. Are we so unfamiliar with our inner voice that the mere mention of it sends us on a journey of escape? Each of us lives in a world full of distractions. Some of them are harmless and fun but they are distractions just the same. Next time you think about doing "nothing", think about all the possibilities, the endless opportunities that could come your way.
Horses are master teachers at Wu-wei. When you are with them you can feel it! Yesterday after being trapped inside for many days I decided I needed to see the horses. It had been stormy and cold for a couple of days and all six of the horses were in the barn just hanging out. I grabbed a brush and groomed Acorn. What a joy it was, just to be with her and the others. I wish I had taken a photo to show you just how chill they all were. It was like they were having a meeting and deciding how best to teach me how to accept the moment and all that it held for me right then, right there, right now!