Aligning with the Natural Flow of Life
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu
A few mornings ago the surf was rising, so I drove down to one of my favorite spots at sunrise with the vision of catching some sweet waves before the world woke up and the water got crowded. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with this idea. As the first rays lit up the ocean, I paddled out to find about 30 other surfers already out there. Instantly I felt behind, like I’d missed something.
So I hit the water with a sense of urgency, trying to make up for lost time – paddling this way and that to dodge people, ducking under big waves, navigating currents and looking for my groove. But every wave I paddled for seemed to have someone else on it, or it broke too soon or too late for me to catch. The harder I tried, the more difficult it seemed to find my flow with the ocean… Until eventually I got so tired I couldn’t keep paddling – so I stopped for a moment, sat up on my board and just let the current take me.
Before long I had drifted away from the main peak where everyone was jockeying for waves, to a quiet little area where I was sitting all alone. Catching my breath, I started noticing the way the light was dancing on the water, the way the dawn air brushed against my face. As my lungs slowed down and I let go of trying, I started feeling good just being out there. Just feeling the ocean, and me in it.
Right about that time, I glanced up to see the rising face of a beautiful wave picking up right before me.”What are you doing way over here?” I smiled, turning to meet it, stroked once or twice and popped up onto a clear blue wall that carried us both all the way to shore.
Wu Wei is a Chinese concept central to Taoism and a core theme of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. Translated literally as “non-doing”, Wu Wei is not so much about “doing nothing” as it is about aligning our movement with the greater flow of life. Often referred to as ‘natural action’, Wu Wei does not involve excessive effort or struggle, but a kind of