The Art of Wu Wei

Musings / Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

I came across the Chinese phrase, “Wu Wei,” in a book I am reading by Emma Seppala called the “The Happiness Track.” Wu Wei is the heart of Taoist philosophy and roughly translated means “the art of doing nothing.” It can be misinterpreted in many ways, but it does not mean sitting idle. It just means “non-doing” in a way in which our mind is in a natural flow with our actions.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~ Lao Tzu

Ever since I read this, I have been trying to slow down my almost Type A personality and be calmer. I remember that at the same time last year, I was still in a corporate job. One of my favorite times of the day now that I am no longer stuck to a desk is to just sit by the window in my apartment with a cup of tea in the afternoon. I usually take this tea around 2PM. My apartment faces a garden, and the sun shines in at just the right light during this time.

The view from where I sit

Basking in the sunlight, with the sun on my back, a cup of tea in my hands and a book to read are one of the few things I look forward to during the day. Today, though, I didn’t sit with a book. Seppala was urging me to not “do” something all the time. Be in the moment, she wrote. I think, let me try this. Let me see all this fuss about being in the moment. So, I sit there with the tea, gazing out of the window. I really see the view for the first time, something that most visitors to my apartment love.

For a moment, there were no thoughts in my raucous mind. And there! Did I imagine it? Surely, that is a heron? Crane? I see the bird hop across the grass. I smile, watching it till it is sheltered by the bushes. Breaking my vow not to do anything, I rush to get my camera. The bird is not one to wait.


I miss the bird, but I see that there is more life out there than I had been seeing. I see from the zoom lens of the camera another bird that is wagging its tail, much like a dog would.

my wagtail

I see with rapture the weeds that grow stubborn from the cracks in the path.


I see the sun lay a shy hand on the sidewalk, illuminating the shadows with its light. I watch nature “not being in a hurry” and see the perfect beauty that the Universe accomplishes every single day. I did not master Wu Wei today.Does that matter? Because I saw Wu Wei in action.


6 Replies to “The Art of Wu Wei”

  1. Beautiful post, Smitha! I love that Lao Tzu quote that nature does not hurry yet everything is accomplished. Very beautiful and profound. I also loved this sentence from your post – “I see the sun lay a shy hand on the sidewalk, illuminating the shadows with its light.” So beautiful! I love the view from your window. And what you do at 2pm everyday – I think someone already knows one or two things about Wu Wei 🙂 Thanks for teaching us about Wu Wei today.

  2. So calming just to even read this. I will try Wu Wei tomorrow. I will take a mug of my honey-ginger warm water and watch the world for a few moments during the day. Loved this post!

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