“Wu-wei” (pronounced ooo-way) is a concept developed by philosophers in early China of the Confucian and Daoist (or Taoist) schools of thought. Wu-wei literally translates as “not trying, “non-doing’, or “non-action.” The practice of wu-wei is a fundamental tenet in Chinese thought and is a central concept in Chinese martial arts. Wu-wei cannot be actively pursued, but manifests as a result of practice, mental cultivation, and self-awareness. Wu-wei has also been characterized as “action that does not involve struggle or excess effort.”
On the web site ThoughtCo.com, Elizabeth Reninger writes about wu-wei, “One of Taoism’s most important concepts is wu-wei, which is sometimes translated as “non-doing’ or “non-action.” A better way of thinking of it, however, is a paradoxical “Action of non-action.” Wu-wei refers to the cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world. It is a kind of “going with the flow” that is characterized by great ease and awake-ness, in which – without even trying – we’re able to respond perfectly to whatever situations arise.”
Wikipedia.com writes about wu-wei, “In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu explains that beings (phenomena) that are wholly in harmony with the Tao behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way. The goal of spiritual practice for the human being is, according to Lao Tzu, the attainment of this purely natural way of behaving, as when the planets revolve around the sun. The planets effortlessly do this revolving without any sort of control, force, or attempt to revolve themselves, thus engaging in effortlessness and spontaneous movement.”
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
Now, you may be asking, “What does this have to do with our golf game, our golf swing, golf practice, a proper golf swing, how to swing a golf club, golf swing mechanics, and how to play golf?” Well….maybe everything! It has to do with the effectiveness of the non-actions of effortlessness, allowing instead of trying, and letting go of analysis, control, and interference of the conscious thinking mind in performing the motor activities involved in how to play golf. (See the Instinctive Golf Blog Trying versus Allowing on this site.) Our mind does not control the movements of our body. Yes, the mind sets an intention, but the body’s instinctive kinesthetic intelligence coordinates muscles, nerves, tendons, and bones to fulfill that intention. We are working in opposition to the natural laws of movement and harmonic function if we are trying to control and instruct our body how to move and perform a physical motor skill such as a golf swing.
The simplicity of learning may be the antidote to the complexity of instruction.
In his book, Trying Not To Try about the history of Chinese culture, Edward Slingerland describes wu-wei as effortless action, spontaneous action, and effortless ease and states, “It’s not at all about dull inaction. In fact, it refers to the dynamic, effortless, and unselfconscious state of mind of a person who is optimally active and effective. We are being urged to get into a state that, by its very nature, seems unattainable through conscious striving. This is the paradox of wu-wei – the problem of how you can try not to try.”
Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.
We can’t try to achieve a state of mind of wu-wei, we must be open and receptive to it and cultivate our internal awareness. The “work” we must do is to “prep” our minds to release obstacles to wu-wei, the primary obstacles being our analytical thinking mind and our ego. According to Myrko Thum on myrkothum.com, “Wu-wei is the cultivation of a mental state in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the flow of life.”
Modern industrial “advanced” societies are often preoccupied with effort, the importance of working harder, faster, better, striving, and trying. They are encouraged as validation of the ego “self”. Conscious thinking and the intellect is often revered and seen as superior to the body and its feelings and emotions. Edward Slingerland also states, “Cognitive scientists are beginning to emphasize the fact that the human brain is designed primarily for guiding action, not for representing abstract information.” He also examines the fact that consciously focusing on how to perform a physical motor skill, or trying to explain the process in words to others, may actually impair our ability to perform the skill.
As it applies to golf, wu-wei is about getting past our conscious mind’s habit of trying to control and instruct our golf swing so that our body and mind can work together in a complimentary manner for harmony and effectiveness.
Allow your body to do its thing
And you will find
Your effortless swing
For harmonious effectiveness in our golf game, simplicity may be the answer to the complexity that we either impose upon ourselves or we find through golf instruction. It may all boil down to “our effectiveness may rely on getting out of our own way” and trusting in Universal Energy and Intelligence that is in us, as us, through us, for us, and because of us!
Quiet your thinking
And trust that you know
It’s the integration of body and mind
That connects you with FLOW
So……if you are privileged to witness an enthusiastic “Wuuuuuu-wei!!” after an effortlessly perfect or perfectly effortless golf shot……know that it comes from FLOW!!!