Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | March 5, 2010

Zen Tai Chi Wu Wei

The art of non-doing. Not trying to manipulate or control a situation or life, but allowing things to run their course. A tai chi person acts, but not out of the desires of the ego. In the Tai te Ching, we are encouraged to emulate the master by doing our work, and then stepping back, letting go. So, a tai chi person doesn’t sit around and do nothing and get blown about with the wind. The tai chi person works hard, studies, practices diligently, but stays to the center.

Embracing this philosophy in martial arts is hard; embracing it in life is even harder, to tread the line between wu wei and being a wishy washy bum! But a true master knows how to shape events while appearing to be invisible or not trying so hard. A true master doesn’t have to say too much. He/she just is.

Learning to appreciate and look for what is hidden in the events around us helps us to act properly. Life is not always good, and it’s not always bad either. Sometimes we are surrounded by frenetic people who are constantly throwing everything into chaos. We step back, center, and allow the whirlwind to blow by. We allow the seasons to run their course.

The world is constantly pushing us to push our way through. If it snows tremendously, we fight it tremendously. As the taoist master sits in his warm hermitage enjoying the falling snow, the rest of us are frenetically digging out and risking our lives driving to work. The world makes us force everything, forces us to use force, when it would work so much better if we did what we were supposed to do, honestly, with authenticity and integrity, and allowed things to flourish on their own.

The tai chi person is often misunderstood because he appears to be unconcerned, not doing anything. But he’s probably doing the best thing under the circumstances.



  1. […] I read his explanation of wu wei, the Chinese idea of ‘not-doing’.  You can find it here.  There is always the danger that others will misinterpret this philosophy as laziness or […]

  2. Very true and simple. Do you think the world makes us force things or our own unexamined human nature swept into the whirlpool of a rootless society does? Once again, our choice. Thanks for stopping by. You always give good thoughts and comments to ponder.

  3. Hey Donna, hope all is well and things with the book are good. Yes, simplicity is a quality that comes out of both my catholic tradition and my taoist life. One thing I read recently in the tao ye Ching is to chop big tasks into small tasks and it serves me well, do little things one thing at a time and big things are possible.

    Chris, thanks for reading. Certainly you may quote and link. I will also check out your blog when I have my day off on Monday!


  4. A simple reminder of the virtue of simplicity, and not complicating things needlessly.

  5. Thank you for this wonderful summary. May I please quote this on my blog and link to you?

    I just found your blog this morning, I look forward to reading in the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: