Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | July 5, 2011

Get Out Of Your Own Way

The primary point of this post is trying to understand the art of wu wei, non doing, the essence of taoist and zen thought. The best explanation I’ve adopted is that it is not acting out of the motivations of the ego. Staying true to proper principles and acting according to those principles.

It also involves the foundational aspect of force and non force. That is, we ought not get seduced into trying to force change, to exert undue pressure on a situation, to resolve situations and problems before they arise. This takes a lot of practice and eventual wisdom. Practicing tai chi helps us get closer.

We tai chi people talk a good game, but we often forget our own lessons. Do we allow situations to mature on their own. Here’s a question: what would you do if you suddenly found yourself squared off against Mike Tyson. I actually dreamed he and I were going to spar. He was being friendly, but I asked him to go full force in the next round so I could learn from him and see how good this tai chi stuff worked. Then, in the dream, the thought realization came that this guy was going to destroy me with one punch and that made me wake up!

So, lots of push hands and sparring helps a tai chi person to put into practice martially what he has learned philosophically.

In life, we tend to loose our cool and our center as well, and all the tai chi principles go out the window. How we relate to the world and the people in it can be very tai chi, but it’s hard to do day in and day out. We are pressured by people above us to resolve problems at work and with employees under our supervision “now.” To try and wait, to try and allow a situation to mature and ripen appears to the secular world as if you are doing nothing. I’ve actually received this criticism from people above and below me throughout my life. I ask people to trust me.

So, we begin to get some wu wei wisdom from the I Ching, the external well we have access to for wisdom. And the I Ching extols us to basically stop getting in our own way. When we try to force things, we only invite misfortune despite any temporary gains we might achieve. The I Ching tells us to wait with proper attitude, allowing and inviting the Higher Power to assist. “Your principal responsibility is to keep the arena of your consciousness free of negative influences.” –I Ching

How do we react when problems arise in our lives? How should we react? We need to get out of our own way and we have to make room for the creative to do its thing. Let Go Let God was a popular mantra for a long time. Qualities of acceptance, perseverence, patient waiting are given to us from various traditions. Avoiding self sabotage is important.

Today’s thoughts, though, turn to a biblical quote, “render unto Caesar what is Casar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” In other words, if you choose to straddle both worlds, or if you decide to just live in the secular matrix, then you have to render unto the secular world what is theirs. If you use a high interest credit card, you have to pay the bill. If you want to be a high powered anything in corporate America, you have to play by corporate America’s rules. You might try to straddle two worlds and try to apply spiritual principles in your work, but know that you are going against the secular currents. I’m not saying it’s not the right thing to try to do, but you do have to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s or else be willing to pay the secular consequences. Extreme example, a totalitarian regime wants you to kill innocent people and you refuse out of good conscience–you will more than likely be killed yourself.

How do you react if you get laid off? Do you become proactive and begin shotgunning your resume to thousands of prospective employers? Do you somehow try to employ principles of wu wei?

The more a practitioner learns about wu wei, the more he is enticed into extricating himself from this secular matrix. As humans, I think we most often have to accept that we arte obligated to do our duty in this world, work, make a living, support ourselves and our families, and we strive to do this with honesty and integrity. It can be done. But when we get seduced and pulled off center, and start to follow our fantasies and desires and want more and more, we fall into the trap.

So, I still don’t know all the answers. I have had it reaffirmed recently that I need to get out of the way, I need to allow the Creative to do its thing, I need to understand that there are things going on behind the mystical scene that I am not aware of and any forcing of action on my part will only mess things up. And I need to constantly reassess what it is I really want. What is it that I want to visualize and co create for myself? Being honest with ourselves is important work. If you drill down, the likelyhood is that you actually are living what you’ve been asking for! You just don’t realize that you’ve been asking for the wrong thing and that’s why you/me are not content.

Many of the amazing things that have happened in my life seem to have just fallen into my lap. Yes, I’ve put in the work and the long hours and paid my dues. But in the end, the really good things find their way on their own. And many of the things that I tried to make happen, that I tried to force, have eluded me like a ghost in the night!

One other small metaphor, if I do all the talking, yadayadayadayadayada and onandonandonandon, the Crreative never gets a chance to say anything! So I tell myself, shut up and listen, clear the arena, and get out of your own way.

Well, I don’t want to keep going, but I’ll just add that courage then eventually plays a big roll too! When the Creative does present us, unexpectedly, with the opportunity of a lifetime on a silver platter, we tend to be too afraid, fearful, of the change, of the unexpected, of the unknown–what if this goes wrong, what if that goes wrong. We’d rather wallow in the misery of the safe and secure than take the gift and take the leap. So, again, tai chi principles teach us to act, to go with it, to take the opportunity, to have courage.

Last point and then I’ll stop. Do it all while cultivating the inner smile. The inner smile puts things in perspective. I am often, and I mean often complemented by customers who see me in a high pressure atmosphere, helping many customers at once, dealing with some ornery people, and they are happy to tell me how efficient yet calm I am throughout the experience. I thank them, while inside I credit the tai chi concepts, and the inner smile gets a little wider. Believe me I am not perfect. I still experience steam coming out of my ears on occasion! I just have to get out of my own way.



  1. “Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning.” – Thoreau

    Speaking of being laid off, that happened to me a couple of years ago, and having a calm, clear mind was to me essential to getting through that episode.

    In fact my goal such as it is with regards to martial arts training is to cultivate a calm, clear mind.

    I have found that I could put that clear mind to use many more times a day that combat skills (although if you can’t apply combat skills, I think you’re not practicing correctly).

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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: