Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | November 29, 2011

Yeah But…Taoist Hesitancy

I often find myaself in conversations trying to flesh out taoist/zen philosophy, allowing things to arrange themselves, trying to intervene as little as possible, the concept of wu wei, and the inevitable “yeah but…” comes up either in my own mind or from the person I’m talking with. Trying to live the Tai Chi way can be easy when things are good(although it’s important to remain grounded when things are good and not allow the ego to inflate, thinking you were the sole cause of the good things in your life or that you should get all the credit for the successes in your life). Living the tai chi when you are faced with challenges and obstacles is harder on the surface. We don’t trust the process, even though we practice for years, sit in meditation on a daily basis, read the Tao de Ching and I Ching over and over. We think, yeah but, this guy’s a real jerk off, or, but if I don’t do anything, the situation will continue. We feel driven to act, to impose our will, to effect change.

We hesitate when we are in a secular construct like at work because we aren’t confident that the tai chi way, the taoist way, will work.

But one of the best translations I’ve heard recently of the Tao de Ching, is: How Things Work. If you know how things work, you can allow the process to unfold naturally and resolve itself. “Yeah but…” No, there are no “buts.” We have to have confidence and trust in the process. And we have to examine honestly our own motives in a given situation. Are we anxious, worried, upset because of our own agendas, our own egos? The I Ching clearly states that these negative emotions are functions of the ego. Wu wei means not acting out of the ego, it means acting for the good, with right action and right motive, doing what is good for the community. If we are torn at work on how to proceed in certain situations, it is most probably because your employer is pulling you off balance and trying to get you to do something that is not part of the natural flow of life. So, you feel you must act in order to succeed. But are you succeeding in a secular construct, or are you failing in real life? This rarely becomes, but sometimes does, a moral question of real import.

The Tao De Ching teaches us How Things Work. It is folding and unfolding, it is yielding, it is soft and accepting, it is coming and going, it is natural change. When we are forcing, we are butting heads with the Great Way of Things. What chance do you have against that?

Be clear. Be centered. Fruit ripens on the tree. If you wait, you will be rewarded with a delicious piece of fruit. Sit in the center, be aware, awareness is a great skill, be conscious. Allow the order to come out of chaos. Allow things to arrange themselves. When it is ready, go with it and move with the flow. And when you hear that voice say, “yeah, but…” don’t listen. It is only pulling you off balance.

This is not passivity, this is not watching the world go by. This is like playing the piano like a master, light, confident, it appears the fingers are hardly touching the keyboard. Why bang on the keyboard to force the sound to come out. It won’t sound very good.

In recent weeks, in consulting the I Ching, I have received the hexagram Ching/The Well. I am exhorted to purify and go to the two wells, the external well is the I Ching, or some other text of wisdom, or a teacher. The Inner Well is your own good character. I was admonished this time in that it said my well was clean, but I do not drink from it. You understand what is right but you avoid it. One must not just draw water from the well but also drink it. Wisdom that is not put to practical use is meaningless.

I wan’t quite sure what this meant for me. But I thought about it, and I think that I still allow anxiety to take over, worrying about things at work or financially. I know what’s right to do, but I don’t drink from the well. I obsess a bit, I worry that I need to “do” something. In truth, in trust, in confidence, what I need to do is develop good gong fu, whether that is martially or at work, and do my job, do my work, modestly, honestly, and with integrity. Everything else will work itself out without my intervention or anxiety. “Yeah, but…”



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

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