Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | February 6, 2012

Letting Things Happen vs. Making Things Happen

The zen/taoist way is to stay to the center and allow the universe to arrange itself. It is the way of “wu wei,”, non action, not interfering or forcing. I saw a quote recently by a buddhist “dogen” that said, “I live by letting things happen.”

The American way is the way of making things happen, not sitting around waiting for your ship to come in, being pro active. Be a go getter.

I do both at different times. In tai chi, in a fight, I would err on the taoist side and let things run their course. Sometimes you might have to make things happen by using a feint or other technique, but mostly you stay to the center and allow it to happen.

Balance is good and maybe different ocassions call for different approaches. A taoist its in his home and allows it to snow and allows the snow to melt. A go getter salts the pavement, gets out there and shovels, and maybe even makes some money shoveling for others.

You meet a pretty girl that you’d like to get to know. Do you allow things to happen or do you go and say hello and ask for her number?

You lose your job. Do you allow the next job to come into your life or do you apply to a lot of jobs and get out there and network and look?

I will say that the person sitting in the center, calm, quiet, at peace, is not just hanging out. He is prepared, skilled, aware, centered, so that when the opportunity comes, he is ready. The other extreme is being frustrated and trying to make it happen by banging your head against the wall.

I think perhaps the discussion becomes more of a symantic thing. Of course a zen or taoist practitioner acts, but it is without the emotions of the ego, without anger or greed or lust. He acts because it is the right thing to do at the right moment. This is wisdom.



  1. I like your direct approach to the subject of action vs. non-action. I still remember the day I was told relaxing didn’t mean going all limp noodle or ‘shutting down’ – but, as you say in your article, the (in)action of being aware, centered and prepared. I hadn’t relaxed a day in my life until I heard that! The gap is still closing between ‘off’ and centered. Great reminder, thank you.

  2. Studying and practicing taijiquan in the first place is making things happen. Allowing the practice of taijiquan to shape you is letting things happen.

  3. Im waiting

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