Go with the flow

Tapping into the flow of life. By James Adams

Effortless action will flow like the current of a stream when it begins to align with the natural order of the universe.

The ancient Taoists believe that there is an unspeakable, undefinable force that dictates how the universe behaves: how the wind blows, which direction rivers flow, how tall the grass grows and even how your own life decisions play out.

Taoists refer to this mystical force as the Tao.

For all Star Wars fanatics out there, ‘the force’ is described as a metaphysical, all-encompassing energy field that connects every living thing. Maybe George Lucus himself was inspired by the Tao.

Beyond this abstract definition, the Tao cannot actually be conceptualised using words — according to Taoists. To do so would take away its true essence, which is far too complex and intricate to be described using our limited human vocabulary.

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao (Tao Te Ching – Verse 1)

Nevertheless, Taoists believe that tuning into the flow of the Tao allows our actions to become natural and free. They require less effort. On the other hand, if we move against the flow of the Tao, our actions feel less natural and forced.

So how does one know which direction the Tao is flowing? We cannot see it, no, but we can sense its presence in every single thing – if we are mindful enough.

I use the following as a general rule of thumb to sense how the Tao is flowing:

Does the action feel natural or forced? Does it disrupt the earth’s ecosystem, or even my own?

If I put lots of effort into something with very little signs of progress, I deduce that I am going against the Tao.

If I do something that causes harm to the earth in some way, I deduce that I am going against the Tao.

If I do something that harms my own mind, body or spirit, I deduce that I am going against the Tao.

One would not attempt to swim against the tide, would they? No matter how much effort is exerted, the tide is just far too powerful. Swimming with the tide requires minimal effort, yet all is accomplished.

Swimming with the tide is aligning with the Tao.

Taoists refer to aligning with the Tao as Wu-Wei.

To flow with the Tao is to achieve Wu-Wei.

Some of my own life decisions have helped me to experience Wu-Wei in full action. There have been so many instances when my actions just didn’t feel right. They felt forced, unnatural, and unmovable despite devoting so much time and effort. Some of my actions have even brought pain and suffering that could easily have been avoided – all because they were against Wu-Wei.

Ever tried to do something over and over again without any sign of progress? Maybe you are going against Wu-Wei.

Would you say that fizzy drinks and junk food align with the natural order of Wu-Wei? How about water?

Using my own intuition, I’ve listed some actions that I believe go against Wu-Wei:

Attempting to work when you feel really sick.

Brushing a dog’s fur the opposite way.

Playing sport with a broken bone.

Trying to stick two magnets with the same poles together.

And here are some examples of achieving Wu-Wei:

Taking time off work when you feel really sick.

Brushing a dog’s fur the correct way.

Allowing a broken bone to heal before playing sport again.

Sticking two magnets with opposite poles together.

There are so many more examples that can be listed. Maybe you can have some fun creating your own list.

Over time, your intuition will help you to understand how and when Wu-Wei is playing out in your own life. That way, every decision can flow graciously — flow with life, flow with the Tao.

James Adams

Student of life