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  • I take that phrase from Benjamin Hoff’s introduction to Taoism, called The Tao of Pooh. Much to my surprise, this little book is one of the most helpful and clear introductions to Taoism that I have found. According to the book, the Chinese word for Taoism in action is “Wu Wei.” He translates “Wu Wei” literally as “without doing, causing, or making,” and he paraphrases that as “without meddlesome, combative, or egotistical effort.” It’s like water flowing over rocks.

    “When we learn to work with our own inner nature, and with the natural laws operating around us, we reach the level of Wu Wei. Then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort. Since the natural world follows that principle, it does not make mistakes. Mistakes are made–or imagined–by man, the creature with the overloaded brain who separates himself from the supporting network of natural laws by interfering and trying too hard”.

    Like much of Taoism, this strikes our Western minds as paradoxical. How can action exist “without doing”? I've interfered with natural laws, I've tried too hard. I want to “work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort.” That’s what I see in almost all of the people I admire. Occasionally, but rarely, I see myself, feel myself do that. How can I learn to do this constantly? How can I work with my own inner nature and reach the level of apparent effortlessness that I see my masters achieve? I think the answer is in my brain, in my muscles, in my breathing, in my arms, in my shoulders, in my right hand, in my left hand, in my Spirit. Oh, is that all, my mocking inner voice asks.
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