Over the last few years I’ve become more and more interested in taoist concepts and materials, especially the concept of Wu Wei (effortless action), and especially the Carol K Anthony commentary on the I Ching ‘A Guide to the I Ching’.
The concept of effortless action basically involves us developing a sensitivity to life and its / our natural flow – not forcing actions, but rather waiting for the right action to arise and then flowing with it.
Most of us will have heard of sports people taking about being ‘in the zone’, and most of us will have experienced a similar feeling in a creative activity where we lose track of time and the creative process of what we are engaged with seems to look after itself and simply ‘happen’. This is ‘effortless action’.
One of the hallmarks of effortless action is its capacity to create almost magical circumstances for our lives… far beyond what we might be able to plan or devise for ourselves under our own efforts. I’ve experienced two major examples in the last few years that have given me great confidence in this process.
The first major example was just over a year ago. Coming from a small, backwards town in the North of England, I’d always wanted to move to London. But, given my unwillingness to get a job and earn money, I couldn’t see how I could possibility live in London and do the kind of work I wanted to without working A LOT to earn enough. It seemed like an unachievable dream.
However, from nowhere, one day a friend who had done some volunteering with a charity said that the charity had acquired a building in London zone one and needed guardians to live in it… she’d been asked and was now asking me. So, for one year I lived in London for free! What is more, the charity allowed us to set up a food bank from the building, so not only did we get to help people, but we had access to the food we collected (from a large Sainsbury’s literally 20 metres away and NCGM literally a 5 minute drive away) so we could even eat for free. Plus we had car parking space at the front which we rented out, earning sometimes £100 per day to develop our project. For my first experience in allowing life to be the creative force for me, it was a stunning, almost magical example of what is possible.
After one year we lost our building. At first I couldn’t believe it. Everything fell apart and I ended up back at my parents for a few weeks. Then one day a friend travelling in Spain told me to come out and join her. Even though I had nowhere to stay and no reason to go, I ‘knew’ that I should. So, I booked a flight, figuring I could always sleep on the beach until something happened. Ten minutes after I booked my friend got a message saying we could go and live / work in an off-grid community in the Spanish mountains… relief! We got there and it was ok – not my thing, really, as everyone was drinking etc. but after a few days the owner said that he needed a house-sitter for the site between October and April, and all of a sudden I had a place where I could do a solitary meditation retreat in an incredible isolated location for six months, something I’d always dreamed of, but never knew how I could do it without earning a lot of money first. Amazing!
So, I’m two examples into this process now, and already I feel vindicated and greatly encouraged. I don’t know what the creative force is behind these circumstances, but it seems hard for me to believe that this is pure good fortune, rather than some design at some level behind the scenes, since the opportunities provided are so perfect and particular for me.
It’s a beautiful path to walk… but a difficult one too. It means letting go of my own plans, and my own ideas about how life should unfold. My plans are well intentioned, but, truth to be told, I don’t always know what is best for me, nor the timing of when things should happen, and, so, letting go and allowing the path to unfold for me by living moment to moment and having the courage and patience to wait is VITAL. I was very tempted when I found myself back at my parents (I’m 35) to force things to happen, and I did prod and poke at life a little, but I remained patient and from nowhere incredible circumstances suddenly occurred.
This is truly a moment to moment path. My focus is on looking after today and trusting that the future will unfold naturally and in accord with my highest potential and benefit, far beyond my small wishes and fears. It’s difficult, and requires surrender, but it really seems to work, and has transformed my life into one seeming incredible blessing after another.