Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wu Wei

You know, I've noticed I breathe very shallowly usually. The last two days, I wake up and notice how very deeply (and slowly) I'm breathing. Yet every other time during the day, I hardly seem to breathe at all. Really shallow, I don't understand it. I used to wonder if I have asthma, but really, I think I just need to work on consciously breathing deeper. Maybe I wouldn't always feel so tired if I did. Also, I notice I tend to clench my jaw a lot. And, I find that when I'm hungry, I'm often touching my lips. It's funny how little attention we pay to our bodies, which are there all along telling us about ourselves. If we'd only pause and take notice.

I mean, think about how much effort is wasted on tension; vast volumes of energy spent in rigidity. Instead of looking at things, we stare. Instead of being attentive, we try to pay attention. In both case, the only difference is the muscle tension. As if you could muscle your eyes into seeing, or your mind into recieving sensations. We only have so much energy at our disposal, and to put so much into wasted effort must take its toll. In the end, not only does it get in the way of these actions, but it is also all the while sapping our energy reserves. We come home, spent.

I remember trying to focus in school, to make myself pay attention. I'd get all tense in my neck, furrow my brow, and generally end up not really hearing the lecture, I was concentrating on concentrating. I always did far better by just doodling all class, relaxed, and letting the words come in passively. That's what sensing really is, after all; passive. The eye sees best when it doesn't get in its own way.

It's all very Zen, all very yin. It always makes me think of one of my favorite chapters in the Tao Te Ching, that little book of Taoism that holds so much wisdom.


We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

Making that void within yourself; relaxing yourself and stepping back and letting things flow, this is the meaning of the Chinese term wu wei, or not-doing. Take the lesson from your own senses: the eye is not a darkness, but neither is it light. It is a void, it makes a space within itself and the light comes in on it's own accord, according to its nature. The ear accepts passively the sound waves, because it waits; to get all tense by trying to hear would block hearing. Thoughts flow of their own accord into the mind, which is like a great void; try to force the thoughts and you'll grow confused and knotted up.

The body is always there, seeming to dangle from the neck, hanging forgotten from the mind. But it's always present with its lessons, and all we have to do is be present with it. Life flows. The body is still one with nature, with life, no matter where our minds have drifted off to. If we can tune in to that, and understand what it's saying to us, we can untie those knots a little bit. Maybe we'll find a lot more energy in our lives.

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