When “grind” is a badge of honour of the conscientious, veracious striders forward, the mantra of overachievers who scourge the wick on both sides and view rest and recuperation as a waste of time, there is also something else there. Everything has its counterpart and the truth is mostly in the middle, at the line where yin and yang kiss, the squiggle which divides them. If something is not working it might very well be not due to the lack of trying but the lack of wisdom to know when to stop forcing and allow things to unravel, in the course they need to, at their own pace. There will be times in life when a certain amount of force will be necessary, but for the most part you’re wasting your energy in vane and fighting the natural flow. There is an internal logic to things and your time will be much better spent in striving to understand it and learn to work with the flow, than constantly swimming upstream. There is more than one way to get where you’re going and why do we presume we know exactly when something should happen in our limited knowledge.
The principle of not forcing is called Wu Wei. Wu means “no” or “non”, a negation and wei stands for “doing”, “making” or “forcing”. Wu Wei has been described in many ways but not forcing is one of the best explanations out there. Wu Wei doesn’t mean “do nothing”, as it was sometimes portrayed, it is not an excuse to be lazy or passive. It means there is a time to observe and a time to act. For example there is no point in forcing a relationship that just gets tedious and brings no one any benefits, there is no need to over exert yourself to defeat an opponent if you can study their movements, let them exert themselves and then apply minimal force when they are tired and off balance to tip them, no need to force a friend to see the mistake they keep repeating if they are not ready to see it yet, no need to plant things in winter… It’s often better to do nothing than to meddle within something where you don’t fully understand all of the relationships, implications and the structure, just as it is better to stay silent if you don’t have anything constructive to add to a discussion.
We Wei is based in knowledge, wisdom and intelligence. It’s an art of sailing and listening to the wind rather than the act of rowing – as Alan Watts put it. Wu Wei itself is also not to be forced, you cannot go out of your way and try to be still and not act when action is unnecessary or contra productive. In such a way the principle would be defeated by forcing it once again. It’s a letting go. Things will tell you what needs to be done and when it needs to be done if you just get very still and quiet to be able to hear them, if you resist the temptation to label, mark and catalogue everything around you. Kids know how to employ Wu Wei. They came here with this. Not that social layer on them where they throw a tantrum in the middle of the store because they want candy. Look at the kid play; observe the kid observing something else. It will have the time of its life just following a ladybug around and will not interfere, it is trying to understand the bug, just watching and soaking in.
Give things space. Space matters and allows matter to be. Without space matter wouldn’t have anything to move through. Step back from the things you’re forcing because with some mental and/or physical space between you see better. There is wisdom in not forcing things. All will unfold sooner or later in a way it will unfold and this tautology is equally consoling as it is scary. When you notice you’re forcing the key to turn and it won’t just stop forcing and jiggle for a bit. It just might unlock when everything sits in its proper place.