Wu Wei Revisited

The goal for wu wei (effortless action) is to get out of your own way. This is like when you are playing a musical instrument, in my case the shakuhachi, and if you start thinking about playing the instrument, then you will get in your own way and interfere with your own playing. It is aimless action, because if there was a goal that you need to aim at and hit, then you might and possible will develop anxiety about this goal.

A paradox about this is if you try to do wu wei you can’t. So what can be done? Nothing really! Is there anything that one can do to achieve effortless doing without having it as a goal? I honestly don’t know the answer but through my activities of officiating and playing the shakuhachi I am discovering a few pointers. They may be helpful to someone so I list them here. First, spend a few minutes in stillness and quietness. Yes, just like what we do when practicing the internal martial arts. Doing zhan zhuang first then the movements of qigong, yiquan and taijiquan. Movements are then much easier to perform. Before I start a song I’ll sit/stand and just hold the flute while looking at the music. I have found that this seems to allow for more efficient use of my breath. Along with the second lips or tongue funnel I can really fill the shakuhachi with lots of air. This also applies to my officiating as well. Breathing deep and allow the mind to catch up with the body.

I also seem to have the habit to tense when doing activities. The key here to only use enough tension to efficiently achieve results. In officiating, it looks like I am doing karate if I follow the impulses. I need to officiating into an internal arts practice. Same goes for holding the shakuhachi. Hands still if movement is needed only the head and very little. Just barely enough to achieve the correct pitch with good breath and accurate fingering of the holes. These ideas have actually be driven home in more than a few areas of life recently. It is best if I start listening. Just don’t be so tense.