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Wu Wei: The Art of Non-Action

Angeli Sivaraman
Angeli Sivaraman
3 min read
Wu Wei: The Art of Non-Action
Photo Cred: Angeli Sivaraman (myself); Half Moon Bay, CA

Table of Contents

This post comes after a new moon, which is a time for rest, reflection, and setting new intentions and manifestations. They say the new moon is where we need more sleep and time to recharge, versus the full moon where we require less sleep and feel more energized. So in the spirit of the new moon that just occurred April 1st 2022, let’s talk about Wu Wei.

In Taoist philosophy, Wu Wei is the art of non-action or non-doing. At first glance, it may sound like dropping everything and doing nothing. And believe it or not, sometimes that might be the best approach. But the idea is that you surrender to the flow of life, and respond back at the appropriate opportunity with of an a level of profound presence, concentration, and focus - kind of like being in "the zone". A form of effortless action. Instead of forcing things to occur at inopportune times, you are simply allowing and then going with the flow.

Wu Wei is written about in ancient texts, such as the Tao Te Ching. It’s basically describing surrender. In doing so, we save our energy for the appropriate moments of when to act. The end result being high efficiency and conservation of energy. Sounds nice, right? Easier said than done.

I’m learning to become a mindfulness instructor, and one of the things I learned about is reaction versus response. When we react, we take in a stimuli and react in a sort of “knee jerk” fashion, perhaps "unconsciously" so to speak.  When we respond, we take in a stimuli, mindfully pause to experience and process it, then make our decision on how we would like to respond and proceed in that manner. This usually culminates in a calmer and more centered response.

When we realize the downstream effects of our actions start with how we respond to things, we may start to choose conscious over unconscious responding.

Wu Wei is all about this. When we consciously respond, we open ourselves up to creative Source energy and tap into some ingenious solutions. We save energy by not having to “do” all the time,  (an ego concept), and we are responding in a more meaningful way. Additionally, we are are celebrating the spirit of the task with a mindful presence.

Instead of trying to fight our way upstream, we ride the currents of life in our boat, letting go of the paddles and simply allowing life to carry us. We are in tune with the rhythms of the universe as a conscious way of living.

Think about it - why try to work harder and fight ourselves and burn out trying to control things when we can conserve energy and respond efficiently? There’s no need to fight, we can simply allow and flow.

We are taught to hit all the numbers and be the most productive at work (or home, family, school, etc), even on our most off days. But we can’t and don’t control everything. We want to believe that we do, but it’s simply not true. There are many forces outside of our reach thay have an impact on our day-to-day (take the moon, the seasons, the weather, as a few examples). Our bodies tell us what we need, and we just have to listen and respond appropriately.

The best things happen when we let go and surrender. Life finds us, and it’s pretty amazing.

So where do you think you could cultivate a little more surrender? A little more Wu Wei perhaps?

Hope everyone has a great week!


Quote: “Doing nothing can sometimes be the most effective form of action” — Kevin Kwan (Crazy Rich Asians)


  1. Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching / [translated by Dr. John C.H. Wu; edited by Paul K.T. Sih]. New York: St. John's University Press, 1961.
  2. Wu Wei. School of Life. Accessed: March 31, 2022.
Wu weiArt of non-actionNon-action

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Angeli Sivaraman is a spiritualist, meditator, nature junkie, and dog mom. She is the creator of Sage Elephant, a blog about spirituality and wellness. She can be reached by email!