Spring on the River — Oconaluftee River, Cherokee, NC, April, 2008
When Yoda says, “Try? Do or do not! There is no try!” he is speaking for all those who know and have known through the ages.
The foundational principle of Taoism and Zen is “wu wei,” the act of not acting with intention, determination, persistence and zeal—in other words, with the spirit of the dominant culture of every culture that has ever existed, or will exist.
"Wu wei" is what happens when an athlete is "in the zone." She is not thinking, not planning, not scheming, not desiring, not trying. She is doing—what needs to be done, exactly when and how it needs to be done, without thinking about it or trying to execute what she thinks needs to happen. She is simply doing what needs to be done, with the gifts, skills and ability she has honed with practice and preparation.
It’s what a cook does without consulting a recipe book, yet producing a wonderful dish, because he knows cooking and simply does what the dish he is serving, and is about to serve, needs to have done.
It is what the servant, at one with the master’s will, does in compliance with the master’s wishes, when and how it needs to be done, because he knows the master.
What do you know so well that you do without thinking about it? Without trying to do it? Driving to work. Tying your shoes. Brushing your teeth. The list is long.
When you first learned to drive, you had to think about it. You were practicing driving. Now you drive without thinking about what you are doing. You make turns, take curves, and park without the jitters and tension of not-knowing how it’s done. You do it.
The art of “wu wei” comes from practicing the art of “wu wei” — the art of reading the moment and supplying what it needs — until we don’t have to think about what we are doing, we trust ourselves to respond to the moment out of our knowledge/experience of what is happening and what needs to happen, so that we flow like the stream meeting an obstacle, be it a boulder, a tree, or a cow, and making the necessary adjustments and flowing on.
This is the art of mindful attention—not anxious attention, not fearful attention, not angry, forceful attention, but loving, compassionate attention. Seeing into the heart of things, knowing how things are and what that means for you, the stream, in the moment of your living.
This is our practice: To see things as they are and to respond appropriately in ways that are fitting to the occasion.
No doctrine. No dogma. No theology. No ideology. No trying. Just seeing/doing and dancing with the moments of our living.