How Wu Wei Can Help Us Heal


The Taoist philosophical concept of Wu Wei is often, incorrectly, understood to mean the act of doing nothing. Wu Wei still needs us to do something. The key is around how much force we put into that action.

Alan Watts helps to clarify this with the following metaphor:
“Life is most skillfully lived when one sails a boat rather than rowing it. It’s more intelligent to sail than to row. With oars I have to use my muscles and my effort to drag myself along the water. But with a sail, I let the wind do the work for me.”

Rather than forcing situations, the concept of Wu Wei is more about working in harmony with the world. Going with the flow. Like sawing with, rather than against, the grain of the wood.

In both examples, action to move the boat and saw the wood is required, though one method (rowing and sawing against the grain) requires much more effort than the other to get the same outcome.

7 FREE eBooks

So how can we help our bodies to be in harmony with our surroundings? Because poor health can be seen as a demonstration of our body going against the natural flow of life.

The keywords are flow and non-resistance:

The Wu Wei Principle involves choosing not to follow any action that goes against the natural flow of nature. Similar to how a planet circles the Sun, and water flows down a stream, there is no control or force in the movement of a planet or water.

When we wish to recover for an illness, this is what we need to aim for with our bodies

We should choose to relax to allow and trust our body to do what it needs to do to heal.

Our body really wants to survive, it is their default position. However, sometimes we get in our way by trying to force it into specific outcomes.

The problem is that most of the time when people develop symptoms of an ailment, instead of seeking detoxification and cleansing the body to allow it to recuperate its balance, we usually rush into taking harmful medication and drugs.
Albert Amao – Nexus Magazine Vol. 28, No1

Now I am not saying ‘don’t use medication’, because you know your body and circumstances better than anyone. However, I would say that perhaps allowing your body to come into balance before a chemical intervention may be an additional option open to you.

To explore this option further let’s look at our bodies’ hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis.

The HPA axis is the system that actions our stressful fight or flight response to protect the outside of our body. For example, if we are chased by a tiger we either need to fight it or run away (flight).

Whereas, our immune system’s purpose is to protect the inside of our body.

Through evolution, our body decided that the outside HPA axis system trumps the immune system. It presupposes that there is no point in the immune system trying to protect the inside of the body if a tiger is about to kill us and destroy the outside.

It takes a lot of energy for us to run our immune system, for example, if recovering from the flu we are left lethargic and need to lie down, though, if a robber rushed into our house brandishing a knife. Our HPA axis would override our immune system to give us the energy to get away or protect ourselves. Once the threat has passed our immune system will reboot to continue its function.

It is almost the perfect collaboration of systems. However, ‘almost’ does not quite make it perfect because the Achilles heel of this union is stress.

The modern world has lots of pressures, the difference though is that these worries last much longer than the stress of being chased by a tiger. Meaning that in the modern world our HPA Axis is activated more often than it needs to be. For example, the stress of being made redundant has longer implications which include the lack of money, possibly losing the house and maybe even divorce.

This led Dr Bruce Lipton, in his book ‘Biology of Belief’ to share that “Every illness’s cause has been linked to stress”. All because the HPA Axis is trying to protect the outside of the body, not allowing our immune system to work at its full potential.

This reminds us to be kind to ourselves by getting out of our own way and surrendering to the trust that everything will work out for the best in the end.

Linking this back to Wu Wei and the benefits of sailing rather than rowing and sawing with the grain rather than against it. We can work with our immune system by reducing stressors and to make our life as simple as possible to give enable ourself the best chance of a full recovery from pain and illness. All by having an immune system that is naturally working at full capacity.

If you like this post you will also enjoy:

Further Reading:

Leave A Reply