Reports from the Bunker

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The Tao of the Fourth Step (Wu Wei)

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Taoism teaches Wu Wei, which translates to non-action and this can lead for most of us to some confusion. Wu Wei is not the same as laziness or doing nothing. The Taoists classify “action” as any movement against “nature”, against the current and flow of the energy in a universe. Wu Wei, is about letting life happen, being yourself and is the essence of the Serenity Prayer, Accept the things I cannot change and the courage (love) to change the things that Ithat can”, Wu Wei, leads to harmony and serenity.

It seems to me that Wu Wei is the perfect contemplation for steps 3 and 4, in which you become willing and then identify all of the things in yourself and your life that keep you from being in harmony, from moving with Wu Wei, I have seen it called “You-Wie” somewhere. The Universe and the flow of life are to us as raging water is to peebles, though we may plant ourselves and fight against it, it will move us and break us.

I was talking with my newphew last night after our meeting, which had focused on step four, and also about a fight he had with my wife and I. He broke down and cried when he spoke to Kim about the fight, feeling hurt himself, guilty for having hurt her and who knows what else. He indicated that he hated showing emotion like that in front of people, indeed that he hated feeling it. It occurred to me that for many, if not all alcohilics, and certainly for me, one of the central problems we have is a aversion to strong emotions and to discomfort. This is not owned by the alcoholic, it is a cultural tendancy to hide from emotion. Discomfort, Sadness, Anger, Frustration, Love, Pity. We hide the external characteristics like tears, laughter, physical tension from other people. We too seldom discuss how we feel and perhaps worste of all we do all that we can to avoid feeling and processing it ourselves, within our own solitude. Much of our culture encourages this. For the alcohlic, this is poison, for everyone it is not Wu Wei. We are wired like this, to feel, to emote, to have viscerl emotional reactions to everything around and within us. Fighting this, can only lead to misery and self destruction.

I suppose the Wu Wei here lies not only in choosing to let the emotion process, to not hide from it and indeed to share it with others, but in being spiritually and emotionally fit to react to it in a positive Wu Wei way, but I will get back to you on that one.

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Written by jamesjanus

January 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm

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    February 6, 2012 at 10:00 pm


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