Have you ever watched a performance by a dancer, or an actor, and noticed that the performance was forced, you could tell that the artist wasn’t in the zone? It seems rigid, artificial, unnatural, there was no flow, life, nor enjoyment in his or her work. You knew immediately that the performer wasn’t feeling it.
Have you ever observed a relationship that seemed stiff, forced, controlled? Neither person is truly feeling it, but both are in it because being bound to someone feels safer than not being bound to anyone at all. Both feel secure, as there is no possibility of surprise, disappointment, misbehavior, nor breakup. Each partner knows what is expected, and each conforms to the rules, so their boat never rocks. They exist in unison, even their opinions are in general agreement, how could one diverge from what they have previously agreed on?
I have been reading a lot about Taoism, and like the concept of “Wu Wei”, which is the principle of “No Force” or “Not Forcing” anything in life. Pushing, management, control, rigid rules, persistence, stubbornness are all variations of force that kill any relationship, and obstruct its flow. The minute we start imposing on other’s free will, we start choking off the relationship.
Wu Wei does not mean that we should always be passive. There is a time for action, and the time for using muscle or slight force. When the current is right, gently tap an object or situation into flow. Think of Wu Wei as the art of sailing, and adjusting the sails, to catch the wind.
The concept is as easy as I describe. Life is all about flow. Whatever you have, you want to enjoy. You will find flow in the most mundane activities if you enjoy the current, rather than micromanage you vessel and float against it. Sure, it’s possible to sail upstream, but you’d be forcing life, and life happens anyway.
Our most difficult relationships are the ones we are trying to manage. ‘He won’t give me this, she won’t do that, I don’t think you should say such and such.’ The more we try to adjust the behavior of others, the more obstructions we put in font of them. If they are smart, guess where they will go? They will float to someone else who doesn’t surround them with obstacles. And they should. Good love feels like freedom.
Make a list of your most frustrating relationships, and think objectively. Who is controlling whom? Who is placing the biggest demands, who is paddling against the current, who is boxing you into their own little world, who is not flowing anywhere? The most stubborn people are paddling upstream, getting nowhere. Let them be.
How to handle people who are pushing your buttons, tying you to an anchor, refusing to let you flow? Put your hands in the air, let go of your need to be right, suspend your need to correct them, cut the cord and flow away. You can’t lose them. Trust me, they will come looking for you anyway. This sounds difficult, because we are used to reacting to whatever people say, or put in our way. But, non-reaction (another powerful technique) allows us to not absorb their wrath, to not be jailed by their words or demands., so that we can flow away. We free ourselves by not forcing our will upon theirs, but by detaching and flowing our way. This is much easier than you think, because when you are flowing, nothing they do or say can force you into their situation.
Want beautiful friendships? Allow people into your life, and never stop them from flowing out. Don’t even ask. Make yourself enjoyable. If you learn to enjoy your own company, others will enjoy it too. Make your life beautiful, and people will revel in whatever you do.
If a relationship feels stiff, forced, and it requires your compliance, how much do you enjoy it? Rather than cut people off, practice flowing away, not by rejecting, but by flowing towards people whose company you really love. By doing this I realized that I sometimes prefer the company of strangers, or more superficial acquaintances, even people I meet halfway around the world, than in the company of old friends who are always paddling against the current. By being willing to let go and flow, I may have lost 3 old friends I was bound to, but gained over 40 new ones who are also flowing at my speed.
Never tie people down. We feel sorry for that elephant whose leg is chained to a tree stump and we call that cruel, but that poor chump you are dating, who has to be home before midnight or face your wrath, a “good man”. If you feel like you have to catch men, negotiate terms of relationships, box people into your life, bind them with a contract, you feel wrong to people. Some men will let you force them, but trust me you are merely getting a reluctant participant in your life. How would you enjoy that reluctant participant?
What do you really want? Aren’t you in this world, to laugh, love, enjoy, feel, experience, bliss, flow, thrill? Isn’t life beautiful when you can do that? Why not gift people in your life with the ability to be thrilled in your presence? Why not just let them be, encourage them to flow, inspire them to try something new on their own?
Practice Wu Wei in your daily life. Practice not forcing things at work, merely enjoying the flow. When you come across obstacles, put your hands in the air and let them float around you. Apply a gentle tap only when you need to reorient or find a better current.
I tried this in the last few relationships I had. Here is what happened. One guy was impossible to deal with, threw every punch straight at my heart. Rather than tackle him head on, I threw my hands in the air and at first it looked like I was about to let him do whatever he wants. As I stood there, detached, flowing while he was making threats against me in a public place, and as I enjoyed my peaceful flow, he all of a sudden became self-conscious. Imagine being the only one fighting and no one is fighting you back. The girl you are trying to put down is actually enjoying herself, standing taller, unaware that you are powerful at all. How stupid did he look, red and angry as a bull, while I busy flowing? His fists was punching my wind. That’s flow. When he realized how stupid he looked, he started crying. Yes, a 6’5”, 220 pounder was crying like a baby, begging for forgiveness. Wu Wei quickly and easily allowed me to stay composed, and flow toward somebody much more enjoyable. You don’t have to clash with people, you just have to flow out of that experience.
Wu Wei, no force, or non-resistance is surprisingly easy to learn. When someone starts pushing obstacles in front of me, I simply let them. They get no reaction from me, I detach, and tune into myself. You’d be surprised by how quickly people stop threatening, conspiring, forcing anything when they see how ineffective they are in their own situation.
Relationships have become easier, not because I have some powerful technique to manipulate people with, and you should never think of this as a tool to prod others. I believe that control and manipulation are immoral, and a sign of low consciousness. It is stooping to an ultimate low to get others to act in your interest.
However, relationships are easier because they feel lighter, less bound by rules. Rather than negotiate terms of a relationship with someone whose flow is rigid, or someone who is anchored, I easily flow away from them, and toward someone who feels better to me. I stay for longer periods of time because we are more likely to be in sync, going in the same direction.
Wouldn’t you rather be with people whose presence feels awesome? This question applies to all areas of your life. Wouldn’t you rather work with people who are as free and as non-resistant as you? Or would you rather tie yourself down to someone who is stubborn, occupying your time, making lists of things you should be doing, negotiating how you feel, and deciding when you should commit? They have a whistle, a clipboard and a deadline, and you are not progressing at the pace that suits them. How does that kind of relationship feel?
Wu wei is a concept of Taoism that means “inexertion”, “inaction”, or “effortless action”. It is not about being passive, but about bending with the wind, taking gentle action to adjust our sails. It is about being in alignment with nature, our external world, as well as our inner world and physical bodies. Everything in this world flows in cycles, there’s a natural ebb and flow, and the way to enjoy every moment is to effortlessly surrender to that flow.
Let people flow toward whatever suits them, and they will appreciate you more. All your friendships and relationships will feel healthier if you find your own flow, and catch your own current.