Wu Wei – Three Things I’ve Learned about Letting Go

What the Wu Wei?? Years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Wu Wei while she was training for an Ironman. She referred me to a book called Thinking Body, Dancing Mind – TaoSports for Extraordinary Performance in Athletics, Business and Life by Chungliang Al Huang and Jerry Lynch.

Wu Wei is a Taoism and roughly translates into effortless action. In Thinking Body, Dancing Mind the authors describe it as “…nonforced, nonviolent flow. It implies action with a sense of yielding.”

The idea is not complete inaction or stopping, rather a letting go of forcing something and allowing the movement to be as it needs to be; more effortless, natural and energetic. The concept of Wu Wei resonated with me immediately.

For me it was like when I’m riding my mountain bike and I’m struggling to ride something technical or more challenging or just generally having a tougher day on the bike. I’d tighten my grip on the handlebars, get frustrated and try to force my riding. The result would be tense shoulders, white knuckles, unflattering grimace, inevitably getting bucked off the bike, followed by a slew of curse words. Hmm, fun.

So, I started using Wu Wei as a mantra in my life. I’ve used it in sports and activities, in serious injuries, in work and in relationships. I have to say, in many ways, it has been transformational for me. Why you ask? Well, here are 3 Things I’ve Learned about Wu Wei

  • Loosen the Grip. What I push against, pushes back. When I’m riding and find myself trying to force something or I’m getting frustrated, it just gets worse. My body seizes, I stop having fun, and the more I push, the harder it is. It is like when I push, my bike pushes back. Now, when this starts to happen, I will silently repeat Wu Wei and release my grip on the handlebars, allow my shoulders to relax and ease into the bike ride. I’m not stopping. There is still movement, however, the action is more easeful. I allow for whatever flow needs to happen. Some days that means I’m killing it like a rock star on the bike and others it’s just a slower, mindful, quieter ride.
  • Let that shit go. This was my biggest lesson with Wu Wei. I translated it to Let it Go. Stuff is going to happen, but I’m not going to force it or create a bunch of drama with it. When I find myself getting really worked up about something – especially if it is out of the scope of my control – I encourage myself to let it go. This has been an amazingly powerful strategy for me in life. I’m a fixer and a pleaser. Learning to let stuff go has helped me focus on the more important stuff, not get all wound up and to allow that shit to roll off my back.
  • I have found using Wu Wei as a mantra in all aspects of my life has helped me surrender. Not surrender as “arms-in-the-air-giving-up”, rather an acceptance as to what is. Life will happen. I will have control over a few things and absolutely no damn control over most other things. Surrendering to what is and doing my best to work through whatever life throws at me. I got this.

Effortless action. Letting go. Surrendering.


When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. ~ Lao Tzu

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