Finding the way of WU-WEI

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Exquisite photo by sister Beth effects sense of peaceful wu wei, Letting Things Be…

It seems almost sacrilegious to move to wine country, and not imbibe, but alcoholic bevs don’t sit well with me, so I find other ways to enjoy, relax and unwind, and to experience the good life. Taking time for myself though, sometimes still conjures up guilt for supposed selfish, self-indulgence. Or else I worry that taking time to chill or meditate means my productivity will suffer. Heaven forbid, lol! Of course, real world experience proves that nourishing ourselves with time outs from do-and-go mode is essential to well-being.

In Liz Gilbert’s best-selling book, “Eat, Pray, Love,” her Italian tutor counsels her to slow down and discover “dolce fa niente,” the “sweet, doing nothing” of just being present as our lives unfold. He echoes Taoist scholar Lao Tzu in his infamous Tao Te Ching, who speaks of wu wei [woo-way], the ancient art of non-doing, of going with the flow: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

Many friends turn to a glass of chardonnay to help capture that feeling. While I’m best with other means, after working all week, plus gardening, raking leaves, answering emails, exercising, shopping and preparing food, I am so ready to do nothing else, nada, niente! Neither unwinding on demand, or wu wei-ing are always my go-to capability, but I practice daily. I know our bodies aren’t designed for constant movement, or our minds to be perpetually stimulated with information. Our nervous systems suffer from being on alert all day long — the onslaught of commitments, scary news alerts, “buy me now!” ads, friends’ texts. It’s ‘just too much!’ Not enough down time, ‘solo mio’ time to re-ground, center, be, gently daydream.

Individual tolerance levels vary. So do needs for stimulation and rest. Age, genetics and lifestyle factor in, as do lifelong habit patterns for handling stress: our ability (and skill) to calm, ‘self-regulate.’ Knowing and respecting our true needs is an especial challenge, since our society overvalues being productive, on the go, continually stimulated or entertained — values that even our youth can’t healthily sustain. Sadly, traumatization from stressors is rampant. Cultivating mindful awareness of your body, mind, and emotional reactions to what’s happening throughout your day, is crucial. Even making minute, frequent adjustments is life-giving. Notice your stress signals, pause, take a breath or two. Observe how your focus was making you uncomfortable, tired, angry, guilty or nervous. Catch a related thought: “There’s not enough time!” “I can’t let them down!” “I’m not smart enough!” Let such negative thoughts pass by — like clouds in your mind-sky. Now you can choose a sweeter next step, a fresher perspective, and have more energy!

Practicing a wu wei way doses the dis-eases of being too busy and harboring pressured thoughts, with kindness. Cultivating presence, our monkey-minds are calmed. We can choose sweeter thoughts, focus on tasks at hand in gentler ways. The habit of resting in our breathing helps renew body and spirit, inspiring hope, creativity and enthusiasm. Slowing down might mean sipping a glass of merlot with a special someone. I personally love a walkabout in nature, or a relaxing herbal tea, among many naturally healing ways to Be Here Now. Each shift begins with noticing sensations of rushing and tiring, and then breathing and choosing to explore the sweet doing-nothing-more-ness of the moment, what meditation masters call “the art of non-doing.” How lovely and refreshing to experience being part of the flow of Life’s current, without effort, enjoying the ride downstream. Shining deLight, Marcia

For a wu wei feel today, brew an herbal tea?

INGREDIENTS: These five plants are excellent for relaxing you from head to toe: Chamomile, lavender, ashwagandha, valerian, passionflower, lemon balm. Take care if adding cannabis or kava: a teeny bit goes a very long way! If you’re new to making your own elixers, start with a weaker, not-so-potent brew. If using tinctures, try adding a mild 2–3 drops per herb, per cup of water. With powders, begin with ½ a capsule or tablet. Got fresh or dried leaves or flowers from the garden? Start with a pinch of each herb: maybe ½ tsp for dried, a bit more if fresh. Try a single herb at a time, or combinations. BREWING: Put 8 ounces of H2O into a pot; add herbs and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, steeping your herbs for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, steep another 5 minutes. Do a taste test: Your body will say, “Yay!” or “Nay!” Too weak? Add a drop. Too Strong? Dilute with more water. Sweetener? A little inulin (prebiotic too), stevia, local honey? Happy brewing, XOMarcia

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Marcia Singer, LoveArts Foundation

Seven decades of exploring the Inner Life, writing down the bones. Careers: singer-entertainer, tantric-shamanic healing artist; mindfulness/shakti educator