It’s a central Taoist ideal that dates all the way back to Confucius. Wu-Wei is translated from Chinese as meaning “non-doing” or “non-action.” What it refers to is the achievement of such alignment with the world that one moves through it without needing to make a conscious effort to do so. It’s kind of like “going with the flow,” but set to 11. Its possessor lives a successful, productive life without friction as a result of being so in tune with the way the universe naturally operates that effortless action just happens.

On the face of it, it’s a paradox, of course: How do you move through the world without pushing yourself, or being pushed forward? Generally, just doing nothing means nothing gets done. And making an effort to achieve effortlessness doesn’t really make much sense.

According to expert on Chinese thought and cognitive science Edward Slingerland, there are a couple of ways to essentially sneak up on wu-wei without being caught trying.

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