Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wu Wei

I’ve been a busy lady lately. Actually, I’ve been two. One has been engaged in the many activities of a full 21st century life. The other has been working closely with my siblings to love our 93~year~old father through a rapid decline.

The latter has required several emails daily, numerous phone and conference calls, arranging for private duty aides whose hours quickly increased from 20 to 84 a week, and finally to the selection of a nursing home that best meets our father’s needs. As this option requires a move across two time zones, we now prepare Dad for a change difficult at any age. And we work diligently to make the transition smooth.

It’s been rather stressful. Sometimes, I’m a nut, caught in minutia or lying awake at night trying to anticipate every possible issue that could arise. Other times, I live in that sweet space between control and inactivity, between doing too much and not doing enough. It is then that I am aligned with wu wei.

Wu wei is a Taoist term that translates as “without action," though those words impart a false sense of passivity. If we did nothing, Dad would waste away in his apartment, or be forced to move suddenly when a crisis occurred and likely into a less~than~ideal setting.

No, we must act. Wu wei’s guidance is in how we do so. In a delightful primer on Taosim, The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff  writes that wu wei encourages us to act “without meddlesome, combative or egotistical effort, “ but rather, “from an inner sensitivity to the natural rhythm of things.”

I await the best moment to introduce the idea of nursing home care to my father, with his reaction eliciting my next response. While his voice is strong, we continue; when it weakens or becomes agitated, we talk about the weather.
Emails to his doctor, nurse or social worker pose an initial question, with further questions or our next steps arising naturally from their replies.
My sister responds to a call from the evening aide 15 minutes before her shift ends and, using a light touch from across the country, helps Dad navigate through anger and into bed.
My brother wends his way through airline regulations about portable oxygen concentrators and motorized wheelchair travel, each call or web search laying out his next hour’s tasks.

Sometimes we push and shove, frustrated as our to-do lists grow longer, or we feel helpless in the face of our father’s loss. Other times we are budding wu wei masters, allowing things to unfold in their own way, exerting a sparse and helpful pressure at just the right moment.

And we stand amazed and grateful as things fall into place, not always as we might have expected, but as is best. And we admire this man who learns and grows even now.
As we align ourselves with the innate rhythm of this process, we find ourselves participants in a kind of improvised ballet, our steps choreographed by life itself. There’s a music that flows beneath it all, helping us keep the beat, guiding us across the dance floor~~and often surprising and delighting us with moments of unexpected grace.
Wu wei is a practice with much to teach us. Another gift from this man who gave us life.

Namaste to you all!

Loanne Marie

For those who want to read a bit more about Taoism, click here for a website to get you started. 

And for a refreshing look at that great wu wei master known in the west as Winnie the Pooh, click here for the Tao of Pooh, a delightful little book that makes a lovely gift.

September 2nd~~For anyone who'd like a brief update on how my father's doing with the move, click here.