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.


Anonymous said...

I feel for you at this time of transition. Please take care of you, too.

carol said...

Loanne, you make the whole process sound so stately and meditative and lovely. You make me want to go through it all over again just so I can experience it this way! Love and peace to you. The next while will need your special skills.
Love, C

Loanne Marie said...

Thanks to you both. I think our family's current transition is one many can identify with, either from a similar experience, tho the specifics might be different, or anticipation of future scenarios. And Anonymous is absolutely right that taking care of ourselves is especially important during these times.

Which brings me back to wu wei. I know of no better approach for good self-care. During these last few months, the difficult times have primarily been when I was trying to force what wasn't gonna be. Sensing and flowing with keeps me unbloodied or, if a wound occurs, helps it heal and close up with nary a scar at all.

As always, thanks for reading and for writing!

Marilyn said...

Loanne, you have given me so much to think about--especially in regard to parenting. I tend to be a micro-manager as a mom, and I'm trying really hard to stand back. Now I have a new way of thinking about this--I can respect my daughters' rhythms (quite different from my own) and perhaps trust that they can find their own way--if I give them enough room! Thank you--and best wishes with your dear dad's move.

Loanne Marie said...

This brought tears to my eyes, Marilyn. While I've been so consumed with being a daughter, never did it occur to me that my experience would be relevant to being a parent OF a daughter. The tears were of the WOW~we're~all~really~the~same~tho~ our~outer~experiences~may~look~different variety. One Consciousness growing conscious.

Thank YOU for reading and for sharing. And I'll be welcoming all positive mojo on move day~~this Thursday the 15th~~making it a smooth transition.

monica wood said...

My God, Loanne. You astonish me. Wu wei has got to be eight million times easier said than done. Please post your follow up, and my love to your family. oxoxoxo

Loanne Marie said...

Yes, wu wei is WAY easier in theory than in practice, but most of us have moved into situations aware that our only hope was to trust in a greater harmony and align with it. Things are sometimes just too big or too complex for us to keep hold of the delusion that we can figure it out with our wee brains or force the situation to conform to our expectations. This was one of those times for my family. Our only hope was to trust the flow and to allow it to guide us. And guide us it did, for which I am immensely grateful.

I don't know if folks are still reading (most of the reading occurs within the first few days of posting), but I'd love to hear other experiences with wu wei, even if the term was unfamiliar. Monica, you certainly have a tale or two. Do share!

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Leia Marie