As we progress through the process of ascension, several stages occur. Among them is a shake-up which inspires an initial awakening, then the full realization of truth, followed by the development of discernment to ascertain a correct course of action. We wouldn’t try to ride a bicycle before building one, nor would we attempt to sail an ocean without a boat. When things get challenging in life, we can check to see if we are practicing Wu Wei in order to refine our actions. This is the art of effortless action as described in Taoist teachings.

1. No Action Doesn’t Mean ‘Nothing’ Happens

The Tao does nothing and yet nothing is left undone.” – Lao Tzu

Wu Wei or 無為, translates from Chinese pinyin to mean “no-action” or “actionless action.” This is considered the ‘natural’ way to do things, as opposed to striving, opposing, and forcing, as well as lollygagging, or succumbing to complete inertia. When we are in alignment with the Source, or as Taoists call it, simply, the Tao, then we don’t have to ‘work’ at anything. This is not to be confused with doing nothing. The state of Wu Wei doesn’t give us an excuse to sit on the sidelines, observing life and critiquing others’ actions. Instead, it describes the inspired action of a person who is brimming with life energy, and that has dedicated their actions to a purpose which supports Oneness. This person does not waste energy, though, and moves only when the time is right, and then, with magnificent acumen, and seemingly magical support behind them.

The ancient ideograms and symbols used in the Chinese language and culture offer the most simplistic way to describe Wu Wei. We can observe this is the simple Yin Yang symbol. One side is active, or masculine, representing the energy of extending oneself into the world, and the other side of the symbol is passive, or more accurately, receiving, or feminine energy that causes an inward journey.

All Chinese medicine, martial, and internal arts from Tai Chi to acupuncture to meditation aim to help balance the masculine and feminine energies, the doing and ‘not-doing’ you might say, as a way to achieve Wu Wei.

2. The Cosmos is Not Working Against You

We aren’t sandwiched between heaven and earth, we ARE heaven and earth. To practice Wu Wei, we must first realize that we are connected to the Oneness of all things. Though we should have clear boundaries, like children given free rein to run and play within the confines of a beautiful park, we also should remain open to vulnerability and the lessons this may teach. Once we are open and protected we can begin to observe nature and embrace universal energy as it ebbs and flows. From there, we learn when to move with that energy – ebbing and flowing with our own actions in accordance with the Oneness of all things. An immense sense of freedom comes from knowing we don’t have to fight against the Cosmos, and understanding that it is never working against us – only we can choose to work against it’s flow.

3. Physical Action Isn’t the Only Action

Another principle of Wu Wei involves quieting the ever-busy mind. Even if we aren’t ‘doing’ anything physically, often our minds are busier than ever. Wu wei means that we not only quiet the body and its actions, but that we aim to quiet the mind. Otherwise, we will have no idea if we are in Universal flow, or simply acting ‘busy’ out of the needs of the ‘ego,’ we so obsessively align ourselves with.

Even with our meditation practice, we are encouraged not to ‘try too hard.’ Perhaps you’ve seen a mind game that has been installed at several museums around the U.S.. Two people sit across from one another, and attach headbands equipped with electrodes to themselves. Between the players are a group of balls that can only be moved with the brain’s waves, measured as electromagnetic currents through the headband. If a player maintains a state of relaxed calm, essentially a combination of alpha and theta waves produced by the brain when it’s relaxed, then a ball moves up a tube and is placed in a bin. The player with the most ‘balls,’ wins after a certain period of time commences. Those who try too hard, fail, as do those who don’t try hard enough. The combination of alpha and theta waves created by a Wu wei mind is what wins the game every time.

Lao Tzu advises that we must be quiet and watchful, learning to listen to both our own inner voices and to the voices of our environment in a non-interfering, receptive manner. This requires a calm, but astute mind.

4. Being at One with the Tao Means Accepting Change

A key principal in Taoism, and the practice of Wu Wei involves the realization that there is an unceasing flow of change in nature. This change is governed by laws which are unalterable, and rarely perceived except by the most consciously evolved individuals. Fighting these laws of change would be a sisyphean task. Would you try to to stop the changing of the season or the rise and fall of the sun to the horizon? Once you observe this flow of change in nature, you can apply principles of Wu wei to your own transformation. Since you are a part and parcel of nature, you will change accordingly. Why not move with that change instead of fight against it – perhaps you can even welcome change the next time it arrives at your doorstep.

5. True Wu Wei Involves Purposeless Wandering

Zhuangzi refers to a type of being in the world that many of us have never considered. He calls it flowing, or more poetically “purposeless wandering.” Most of our cultural values frown upon this type of being. If we have ‘no purpose’ we are often deemed pathological in the context of modern day living. Yet, it would be difficult to maintain that our current values have promoted harmony and balance, either environmentally or for each individual.

In Zhuangzi’s Basic Writings, he states, “ you can use the analogy of an artist or craftsman. The skilled woodcarver, the skilled swimmer… does not ponder or ratiocinate on the course of action he should take; his skill has become so much a part of him that he merely acts instinctively and spontaneously, without knowing why, and achieves success.” He further describes an enlightened person as being one who wanders through creation enjoying its delights without ever becoming attached to any one part of it.

This article was originally appeared at The Mind Unleashed.

About the author

Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and *See the Big Picture*. Her blog is Yoga for the New World . Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing The Body And Mind Through The Art Of Yoga.

In this cool infographic there’s a list of nine hobbies that will keep you neurologically stimulated and mentally healthy.

Finding time for yourself can be nearly impossible sometimes.

Balancing your professional, social, and family life probably leave you feeling the need just to collapse from exhaustion at the end of the day.

Trying to find the time to keep your mind sharp amid all the chaos while also trying to maintain your personal sanity is a difficult balance to strike.

This is especially true if your free time comes in small increments throughout the day. It can sometimes feel as though you have to choose between making yourself smarter and making yourself happier.

Lucky for you, research shows that several hobbies have the potential to ‘kill two birds with one stone’.

Take reading for example (the activity you are doing RIGHT NOW). Reading is perhaps the most obvious example of a hobby that can be both relaxing and mentally beneficial.

A study published in the Neurology Journal regarding cognitive aging and cognitive activity concluded:

More frequent cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline that is independent of common neuropathologic conditions…

So essentially, the more you use your brain, the less you lose it later in life.

Thankfully, hobbies like reading and writing have never been easier to do no matter where you are.

Between e-books, magazine articles, news feeds, and blogs there is never a shortage of content for you to choose.

If you have a few minutes where you are stuck waiting in a line, you can pull out your phone and begin reading while you wait.

Choosing a hobby that expands your intellect while also providing you with a much-needed leisure activity maximizes the limited time you have available.

The folks at Smarter Hobby created the infographic below which is a list of nine hobbies that will help keep you neurologically stimulated and mentally healthy.

Whatever your preferences are, it is important that you choose an activity that you both enjoy and fits into your hectic life.

An infographic with hobbies that can make you smarter

Well, what hobbies you pick? Let us know in the comments!

Where does fatigue come from?

It doesn’t come from the body. Even when people exercise to exhaustion, studies have shown that there is fuel left in the tank – one found there was enough energy left in muscle tissue for participants to have kept going for another seven or eight minutes. The brain puts the brakes on, stepping in to stop us from over-exerting and injuring ourselves long before we reach our actual limits.

According to the latest research, our physical endurance is determined by our “perception of effort” – how much work the brain thinks that the body has done. But the brain can be tricked. In Brazil, a group of scientists improved power output in cyclists by 10% by running a small electric current through the brain. Elsewhere, it has been shown that giving athletes incorrect information about the temperature can help them maintain their performance in hot conditions, and that lying to them about their split times can help them break personal bests.

In one study, Professor Samuele Marcora and colleagues asked people to pedal an exercise bike at a fixed pace for as long as possible. Unbeknown to the participants, a screen in front of them was flashing up subliminal images for 1/16th of a second at a time. Cyclists flashed images of sad faces rode for 22 minutes and 22 seconds on average. Those shown happy faces reported less perceived exertion, and rode for three minutes longer. Marcora now wants to develop a pair of goggles that could flash up this kind of image at athletes while they are out training.

Forcing ourselves to keep going also means ignoring all the signals from our body telling us to stop. This “response inhibition” is very mentally taxing, and it causes a substance called adenosine to build up in the brain. Adenosine is associated with the feeling of mental fatigue – it builds up when people run marathons or work on boring spreadsheets, or if they haven’t had enough sleep. Adenosine increases perception of effort. It is the enemy of endurance.

Mo Farah drinks a couple of espressos before a race, to reduce mental fatigue.

Caffeine blocks adenosine. This is why Mo Farah drinks a couple of espressos before a race, and why caffeine pills and gum have become an essential part of the long-distance runner’s pre-race preparation. You can also train your brain, by doing monotonous response- inhibition tasks before or during exercise. In the short term, this will make your performance worse, but in the long run your brain will learn to produce less adenosine, which will reduce perception of effort and increase endurance.

In one study, Marcora asked two groups of soldiers to do a time-to-exhaustion test, where they were asked to ride at a fixed percentage of their maximum until they couldn’t any more. After 12 weeks of training the control group’s time-to-exhaustion had improved by 42%. The other group performed a mentally fatiguing task alongside their physical training sessions. Their time to exhaustion improved by 115%.

Auditory versions of these tasks for smartphones are in the works, but you can replicate the effect simply by changing your training patterns. For your brain, running five miles after a hard day’s work feels like the last five miles of a much longer run. It offers a much better workout for your willpower. It’s mind over matter, and fortunately for athletes – from the elite to the amateur – the mind is much easier to manipulate.

This article was originally posted at The Guardian.

Photo credits: occoquanbayperformance.com

About the author

Amit Katwala is the author of The Athletic Brain out on 11 August. To order a copy, go to bookshop.theguardian.com.

Are you posting gym selfies on social media? Guess what… Science says you are or tend to become a narcissist!

Let’s be honest, each of us has at least one friend on the social media friends list who is constantly posting his or her daily routine in the gym. Or maybe that person is you?

The descriptions under the photo “I lifted 100 kilos in the bench press, so pumped” or “I run 5 kilometres, I could be a world champion” are greatly irritating. Scientists at the University of Brunel of London conducted a study which was aimed to find out why so many people are taking gym selfies and sharing their training details on social media. The results are not really encouraging.

The study

The main conclusion of this study says that people who take photos or videos during their activity in the gym tend to be narcissists. According to researchers, the primary goal is to boast about how much time they are investing in their appearance. Obviously, these status updates are earning more “Likes” on the social media than any other posts.

The self-obsessed individuals are bombing their audience with their achievements. This is an indicator of their need for attention and recognition from the social media community, says the study. A large number of “Likes” does not necessarily mean that the others enjoy these posts. Although the results show that narcissists get more “likes” and comments on such updates, the study shows that their friends in their social media circles secretly dislike them.

The growing tendency for selfies with the latest smartphones is associated with the persistence of the individual with the exterior. Also, people who take a selfie and immediately publish it on any social network are more likely to exhibit signs of psychopathy. At the same time, typical behaviours for “selfie-obsessed” people include lack of empathy and impulsivity.

The age of narcissists

The biggest problem of this new psychological disorder, which could be called Digital Narcissism, is that it puts tremendous pressure on people to attain unattainable goals, while simultaneously making them more persistent to achieve the unachievable.

Self is not a photo of the landscape, beach or a forest. We make sure that we are always in the picture, in order to impress others as much as we can. The display of each moment is now with one hand stretched forward. We try to look at the camera with our best smile or running on the treadmill while striving to fit in the frame of three and something inches.

In 2013, the word ‘selfie’ was chosen as a Word of the Year. That did not happen accidentally. Social media with the invisible power created a new stream with the selfies. The fury of the selfie has affected our behaviour at a significant degree. It turned us all into stars and celebrities. This is waking up the Narcissus that was sleeping inside us.

Of course, the biggest percentage of the narcissists and generally people who are obsessed with selfies are located in the gym. The gym has a lot of mirrors and that is the first step for narcissism. Then, there comes the obsession with gym selfies. We start to take one photo after another.

Humanity today needs to learn how to increase the self-esteem and how to live in the world which is predominantly ruled by social media narcissists. Taking fewer selfies and more landscape and landmark photos would be the first step on this path.

Credits: This article was originally posted at Life Advancer and used here with permission.

How to transform your life with Wisdom, Compassion & Mindfulness.

Smile, breathe and go slowly. Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Much has been written about Zen, but there are 3 essentials that are especially important. These insights and practices flow from the Buddha’s teachings, yet can be applied by people of all religious faiths.

The first is the awakening of wisdom, what Buddha called right view. It’s coming to see the impermanence and empty “self” nature of all that exists. Seeing through the illusions of compartmentalized thinking to a more holistic understanding of how every atom, river, planet, galaxy and living being in our Universe arise together and flow as one interdependent ever-changing whole.

Thich Nhat Hanh describes this as “inter-being.” Einstein, Lao Tzu, Alan Watts and Walt Whitman spoke of this, Van Gogh expressed this flowing unity in his paintings. It is the wisdom of great art, poetry, mysticism, modern physics, systems thinking and ecology, as much as Zen.

Learning to trust our Intuitive Mind

The second is ethical conduct and compassion, valuing love and life more than material things, power or wealth. Supporting others, seeking to reduce violence and suffering, cultivating greater kindness and equality in society. Prioritizing peace, love and compassion is at the core of what many wise beings have shared with the world down through history.

This is the Way of Jesus, Gandhi, the Beatles and Martin Luther King, as much as the Buddha. Until love is put into action humanity’s countless problems can not be solved. They taught that to truly transform our world, all important decisions- at all levels of society- need to be guided by the wisdom of our hearts.

Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Finally, Zen teaches mindfulness of the present moment, observing what is happening without attachment or aversion. Being aware of what we are doing right here, right now, where ever we are. The practice of seated meditation is meant to assist with efforts to concentrate and calm the mind, but it is moment-to-moment mindfulness in all situations that Buddha most strongly emphasized.

Through the practice of mindfulness we gain deeper insight to how our minds work, come to understand- and let go of- the ego-centeric patterns of thought, desire and fear that create suffering in our lives. Over time we learn to trust in the creative intelligence of spiritual awareness, the intuitive “Wisdom Mind” that exists within each of us.

Prioritizing Wisdom, Compassion and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are at the core of Zen practice, but are also an essential part of many other systems. Tai chi, yoga, painting, prayer, cooking, piano playing and many forms of exercise can help us to calm our minds and connect with the present moment, when done mindfully.

Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity. – Thich Nhat Hanh

These three essentials taught by the Buddha- wisdom, compassion and mindfulness- are linked together synergistically and interdependently. When we successfully prioritize all three each serves to strengthen the development of the others. Over time (and with practice) we become more compassionate, wise, mindful, loving, joyful and at peace.

Originally posted at Creative by Nature.

By Christopher Chase