The Wu Wei of Conservation; the personal and the impersonal.


Photo of Forest Farm Nature Reserve by me

Wu Wei, the ancient human philosophy of a state of being, brings our actions effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world, and no more. We cause less harm. Less is more.

That we may cultivate Wu Wei by visiting one place of nature, exploring as a child, all the senses engaged, emotional fluidity but no mental fight, is a building of strength to our cause.

But it is not all. The key is in the word ‘visiting’.

The strength of becoming of that place is process ~ a virtue. The result is ‘being’ of that place ~ a consequence.

Presently, so psychologically detached from nature has our species generally become, that nature is now a visitation, a pocket of the defended, a moment. Nature is somewhere we go and, therefore, will come back from. How wrong can this be? It is harmful, and on a planetary scale.

Nature needs to be of us, constantly.

How do we, instead, return to this state of constant being? I suggest by more ‘becoming’ through wu wei experiences ~ mentoring and provision of access until we have, each and every one of us, returned.

The goal is to live as nature without having to ‘visit’.

What is spirit?

The interconnectedness and flow, according to Daoists, is in the direction of the living and the dead, then of the elements, the heavens or cosmology, and finally the Dao, The Great, which is of itself – beauty and truth ~ spirit. Perhaps spirit is simply the beauty of truth. Perhaps spirit is the acceptance of beauty and truth as fluministic love.

I propose, however, the interconnectedness of the biosphere is healing. Being nature is spirit in healing and being healed. This is as impersonal as it is personal; as human as it is non-human; in complex directions, known and unknown (the dialectics).

Wu Wei, for me, therefore is an ancient and vital understanding of healing – physical, mental, spiritual, individual, communal, ecological, biospheric. Fluminism plays a part. The modern utility argument of nature as cure has ancient traction, but not as something or somewhere we simply ‘visit,’ record and display later as trophy.

And let go of it as power in the sacred political leader (Lao-zi) and even as a thing of purest beauty (Zhuang-zi).

Heal all by doing less, and by being no more than is necessary.

The Personal and the Impersonal

I am so tired. I have exhausted myself by trying so hard; first and foremost, in matters of the heart. I love with all my being and I hurt so easily. I am lost at this point in my life. Next, my family, in illness and death. The last ten years have been difficult. Then, in losing my beloved Ben. Such pain. In finishing my Masters and trying to secure a living by research scholarship or finding a publisher. Funds are dwindling and I am now unwell, due a total hysterectomy very shortly. My mental state is fragile once more.

There is a small but mature woodland next to the Glamorgan Canal. It has been saved from human development and I thank all who did this. I have to ‘go’ there and ‘return’, because I now live in a city. I hope not forever.

It is on a south facing slope and, at the moment, is in full-Dao; all life in sensing, and in emotion. That I should go there and feel it inwards too. What is environment? Nothing (in the Dao sense). It cannot be separated from any of us. To externalise it as something outward is to disembody oneself.

I go there to exercise wu wei, because, when I am not, I do intellectualise and challenge. I will always question. Despite it being exhausting, it is integral to who I am. The author, Robert MacFarlane, mentioned to me recently, ‘challenge’ has the word ‘change’ within. I challenge others and I challenge myself. It is process. I apply it outwards, but also inwards (there is no environment). There is just being. So I need the quietude of wu wei to heal.

I would rather not have to go and come back. I want to go and stay in that state of being. Let us all live life there, in that state, until we die.

If my challenges are for the ultimate protection, proliferation and abundance of the flow of life, then it is a form of love I call Fluminism. There is a reflexivity of being and defending against destruction until our species realises the pointlessness of it. And then we just are. But at the moment, in the face of immense planetary harm, this IS exhausting.

As in all other things in my life just now, not least love, less may well be more. I must let go, just a little, to heal.

All the life forms of the woodland I speak to you about participate in their communal being on multiple levels. Let it be well-being. Let me be a part but in the action of inaction. When I am in the woodland, I too, and my microbionts, participate. WE participate. But not too much. We do just enough and no more.

Ecologies are in constant flux, disturbance being vital to the proliferation of flow. So ‘we’ are not entirely passive, but passive enough. Sometimes, our minor disturbances bring life. We are sacred centres, like the beavers, but our intentions must be for the good of all life, not just our own. We are not separate. There is no environment and, by extension, there is no true ‘I’. To be separate is the disembodiment of the self.

This is the Wu Wei of conservation. Let it be healing.


2 thoughts on “The Wu Wei of Conservation; the personal and the impersonal.