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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Stress Less

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate that many of us have a “seeker gene” that at some point in our lives may “kick in” forcing us to examine the three BIG questions in life.

  • Where did I come from?

  • Why am I here?

  • Where am I going?

For me, that gene kicked in when I was in my early twenties and as part of that seeking process I explored and developed a fascination with eastern religions and mysticism. This led to a season in my life when I studied martial arts (aikido and tai chi) while also reading many of the writings of the eastern mystics.

My initial fascination with eastern thought evolved over the years, ultimately leading me back to an appreciation of the Christian values and worldview in which I was raised. However, from time to time I come across reminders from the “far east” that are worthy of consideration. One such occurrence took place recently when I came across an article online published by CNBC which I share with you this week for your consideration.

A 2,000-year-old Chinese mindset can make you more successful—it ‘takes almost zero effort,’ says psychologist.

CNBC – Make It

July 12, 2023

by Dr. Junhong Cao

As a psychologist with more than 15 years of experience, I’ve seen how “hustle culture” can have a toxic effect on people.

But a 2,000-year-old Chinese concept called “wu wei” (pronounced “ooo-way”), which translates to “non-action” or “effortless action,” can help us lead more balanced, fulfilling, and successful lives.

I’m not saying you should just sit back and slack off.

Wu wei is about allowing things to happen naturally and letting go of the need to control. It emphasizes taking action, when necessary, but not pushing yourself with excessive effort and tension.

I always try to implement wu wei into my practice, because research has shown that it can help lower stress and anxiety, while increasing satisfaction and overall well-being.

Here’s how to make wu wei part of your daily routine:

1. Accept things as they are

Let’s say you’re throwing a big party. Instead of obsessing over every detail, practicing wu wei means understanding that things may not go exactly as planned.

Similarly, if you didn’t get the job promotion you expected, recognize that this is a normal part of your career journey. I like to say to myself, “I can’t control everything, but I can make the best of whatever happens.”

When you face a challenge, ask yourself whether you have complete control over the outcome. If you don’t, make peace with it and move on.

2. Embrace imperfection

Allow things to unfold in their own natural way, without forcing the outcome. Know that nothing is ever perfect.

If you’re learning a new language or playing an instrument for the first time, prepare to make mistakes. You’ll learn from them.

Allow yourself some grace. If you find yourself fixating on just the things that go wrong, stop, and say: “Why would I want to torture myself to achieve the impossible? I choose to be flexible and kind to myself.”

3. Implement mindfulness

Mindfulness means being aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Take note of all the little details around you. How does the sun feel on your skin? Listen to the sounds of nature, like the birds and rustling leaves, or observe the shapes and colors of the flowers.

Wu wei comes much easier when you pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment, in a friendly and curious way.

Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and the founder of Taoism, once said: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

Dr. Junhong Cao, PhD, is a psychologist in New York City, specializing in relationships, depression, trauma, and personality disorders. She is also the founder of Mind Connections, a mental health counseling service.

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