Wu Wei

I have suffered from depression for most of my life. I don’t want to really dwell on how that felt, or what it was like. I feel like there are plenty of people talking about that. I want to talk about beyond. I want to talk about coping. My major tools for surviving were reading and writing. 

One thing that’s always stuck with me was a phrase from the Death’s Gate Cycle. In the last book of the series, the protagonists are being swallowed by chaos and trying to bring balance to a set of interconnected, but dying worlds. The key to doing this was found in the words “Let go, take hold.” As he’s walking a hallway that simultaneously drops from beneath him and crushes him into its walls and floor, releasing expectations of what his surroundings are supposed to be allowed him to find a central point of balance within himself.

In the midst of my depression, I’ve fought against the feeling that I was failing to achieve what I thought I should have been. I was failing to control my surroundings and accomplish my goals. This disconnect between what my actions should have resulted in vs what results I was getting was one of the sources of my pain. The fact that the world kept thwarting me at every turn when I thought for sure I was doing everything right; I’d performed all the correct rituals and steps and side quests. Why was I not receiving the rewards as I’d been told I was supposed to?

“Let go, take hold.”

I’ve wanted to describe what kind of comfort that phrase gives me for a while, but I still don’t know quite how. When I get anxious and feel like I’m drowning, I tell myself that, and it helps me find balance. It lets me accept that things are chaotic, but clinging to my interpretation of what order SHOULD be is only driving me insane. In order to rediscover balance, I have to let things be chaotic for a moment and decide the things that actually need to be held onto.

Recently I came across a YouTube video explaining Wu Wei and it clicked. I’d been practicing this for years without realizing that there was an actual definition. That in essence was “Let go, take hold.” Or at least my interpretation of Wu Wei. 

I know that I get uncomfortable when I don’t know where things are going, and don’t feel stable. I like to have an idea of a path ahead at least. It makes me anxious to leave things unfinished – be that a conversation/argument without a resolution or a story. Thus I annoy people until I’ve gotten what I feel is a resolution to the situation. But life isn’t so clean. Sometimes things just end, or the best option is to leave the mess and walk away. Not everything can be fixed and not everything should be fixed. It’s like being the leaf floating on the surface of a mountain brook. Fighting the current will only exhaust me and is pointless anyway, I haven’t got the power to swim. But I can lean with the flow; I can redirect my path and avoid getting stranded on a rock. Thus taking some of the weight of responsibility and fear off me and placing it in the hands of a higher power. I am just left with the freedom to make my preferences known to Them and otherwise enjoy life.

Some days its hard, though. I still have trouble with anxiety from time to time, mostly because of things outside of my control having power over my immediate health or well being. I’m learning to expand “Let go, take hold” to a broader context of my life. I can’t control everything that happens around me. The world is made of chaos. The interplay between the order I create and the inherent chaos is what makes it interesting. However, to properly enjoy the ride, you have to accept that you won’t always end up in the destination you thought you were going.

School of Life