Wei-Wu-Wei: A Simple Definition
Wei-Wu-Wei (pronounced way-woo-way) is the zone or the level of play which you are trying to achieve. It is a Chinese proverb that literally means “doing-without-doing” or “acting-without-acting”. It is not a religion and is not intended to be interpreted or treated as a religion. It is simply an effective philosophy of the mind that when be applied to everyday activities helps you to perform at your best. It is a technique that helps you to obtain a unique balance between your mind, your heart and your body. This philosophy will elevate your game to a level much higher than those you compete against.
Wei-Wu-Wei in essence is about effortless flow. It is about fluid motion. It is about allowing thoughts and actions to flow fluently without struggle and without negative energy. It is about flowing like the wind and not struggling through disruptive forces or thoughts. Wei-Wu-Wei is about your effort without a significant attachment to outcome.
Basically, Wei-Wu-Wei suggests that you simply, yet directly carry out your activities. This is the “doing” or the “acting”. But the key to “without-doing” or “without-acting” is this. The effort that you exert when performing should occur in a manner that is essentially effortless and thoughtless. Don’t think. The true feeling or thought of “doing” should be obsolete, hence, “without-doing”. Some people have gone on to define Wei-Wu-Wei as “thinking-without-thinking” which basically means to do whatever it is that you have to do without actually thinking about what you are doing. Simply put, do not think about the act in the process; just act. The more you think, the more likely you are to make mistakes. Too much conscious thinking can create struggling thoughts which can disrupt successful performance.
Acting in this “thinking-without-thinking” manner eliminates friction caused by unsure thoughts and frees up energy that can be equally drained by those struggling thoughts. The philosophy teaches you to eliminate negative energy and stay focused as you proceed toward a goal. It teaches to exert effort to accomplish goals; however, this effort must be natural and not filled thoughtful resistance or force. When you eliminate thoughtful resistance or force, then you have a higher likelihood of success that is suited for you.
Although this definition may sound confusing, it is actually quite simple. Wei-Wu-Wei can best be explained with a simple example. The following example does not directly relate to sports or basketball. Later in this section, we will explain how to apply Wei-Wu-Wei to your game.
The following example is something that many already practice. The activity is riding a bicycle. Think back and remember when you were a child and just learning to ride a bicycle. As with all children, there were probably many falls, bumps and bruises. You may have gotten frustrated time and time again and then “walla”, all of the sudden, you were able to balance the bike and ride off without any adult assistance. Each time you rode your bike thereafter, you didn’t think about balancing or you were not scared about falling. You just balanced and were on your way. Even to this day, you don’t think “how do I balance?”; you just ride. You are practicing Wei-Wu-Wei. You are “riding-without-riding” meaning you are doing (riding) - without (not thinking) - doing (riding). Put those together and you riding without thinking about riding and are successful.
What is essentially happening is that the action (riding a bicycle) is occurring at a time when the mental state, emotional state (heart) and physical state are in complete balance with one another. Negative or apprehensive thoughts are not interfering with the person’s physical capabilities. There are no thoughts on “how to ride the bicycle”. The action just happens and the action is guided by a clear and relaxed mind The mind is basically in a “non-thinking” mode related to the respective activity.
The practice of Wei-Wu-Wei, in this example also shows us that the mind and body are inactive or demonstrating non-action which is sometimes known as being in a state of “Jan-zu”1 or an “act-that-does-itself”. When a person rides a bicycle, the action just seems to be happening by itself. (We will discuss this more in detail as we talk about how Wei-Wu-Wei will help to improve your overall game).
Preparing to Play in Wei-Wu-Wei (The Zone)
So, now you understand the basic definition of Wei-Wu-Wei; to just act and eliminate thought and the act will flow. This is in essence the principle behind playing in the zone. You just play your game and do not give much attention to thought; however, to truly become a zone player, you must first learn about the 3 fundamental properties of becoming a great athlete. You must learn to develop and clearly understand your mind, your heart and your body. Once you have done this, you will be ready to practice the true art of Wei-Wu-Wei and unleash the unconscious energy that defines the zone.
The next sections speaks to this. Read and re-read this section to fully understand these 3 fundamental aspects of entering true Wei-Wu-Wei!