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Effortless Living

Wu-Wei and the Spontaneous State of Natural Harmony

Foreword by Damo Mitchell
Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

A guide for achieving an enlightened mind through the art of non-doing

• Details meditation practices, focused on stillness of the mind, along with Patanjali’s yoga methods to maintain a consciousness referred to as “being in the zone”

• Builds on Taoist, Confucian, and Hindu principles along with scientific findings to support wu-wei--the art of non-doing, non-forcing--as a way of life

• Explains how wu-wei practitioners cultivate intelligent spontaneity and effortless action to allow the natural harmony of the cosmos to prevail

The practice of non-doing, non-forcing is an essential aspect of Taoism known as wu-wei. Attributed to the great sage Lao-tzu, the philosophy of wu-wei teaches you how to develop a natural state of consciousness not bound by thought or preconceived limitations. Experienced by the greatest artists, athletes, musicians, and writers, this heightened state of consciousness, referred to as “being in the zone,” is where intelligent spontaneity and effortless action flourish via a practice rooted in permitting the natural harmony of the cosmos to prevail.

Merging Taoist philosophy, Hindu principles, and Confucianism along with scientific findings, Jason Gregory outlines the practice of wu-wei as a vehicle to realize our innate freedom, revealing that when we release our ego and allow life to unfold as it will, we align ourselves more closely with our goals and cultivate skill and mastery along the way. Equating “being in the zone” with a stillness of the mind, Gregory shares meditation practices coupled with yoga exercises from Patanjali that allow you to approach life with a mastery of acceptance, releasing deluded beliefs of how to achieve success that make your mind “sticky” and poised for conflict. The author shows how practicing wu-wei paradoxically empowers you to accomplish all that you desire by having no intention to do so, as well as allowing you to become receptive to nature’s blueprint for expressing beauty.

Revealing wisdom utilized by renowned sages, artists, and athletes who have adapted “being in the zone” as a way of life, the author shows that wu-wei can yield a renewed sense of trust in many aspects of your daily life, making each day more effortless. As an avid wu-wei practitioner, he provides keen insight on how you, too, can experience the beauty of achieving an enlightened, effortless mind while reveling in the process of life’s unfolding.


Chapter 8

The Practice of Yin Cultivation and the Art of the Skillful Craftsmen

In the cosmic sphere of energy, wu-wei is the feminine (yin/passive/receptive/earth) principle of the universe. Translated into English from Lao-tzu’s perspective, wu-wei means “non-doing,” “non-action,” or “effortless action.” These translations are literally correct and lead us to the intuitive and ultimate psychological experience of wu-wei. This effortless psychological experience of wu-wei means not forcing or allowing, a state of intelligent spontaneity. The wu-wei at the core of Lao-tzu’s philosophy is not something we can understand by intellectual discourse or attain by rigorous practice. On the contrary, the depth of wu-wei is only revealed to us when we are humble enough to let go of controlling our life and instead live by its spontaneous principle.

A Yin Deficient World

The perspective of the masculine principle of yang over the feminine principle of yin is promoted in our world from the earliest stages of education to our adult working life. This perspective becomes so entrenched in our mind that we exhibit it in our ordinary life. We begin to anxiously think that we should always be doing something. We are made to believe that if we are not doing something then we are useless and a nuisance to society. This train of thought is supported by the social mantra “time is money,” which actually means you better get moving or 3 you will miss your opportunity to succeed in life. Thinking in this way gives us the illusionary belief that we can control every aspect of our life and become the master of time. Many entrepreneurs have this mindset, and though there is a skill to being independently successful, there are also a lot of pitfalls.

The pitfalls we all suffer from when we overcompensate for the yang, “time is money” attitude are accumulated anxiety and stress. Though we should all be creatively productive and use this life well, we have to face the fact that we can never truly control life or master time. This attitude is destroying the world because what truly nourishes the world is being ignored. What nourishes the world is the feminine yin bosom of the universe. The fundamental function of life and our human organism is to reside mainly in the yin, while conservatively activating the yang.

The result of trying to uproot the Way of nature is we have a world that is ever so slowly destroying itself without any awareness of this happening. In only embracing the incessant activity of yang we are becoming a species out of balance and essentially sick. The clinical diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the human race is yin deficient. In a yin deficient world we are internally consumed by heat because we are constantly seeking action and distraction and overthinking. Yang is the internal heat that is evoked by incessant activity and yin is the coolant of deep rest, relaxation, and non-doing (wu-wei), which nourishes all aspects of our mind and body, including the preservation of yang.

We have become accustomed to the excessive heat within our organism, the heightened sense of anxiety and stress a lot of people feel today. This comes from being overactive but also from the yang laced stimulants we ingest that cause internal heat and ultimately irritation. Coffee, for example, has no real use for us, and as it is a super yang bean, it causes extreme 4 levels of anxiety, stress, and jitteriness and enhances our tendency toward activity, which slowly but surely depletes our psychosomatic organism and in turn the planet.

In TCM the little picture and the big picture are the same picture. Any change within the internal system of the human organism will be reflected in the planetary organism. If we constantly consume coffee, refined sugar, refined flour, and frivolous entertainment, to name just a few, then we will be constantly distracted and as a result seek more distractions, which ultimately weighs heavy on the resources of the planet and destroys the mind. In allowing ourselves no time to rest, relax, or to just be bored, we are destroying our inner and outer world. What happens to any vehicle that is overheated and does not offset this with the required amount of coolant? Engine failure and a complete breakdown is the result, which is usually irreversible. This is what is happening to humanity and the planet. It is up to each of us as individuals to address our yin deficiency. We cannot go on like this for too much longer.

Reestablishing balance between yin and yang requires us to come back in accord with wu-wei, the non-doing, forceless, and effortless mind. This does not mean we stop being active, though this may be healing and helpful in the beginning. This balance of life is predominantly residing in the yin and conservatively accessing the yang, as in the art of martial arts. Balance between yin and yang, then, is not about equal share but rather natural harmony.

When we transfer this understanding of balance to spiritual and physical practices such as martial arts, we discover that such practices require discipline but should not over reach their limitations. Many martial artists tend to over discipline themselves, never alter their routines, and often add more to their daily practice. This is the yang habitual thinking that the more we do the more we will gain. This is against Lao-tzu’s philosophy of less is more. As a result, a lot of practitioners develop a rigid personality that is overly disciplined to the point of being a crutch.

They fear to change their habits and routines, which puts them out of sync with the ever changing Tao. As a result they essentially become prisoners to their discipline.

And yet, such spiritual practices are designed to cultivate yin. But we are often seduced by the power and force we attain from yang. A yin deficient world can only attain balance when each individual recognizes the dire need to cultivate yin.

About The Author

Jason Gregory is a teacher and international speaker specializing in the fields of Eastern and Western philosophy, comparative religion, metaphysics, and ancient cultures. For several years he studied with masters in Buddhism, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Hinduism, and Taoism, traveling to some of the most remote places in the world. The filmmaker of the documentary The Sacred Sound of Creation, he divides his time between Asia and Australia.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (March 13, 2018)
  • Length: 208 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620557143

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Raves and Reviews

“Immersing yourself in the origins and underpinnings of this ancient way of thinking and being will definitely help usher you into the Intuition Age with its interconnected, holographic perception. This book is brimming over with gems and overall wisdom. It’s a comprehensive weaving of many threads that makes for a fascinating--and useful--read.”

– Penney Peirce, author of Leap of Perception and Frequency

“In the West, people say, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way,’ by imposing your will over nature. More often than not this backfires. In ancient China, the wise ones discovered that the best way is wu-wei, ‘doing nothing,’ and thereby getting everything done by letting nature take its course. In this book you’ll learn how that’s not-done.”

– Daniel Reid, author of The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity and The Tao of Detox

“In Effortless Living, Jason Gregory explains in clear and simple terms the Taoist concept of wu-wei and reintroduces a model of contemplation much needed in the world today. He describes how wu-wei (literally ‘not forcing’ or ‘allowing’) can facilitate communion with the Tao—the timeless flow from which everything else we perceive is but a reflection. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I learned so much from it. My humble thanks to Jason Gregory for facilitating my own understanding of the Tao and, in doing so, allowing me to apprehend the inner silence and to listen to its wordless wisdom.”

– Anthony Peake, author of The Infinite Mindfield and Opening the Doors of Perception

“Jason Gregory has tapped into a living stream of wisdom to bring us an antidote to our cultural numbness. By learning how to let things be, rather than interfere and intervene in an unnatural order of life, Gregory forces us to love the world again, by trusting it. This is essential and practical wisdom for a modern social world at its best.”

– Kingsley L. Dennis, author of The Phoenix Generation

Effortless Living is a timely book. In a time where absolutist and rigid views are proving to be outmoded if not dangerous, Jason Gregory uses his heart and critical thinking skills to lay bare the essential, irreducible teachings of Lao-tzu. He deconstructs the myths, formulaic thinking, and the business of ritual of Taoism as it is practiced today that obscure and often hinder our innate abilities to have a direct experience of that from which we are never separate.”

– Robert Sachs, author of The Passionate Buddha

“In Effortless Living, Jason Gregory reminds us that a magic still dwells in our world despite the external forces, and psychological habits, that increasingly steer us toward cynicism. Gregory gives not only clear explanations of Taoism and reconciliations of it with Confucianism, but also guidelines for getting in touch with the Tao at the heart of all things. Furthermore, he makes clear why the root of world peace is the inner peace of the individual, which is why—socially and environmentally—this book is so deeply valuable. This is the best book on Taoism as a spiritual path since Alan Watts wrote Tao: The Watercourse Way nearly fifty years ago, and so I say, it’s about time.”

– Dana Sawyer, professor of religion and philosophy at the Maine College of Art

“In this work the Tao is alive, expressing through itself, as itself! The words propel us through the labyrinth of mind to point us directly at the profound truths of our being, that mysterious Way which transcends the intellect and filters of the human mind. The book reverberates with the perennial truth that the great saints and sages of antiquity have taught. With clarity and insight we come to see the place of techniques and practices as well as their limitations. The dismantling of mind is palpable as we are pointed over and over again to the limits of the words themselves and a possibility of an opening, a dawning of that which we always already are but have forgotten.” Daniel

– Daniel Schmidt, documentary filmmaker of Inner Worlds, Outer Worlds and Samadhi

“In Effortless Living, Gregory portrays beautifully the ideas of hard-and-fast belief colliding with the natural harmony of true living with the flow of our natural state of being. This book also wonderfully explains how our need to control is more of an illusion that creates the very struggles that we see in our modern world; control interrupts the natural flow of life.”

– Steven L. Hairfield, PhD, author of A Metaphysical Interpretation of the Bible

“Jason Gregory has produced a sustained meditation on the meaning of the Tao Te Ching based on his personal insights and life experiences, aimed at understanding the text as a guide for the modern world.”

– Philip J. Ivanhoe, PhD, Chair Professor at City University of Hong Kong

“Wu-wei in the Tao Te Ching has always been a difficult concept to interpret. Jason Gregory has expressed his way of understanding in a clear and insightful manner to share with the world.”

– Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, PhD, author, scholar, and teacher of tai chi chuan

Effortless Living is a well-written and cogent exposition of the ancient Tao in modern terms.”

– Red Pine (Bill Porter), author and translator of Lao-tzu’s Taoteching

"Gregory's book gives us the gift and the freedom of no striving and no struggle, and teaches us that often nondoing--seeking the stillness of nonaction--is the better way."

– Clare Goldsberry, Quest Spring 2019 Clare Goldsberry, Quest Spring 2019

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