Gradually life and break free from fixations on things that hinder the natural course of life. How do you do it in your everyday life? By trial and error, I would say. First, a word about fixations, familiar territory for most of us.
Van Dale, Great Dictionary of the Dutch Language:
Fixation that is fixed; excessively strong attachment to a previous developmental stage or experience, and persons associated with it.
On my piece languishEarlier on this blog, I received a response from a friend.
In his email he wrote: A question pops up, but maybe the answer is too private. What made you yearn so much that you wrote this piece?
To which I replied:
What made me yearn was (and it almost always is) fernweh. I longed for the west coast of California [in mijn jeugd heb ik daar een jaartje gewoond] and really wanted to go back. In such a moment, I want to be somewhere other than where I am, a place that I find beautiful, where there is beauty and tranquility and where the culture appeals to me. I’ve known it for as long as I can remember.
Just as you know that you can be happy without a loved one, I know that here, where I am, I can live fulfilled, because that is often enough the case.
But that’s my longing, and it’s really bittersweet. There is also something ‘tasty’ about it. Expectation, the hope of greater fulfillment, greater happiness.
To this longing belongs this fixation a soft, compelling urge, like the steady pull of the ebb or the suction of quicksand. To engulf completely.
There is also an idealist in me. He strives for a state of perfection and thus has his ideas of perfection. As the idealist wanders on, he becomes a moralist. Then should something be like this and not like that, then his view of reality becomes reality and the truth. The result is a stiffness that can be felt physically. I tense up. This kind of fixation feels different than rolling over. There are many reasons why you can brace yourself. For example, you may feel belittled, undervalued or attacked. If you pay attention, you can feel it happening. A fixation seems constricting. There is little or no room left for other feelings, thoughts and dissenters. Like looking through a funnel.
Fixations can be experienced in your own body and mind – if you pay attention. It is possible to break free from the compulsion they exert, no matter how stubborn they are. To force oneself to do this, according to Taoism, is “as contradictory as to force oneself to be spontaneous and natural”*. You can get out of their grip by staying with the experience without judgment. This is then the pure awareness of what is happening in your body and mind, without condemnation, without (self) condemnation. In fact, you are doing nothing with what you are experiencing at the moment.
And then we come to an important concept in Taoism: not doing (wu-wei). Non-doing includes “acting non-compulsively”, “acting non-consciously” and is related in meaning to the word “wander” in the Chinese language. Living a ‘wandering’ life, living gradually, therefore has everything to do with not doing, with non-compulsive action. Another quote from Wandering with Zhuang Zip. 198.
One can also summarize the main lines of Zhuang Zi’s thinking as follows: The reason why he considers non-action to be true happiness is that he understands non-action as a practice of regret. To practice non-doing means to remove the action from what has been fixed and constructed in it. Precisely because of this, an unprecedented creativity is released, which is both its own source of strength and source of happiness. Getting rid of it is not in itself a project, but a gradual release from excessive and hasty activity. It is an ongoing exercise in receptivity (emptiness) that results in increased concentration and intensification of presence with the ten thousand things [de wereld waarin we leven met alles erop en erin, RH]. The meaning of the Chinese word wu in the expression wu-wei can therefore be compared to the meaning of the prefix ‘ont-‘ in words such as relax and slow down.
Unfixed, unconstructed, non-doing, receptive, relaxed and unhurried: life in progress.
* Wandering with Zhuang Zi – Guide to Taoist philosophy, René Ransdorp, ed. Damon, 2007, p. 187.