Scared by his Shadow

This is a great little Taoist story which relates to the concept of Wu Wei or “non-action”. I first heard a version of the story on an audio book version of The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, a wonderful book that is well worth checking out.


There was a man who was so scared by the sight of his own shadow and so worried by his own footsteps, that he decided to try to get rid of them.

So he got up and ran and tried to leave his shadow and his footprints behind.

But every time he put his foot down, he found that there was another step, and his shadow kept up with him without any difficulty at all, no matter how fast he ran.

He thought he was failing because he wasn’t running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally fell down dead.

The man had failed to understand something like simple. You see, if you just step into the shade, your shadow will vanish, and if you sit down and stay still, there will be no more footsteps.

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