Well Worth the Wait

Well Worth the Wait


Do you have the patience to wait until
the mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving
until the action arises by itself?


This passage from the Daodejing enjoins us to achieve Wu wei, – effortless action or the act of not doing – through waiting.
But what is waiting and to what degree is it passive or active?

Now isn’t it strange how inspiration comes from unlikely sources? In pondering the meaning of ‘waiting’,
I was reminded of a David Attenborough film which made me think that, in addition to the advice of ‘walk like a cat’,
the Taiji Classics could have written ‘wait like a cat’.

Likewise, I was drawn to Andrew Greig’s ‘At the Loch of the Green Corrie’; ostensibly the book is about a fishing trip
to Assynt in the Northwest Scottish Highlands – a magical region of mountains that I consider to be my own personal Wudang!
In his book, Greig recognises the value of perseverance in waiting:


The myrtle-laden breeze passed over my face,
but I did not yearn to follow where it was going.

My predilection has always been, will always be,
to sit until I sense the source,
the place the wind comes from. 


But he also describes his state of mind having cast the fly:


It’s about the right kind of waiting.
Attentive, open, neither impatient nor resigned.
Just being there, alert, eyes focussed
yet looking
behind the surface. 


And it is just this type of waiting that I have found to be the most effective in my acupuncture practice –
where Qi comes to the needle rather than the other way round and, in waiting for this to occur,
the way I wait is crucial to what develops. So the essence of waiting, for me, is the nature of my intention
and the acceptance that any action will arise by itself; the Neijing has it that ‘When the intent (Yi) arrives, the Qi arrives’.

Now, in our Taijiquan and meditation practices we seek stillness within movement, the being within the doing,
the intention within the wish, the centre within the whole, Yin within Yang. The Nei-yeh talks of the ‘mind within the mind’ –
an awareness that precedes action. But there is also the ‘wait within the wait’. Just as the mind experiences itself directly
within itself, I have come to recognise that within the act of waiting there is also the essence of the experience itself,
the true value of waiting.


I never thought I would gain so much inspiration from a book on fishing!


Paul Underhill