When “be open to signs” emerged as a take-home from my I Ching reading on my qigong practice, as I mentioned two weeks ago, both Karl and I thought those words had been in the text for one of the hexagrams.
But when we looked back and couldn’t find it there, we concluded that Karl must have said it. But Karl also noted that there would have been no need for those words to be there, because one of the philosophical underpinnings of the I Ching and, indeed, of Daoist thought, is that all things are connected. And if all things are connected, the significance of signs is a given.
Indeed, this notion of all things being connected, and therefore of all things having meaning, seems to be very much a part of what I’m learning through studying qigong.
In Yi Ren Qigong seminars, Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun often says that one of the advantages of putting the intellectual mind in touch with the body mind by practicing qigong, is that the body mind can give the intellectual mind all sorts of information about what’s going on in the world that the intellectual mind can’t fathom on its own.
This additional knowledge makes possible wu wei, which is often translated as “non-doing” or “non-action” and therefore often interpreted as meaning that you should sit around doing nothing, passively waiting for something to happen.
But Dr. Sun and others say that notion is wrong, that “wu wei” means a type of action that is the opposite of forcing your way through obstacles, driven by ego and guided by your analytical mind. It means acting with intuitive input, so that your actions slip through the stream of reality in a more harmonious manner and you can achieve your goals in a relatively effortless manner.
Dr. Sun jokes about the difference between “you wei” and “wu wei” in practicing qigong. It’s “you wei” when you begin your practice with a plan and then begin to feel that your body wants to do different exercises but stick with your original plan because, by golly, it’s a perfectly good plan and you had your reasons for devising it! “Wu wei” would be abandoning your intellectually thought-through plan and doing what your body is telling you it needs.
Of course, this presupposes an enlightened body that is being accurately heard. I don’t think Dr. Sun would recommend that you go sit on the sofa and eat a sack of donuts because you think that’s what your body wants.
But still, as a person with a strong tendency to keep her nose to the grindstone and stick with her planned courses of action, I take the point.
I have all too often come up with an idea for some sort of project, and then, because I can see what steps are involved and know I can do them, I proceed full speed ahead. Sometimes this works out well, but other times it doesn’t, because not everything that can be done, should be done.
But it’s also true that in recent years, I have begun noticing that when I encounter problems or uncertainties, if I just wait, instead of stressing about it or pushing through to a solution, eventually what I need to do becomes clear.
I first realized this when I decided to re-landscape my front yard, a huge project I knew I shouldn’t have undertaken almost the minute I took the first step, but which I was powerless to stop myself from continuing because I had a plan! All sorts of unforeseen difficulties arose, and I would feel totally overwhelmed—but eventually I discovered that if I just waited a day or two, the solution to the problem would emerge.
I think this is a lot like being open to signs. It involves waiting instead of plunging noisily ahead. Waiting and being relaxed and aware, letting things percolate inside instead of trying to nail them down with my thoughts, noticing when a tent caterpillar climbs up my blouse and letting that event enter my awareness in an open-ended manner.
Within this giant web of energy of which scientists say everyone and everything is a part, perhaps considering that that caterpillar and I might be meaningfully connected could….
Keep me from squishing him? That would be a definite plus for the caterpillar.
But perhaps it could also help me lift the blinders on my intellectual mind just a skoch to let in additional information about myself and the world, so that my actions could be better informed by what is. It might help me act in harmony with reality (“wu wei”) instead of thrashing against it (“you wei”).
I don’t think this means that I have to believe that the universe somehow chose to send a particular caterpillar up the front of my blouse for a particular reason. Finding meaning in a caterpillar could be more like finding meaning in a Rorschach inkblot.
I dunno…. My brain’s beginning to hurt….