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How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Go with the Flow

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 206 - May 2013

Hope is as hollow as fear. Dao de Ching

Wishing and Hoping

2012 might be remembered as the year of the damp squib ‘Mayan Apocalypse’ - the end times that never happened. This ancient calendar seemed to predict the End of the World and spawned a huge amount of fear and turmoil amongst the worriers of the world. We live in confusing times - collapsing regimes, violence on our streets, economic instability and extreme climate change, to name but a few of the horrors that surround us. It certainly seems as if the four horseman are on the brink, any minute of ushering in a new era. But there we still were on Christmas day (thankfully I had decided to buy in the pressies, nut roast and all trimmings regardless of the doom mongers), no apocalypse unleashed - panic over. And to be honest I experienced a frisson of disappointment as the date of the End of the World came and went - a part of me had hoped that the world wide chaos we currently witness might be the birth pangs of a new dawn - an Age of Aquarius ushering in a brighter future for mankind. And so the penny dropped - hope and fear seem to be linked. It was then that I recalled the words of the Dao de Ching hope is as hollow as fear. There I was hoping for a new era of peace for all mankind, but all this hoping was actually encouraging fear and taking me off my Centre.

Vicky McKenna

Many of us yearn for things to change; we hope for a brighter future when we find ourselves struggling with our daily commute to work, or experiencing hardship through unemployment and debts. For many of us it is hope that keeps us going - we long to win the lottery - to find some dramatic way to transform our unsatisfactory world. Daoism sees all this yearning as a waste of energy and suggests we give up wishing and hoping as it takes us off Centre to a hollow place of fear. So for example when I hope that I will win the lottery I accentuate a fear of lack of money, and when I hope that a new era might dawn of peace for all mankind I accentuate a fear of present times. Through relying on hope I move away from my Centre - the place I can trust to handle and find solutions to these challenges. The Centre is the space of creativity - the place where we know, intuitively, how to respond to all our challenges large and small. When I am centred I don't need to hope for the lottery win or for world peace -instead I can align with my Centre and from there follow the way of what Daoists call Wu Wei - a completely natural, uncontrived and effortless way. This does not preclude doing the lottery (you never know!) or being inspired by the thought of a peaceful world - it just means that by aligning with my Centre I will know what response is best needed in any circumstance.

Yielding and Trusting

Instead of wasting energy in futile pursuit of hope (that only feeds our fear). as a first step to centering ourselves we need to accept the situation we find ourselves in. By yielding to our current circumstances we quieten the mind and calm its anxiety . In so doing we are thus trusting to our Centre and giving ourselves the opportunity to allow an intuitive response - a natural response to arise to the needs of the situation we are currently challenged by. In this way we are then aligned with our innate power, our inner strength and so can create that brighter future, handling whatever challenges arise.

So how can we let go of hoping and instead accept our reality and the way we feel about our reality, learn to quieten the mind and trust to our Centre to follow the way of Wu Wei and find our way forward? The first step is to become aware of our inner talk - the noisy chatterbox mind that spends so much time wishing and hoping. Mostly we are quite unaware of the power and intensity of this voice so here is an exercise to aid awareness of the chatterbox within. Follow the steps and move from identifying with the chatterbox mind to identifying instead with your true Self - the Centre of your being.

Sit quietly and make a written list of everything you wish and hope for. Once written and without thinking, pondering or concentrating on the list, simply and gently sense how the things you hope for on that list make you feel. Tune into the emotions that arise and rather than block or resist them allow yourself to feel the feelings - joy, fear, sadness, anger - yield to all of these. As you tune in, witnessing, allowing and yielding to these feelings, acknowledge that this tuning in is taking place from your Centre - you are witnessing these hopes, fears and feelings from the place of inner strength and power, the place from which you can handle whatever comes up in your life. Traditionally this Centre is about three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel (Xia Dantian) but for some of us it might be on the chest area (Zhong Dantian). Wherever you feel this space to be, simply connect with it and feel the security and stability therein. Breathe into that space and out from it and, whilst now feeling free of the compulsion to hope, visualize those hopes and fears and all the mix of feelings evaporating away. You are now aligned with the only true reality - your strong and whole Centre and it is from this place of trust that you can now follow the way of Wu Wei - that natural and effortless path of liberation. No need to hope for a better future – it’s happening right here, right now.


  1. Marlene Watson-Tara said..

    Thanks Vicki great reminder to us all to stay grounded. Many thanks, Marlene

  2. Robert G. McEwen said..

    Good advice for all of use in our journey through life.

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About Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna BA Lic Ac trained at The College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Leamington Spa with Professor Worsley from 1981 gaining her Lic Ac. in 1984 and has been practising acupuncture in Scotland since then. Her book A Balanced Way Of Living; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with Post Polio Syndrome is available from 


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