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Drawing on the Dao: A more Flexible Approach

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 130 - December 2006

“The mind of Wu-Wei flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo.’’
– Chuang Tzu

Resisting Change

Having had polio as a child, I grew up feeling that I needed to use a great deal of physical, mental and emotional effort to overcome the challenges I faced as a result of contracting the disease. For many years this attitude was a necessary response and helped me to overcome the hurdles of disability, but there came a time when, as an adult in my 30s, I started to experience changes in my health – pain and fatigue as a result of pushing myself so hard. Fortunately, at this time I was studying the philosophical background to acupuncture theory – the mind of Wu-Wei – Daoist consciousness. Wu-Wei means to flow in harmony with life’s circumstances, and usually we do the opposite of this – we attempt to force circumstances so that life goes the way we want it to. In the past, this forceful approach often worked for me, but now I find that this was an unhelpful approach.

When I first realized that I had over-used my body, I felt a rising sense of panic, and determined to get better immediately, started swallowing vitamins, having acupuncture, taking Chinese herbs. Of course I was addressing this new challenge in the old way – trying to force my life’s changing circumstances to go my way rather than yielding to them. I was in the depths of despair when none of these things seemed to get me up and going in the old manner! Then I remembered that the mind of Wu-Wei “flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo”. Now I was ready for a more flexible approach.

I stopped resisting the changes I was experiencing, stopped trying to find a quick fix approach, because I knew that I needed to work in harmony with the reality of my situation. For most of my life I had been attached to one aspect of myself – the Self who fought to overcome, who wanted things to go her way. Now I began to see that this Self was a limited one – it had helped me in the past to conquer my disability, but now I needed to choose to let the small Self go in order to enter into the way of Wu-Wei, and surrender to my changing situation.

A Calm and Centred Space

When I started to let go of my resistance, and instead chose to accept how I truly felt – sad, tired and fearful – I found that through this acceptance a deep and healing relaxation took place. It felt as if, choosing to say ‘yes’ to change I was able to release pent-up energy and let it flow again. And as I relaxed and surrendered a strength and calmness grew within me. I began to feel a sense of trust and confidence growing by letting a process unfold that ultimately was connecting me to my Real and healing Self.

Letting go of my more fearful Self and yielding to life, brought me to my Real Self and in that calm, centred space, I knew intuitively what was needed to help me on my road to healing – nurturance and rest for my body and mind. And as this process took place, I started using the tools of herbs, Chi Kung and Acupuncture again to help myself, but now from this very different and more healing perspective. Here are both a meditation and visualization that help keep me in touch with my Real Self.

Meditation for Awareness

Sit comfortably with eyes shut. Observe and accept any knots of tension in your body. Observe the flow of your thoughts and feelings as a still and quiet witness. Make no judgments or analysis of your thoughts and feelings; simply watch and accept whilst breathing from your lower abdomen effortlessly and calmly. Practise this exercise for ten minutes twice a day. After this meditation practise the following visualization.

Aligning with the Real Self

Accept the physical sensations, thoughts and feelings that arise in you, and let any tension dissolve away. Now focus on the still centre that is your Heart. Imagine a shining white light radiating peace and tranquility within your Heart, and imagine yourself healed and whole within that light in your Heart. Now see your Self standing in front of you, looking and feeling happy and well. Know that this is your Real Self. Step into your Real Self and feel the wellness that is your life-force. Listen to your Heart tell you what is needed to help heal your life. Feel the shining white light radiating from your Heart and flowing to every cell in your body.


Teeguarden I. The Joy of Feeling. Japan Publications Inc. 1984.
O’Conner D. The Healing Code. Hodder Mobius. 2006.


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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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