I Ching Hexagram 5 Hsü / Waiting (Nourishment)

Water Above Heaven


“When clouds rise in the sky, it is a sign it will rain. There is nothing to do but to wait until the rain falls. It is the same in life when destiny is at work. We should not worry and seek to shape the future by interfering in things before the time is ripe.” 1


It is no simple task to wait.

When in the midst of overwhelm, discomfort, and strong emotions it is second nature to want to ‘do’ something. Sometimes immediate action is the necessary and appropriate course of measure. Yet there are times where immediate action would be premature, thus interfering with a larger wisdom trying to emerge. At such times we can use our will to be still and wait, as we open to the greater mystery.

The will is associated with the water element and the zhi spirit and resides in the kidneys. When harmonized, the zhi nourishes the life within us that is associated with our soul’s purpose and is guided by the heart. The heart houses the shen spirit and is related to joy, awareness, compassion, love. Shock and trauma can cause the shen to flee from the heart like birds from their nest. When the shen have left and the zhi is depleted, it is difficult to meet life with vitality, clarity and wisdom. There are ways that one can work with  this.

One can begin by making friends with the emotion that is currently present. Psychologist and spiritual teacher Ram Dass says to invite it in for tea with an attitude of openness. Welcoming strong emotions home to the wholeness of one’s being can act as a powerful entry point to new possibility. When encountering the unknown with no clear path is sight, especially when there is a lot of fear, grounding the body and soothing the heart is particularly needed.

I think of acupuncture point KI-24 ‘Spirit Burial Ground’ located on the chest on the kidney channel (see below). It has to do with nourishing the spirit in order to fill one’s empty reserves- “heavenly rains fall to earth and penetrate her with heavenly nourishment.” 2 Just as rain can nourish dry barren earth, water new growth, and resurrect dry wilting plants, rain is also a metaphor for spirit returning to the ground of the body to infuse our actions in the world with a rich new potency.

To work with this point, begin with an attitude of compassion, curiosity, and patience while noticing the sensations you feel in your body- (even numbness is a sensation with it’s own particular qualities), appreciating how your body is always there for you. Take your time with this. Take some full, slow breaths noticing how your breath can help to create space within you. Stay with this as long as you need to. Then, when you feel complete with this, make contact with KI-24 on your upper chest- experiment with pressure- simply breathing, waiting and noticing what you feel- no forcing. You may experience a shift in your body as warmth, opening, expansion, centering, calm, integration- just stay with the sensations and the breath.

Use this practice as a way to ground in the body and create spaciousness in the heart for the shen to return to. From this new place of connection, it becomes much easier to hear the voice of truth within that will guide one with integrity when it comes time to act.


1 Wilhelm/Baynes, The I Ching Book of Changes, p 24

2 Kaatz, D., ‘Characters of Wisdom Taoist Tales of the acupuncture points’, p 539




About the Author:  Monique Gaboury is a licensed acupuncturist, in Freeland, WA, specializing in Alchemical Acupuncture. She loves sharing her passion for natural healing at her clinic and through writing her blog ’Nourishing Change Through Connection’.

Juniper Medicine Alchemical Acupuncture serving the greater Seattle area on Whidbey Island. To schedule an appointment call 360-672-1506 or email contact@junipermedicinewhidbey.com.


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