In this fast food age, many people have no patience with process; they only care about the end result. Sometimes people come ask me, ”How long does it take for me to finish the T’ai Chi form?” or, ”How long will it take for me to get flexible?” If I reply that it will take them 2 or 3 years to learn and understand the T’ai Chi form, or to get the degree of flexibility they desire, then they give up and no longer practice.
There is a Chinese maxim that sounds like this; “yà miáo zhù zh?ng”. It means “Trying to help the seedlings grow faster by pulling them upwards.”
This proverb comes from Confucius’ disciple Mencius(Mengzi). He explained it using this story:
“Once there was a farmer in Sung. He patrolled his farm every day and began to suspect that the sprouts at his farm are growing too slow. One day a thought arose in his mind, ”Why don’t I go and pull these rice seedlings upward? They will look taller and maybe it can also help them grow faster.” He thought it was a great idea, and did just that. At the end of day he was very tired, for it was a big job, but also very pleased. He went home to tell his family. The next day his son wanted to see how wonderfully tall the rice seedling were growing, but found they had withered entirely away.”
This story make me recall how, thirty years ago, the military in Taiwan trained soldiers to become more flexible. When a soldier was too stiff to touch his toes, they would get another person to stand behind his back and push down very hard on his body, until he reached his toes. You can just imagine what this traditional method generated.
Here in Canada I have come across a couple of similar axioms; “Haste makes waste” and “More haste, less speed.”
In my personal practice of Martial Arts I find myself enjoying the process. I am much less concerned over the end result. As a result it has become a part of my life, almost an unconscious habit, over the last twenty-five years.