-The Needle Grinding Well-
Overcoming the Self
Long ago, before he became an immortal and the God of Wudang, Xuan Wu 玄武 came to Wudang to cultivate himself and pursue the Dao. One day, during his arduous practice and cultivation he found himself frustrated and unable to endure. Disappointed in himself, Xuan Wu left his training and descended the mountain.
Upon his hike down he happened upon an old woman grinding a large iron pestle. Upon encountering this, Xuan Wu curiously asked the woman what it was she was doing. Her response was that she was grinding and polishing the large iron pestle in order to make a needle and that her efforts would undoubtedly lead to success. Upon hearing this, Xuan Wu immediately realized that this woman's efforts were exactly like his efforts in self-cultivation and he returned up the mountain to continue his practice. It was only after having this experience and understanding that he was able to become an immortal and ascend to heaven.
This story of Emperor Xuan Wu's is an important one for those on the long road of personal cultivation. It is also an important story for those who are not practitioners of Daoism or kung fu. It is one that teaches us how to reinforce our wills and keep the fires of determination burning brightly inside of us. In kung fu practice, there are days, weeks, and sometimes months where one may feel no progress has been made and sometimes a feeling that one has even taken steps backwards. But in order to truly advance and succeed, we must accept that some days and weeks are better than others and that we must continue to grind the iron pestle no matter the challenges that we may face. For it is only through perseverance, determination, and devotion to one’s practice that success is forged and wisdom is gained.
Allowing frustration to guide our actions and emotions will only further perpetuate the negativity that we feel. If we can accept that our practice is just like the grinding of the iron pestle, then we will understand that we must continue to grind and polish ourselves in order to succeed. We must be willing to rise to the challenges that are placed in front of us in order to gain true wisdom.