3 of Wands – Waiting 

The image on the 3 of Wands shows us the way of waiting. Here, we see a man standing tall and straight, looking out into the horizon. Although nothing can be seen, he holds his position firmly. He stands with the confidence of knowing that he is prepared at the first sign of change.

While the 2 of Wands advises us to pay attention in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of ourselves and our situations, the 3 of Wands describes the state of being after becoming aware. It is the period between inaction and action; it is the state of being ready. In this stage, timing is the main factor upon which our actions depend. Like a game of skip rope, the player must wait until the rope is in the correct position before taking the leap.

This period of waiting may last for only moments or stretch on for months. During this uncertain period, one should be guided by patience and determination. A strong will and mind is required to not let waiting damper our enthusiasm and waver our faith. One in this position must manage the negativity and doubt that arises with frustration and boredom. At the same time, however, the person must continually re-evaluate the situation to see if the wait is worth the while or if one is simply waiting in vain.

Waiting is not the same thing as stalling. While waiting for one thing, we can still be active with other activities. It is also not the same thing as senselessly enduring hardship. One should not wait with an attitude that pain and suffering is inevitable and all that can be done is to wait it out. This attitude is one of passive defeat and victimization. It is not only unproductive but harmful to progress.

With the correct attitude, waiting can cultivate virtue for it requires a degree of wisdom to know when the times are not in our favour. It also requires self-control to not carelessly presume upon one’s own strength and proceed due to impatience or desire for glory and success.


Hexagram 5 – Needing

Most translations of the I Ching name the fifth hexagram as Waiting. However, the direct translation of the character Xu is ‘need’. It is comprised of the characters ‘rain’ and ‘but/however’. Together, it means that rain is needed but it has not yet arrived. The hexagram image, with water sitting above heaven, describes the same situation. Thus, the message of this hexagram is that there are times when we must wait for what we need. In times when the situation is beyond our control, we must remain faithful and steadfast.

The 3 of Wands describes this situation as a matter of timing. The fifth hexagram shows us that it is also matter of patience. The proper way to wait for the opportune moment to take initial action is to be patient and allow for an event to run its course. There are many things in life that can only be acquired through time. For instance, it takes years to transform knowledge into wisdom.

Nine on line 1:

When we are in a situation not of our own making, take a step back and observe from afar to see the bigger picture. For the moment, it is wise to stay away from the action and to remain still. It would be foolish to act without understanding or control.

Nine on line 2:

The situation here is uncertain, without solid feedback. During such times of uncertainty, it is important to discern between constructive conversation and petty speeches. Know the difference between valuable criticism and the little voices of doubt and gossip that breeds negativity.

Nine on line 3:

Here, we find ourselves waiting in a difficult situation and have trouble getting out, like being stuck in the mud. While current events may truly be unfavourable for action, we must not allow this to become an excuse for inaction or unproductive action. When we feel stuck, we must examine ourselves to see the cause of the situation. Did we put ourselves in a situation of weakness through incorrect action? Or do we feel stuck because our minds are trapped in webs of doubt, impatience and increasing hopelessness?

Six on line 4:

The negative feelings in line 3 have escalated from feeling stuck in a bad situation to utter hopelessness. This is the most dangerous situation; once we lose faith, nothing can be accomplished. All efforts taken with a hopeless attitude are efforts made in vain. Guide yourself out of this pit by refusing to let your negative experiences define you. The most important thing at this stage is to get out of your present situation and mindset.

Nine on line 5:

The correct actions to take when there is a delay in plans to wait with food and wine. Use this time to nourish your body and soul. Build upon your strengths and work to improve your weaknesses.

Six on line 6:

Always keep an open mind when waiting. It is foolish to look out into the horizon and ignore everything else but the thing you are waiting for. Others who come forward may bring assistance or knowledge that is useful to you.



There will be many times in life when we cannot get what we want right away no matter how hard we work at it. During such times, our attitude is our greatest asset or our own worst enemies. Through patience, we can cultivate determination and faith. Armed with these qualities, we can use the times of waiting to become stronger and more prepared.

Impatience, on the other hand, breeds boredom, doubt and fear. When these negative feelings arise, waiting becomes overwhelming with hopelessness and we become defeated. And once the feeling of defeat is implanted in our minds, no further genuine efforts can be made.