The I Ching is a highly complex yet simple philosophical system which describes our world’s immanent change and declares change itself as the basic principle of the universe (cf. Govinda 1983). And the wisest thing for us to do is to subordinate to this change, these changes, to adapt to bring ourselves into harmony with the world around us.
So it is not at all about subjecting the world. We cannot. But what we can do is make changes where we can make them: in our own consciousness.
The interpretations of individual hexagrams (as for example hexagram 11 – peace ) start out with Eastern concepts, but from there successively move on . If one wants to follow this approach further and interpret the hexagrams from a perspective that is even stronger rooted in Western thinking, philosophical anthropology provides a good framework.
“I, I, all I!” – How does it feel when I suddenly find myself at the very center, all by myself, undisturbed by the votes of others? Is it really quiet? Or do I still hear their voices in my head, defending myself in fiery speeches before absent parties? An interesting observation: I justify myself… why? Because I’m not the way I believe that they want me to be? But, here the consolation: awareness is already part of the healing. Continue reading “01 – determination”
Usually, we act, we do and push things Trusting receptiveness is a rather unusual practice for most of us. Hexagram02 – the receptive invites us to trust the process, the natural course of things. And in the meantime take stock: Where exactly am I? What have I already achieved? How secure is my own standing? What are my resources? What supports me, what holds me? What are my goals? Continue reading “02 – the receptive”
Hexagram04 – youthful folly is auspicious, the judgement states: “Youthful folly has success…” But that only is true as long as we follow the path of the DAO, the way of the world – rather than to forcing our way onto the world. Or, as most usual, hand control over to our autopilot: unconscious control mechanisms and automated action patterns that may have had validity long time ago but that may be meaningless here and now. Continue reading “04 – youthful folly”
“I, I, all I!” – No, this is not an ego trip, but: I am all one with myself, I am entirely centered… All right? OK, so, again: I, I, all I, all centered, completely calm, rooted within myself. And right here-and-now I am turning towards… the world.
What a variety of possibilities! How on earth should I choose? What is right, what is important, what does (not) matter? My head may help me to sort it out: What corresponds to me? What distracts me from my path? Yet some cases remain undecidable, they lie beyond my intellect’s grasp: I simply do not know all the facts. Continue reading “05 – waiting”
Hexagram6 – conflict seems to be one of the most unpopular hexagrams at all, because so far I did not receive a single feedback to this answer of the I Ching. Or the answer is so clear that nobody has found it necessary to send me a message… Continue reading “06 – conflict”
These days – and just as this last question on the list below reached me – I have been thinking about the process of selfactualization. Our self, what-we-are, is a dynamic process that constantly evolves, progresses, “actualizes”, bringing our goals, our desires and intentions into harmony with the realities of life. But let us first make it concrete. Here are various questions that reached me regarding 07 – The Army. Continue reading “07 – the army”
“I, I, all I!” – Now it is me at the very center: all one with myself, concentrated, well rooted. That is the starting point. And from here, as soon as I feel ready to do so, I turn towards… the world.
What an immense variety of possibilities storms up on me! How in the world should I choose? What is right, what is important, what is superfluous? How should I make a choice? My head can help me: what corresponds to me? What is my path – and what possibly distracts me from my path?
I was told two job stories these days. Both situations involve encroaching employers. In one case, extra (unpaid) hours are demanded with a flimsy justification; in the other, extra tasks were assigned that require extra work, which is then not paid. The I Ching‘s commentary in both cases is 10 – the treading. Continue reading “10 – treading (conduct)”
“I, I, all I!” – did I get the message? Did I hear this fine, clear, subtle voice… and the message it speaks to me, deep from within my heart? Let us listen again carefully: what does it tell me?
If I am honest, I have long understood the message. Maybe I did not want it to be true, hoping I misunderstood. But I did not misunderstand. The voice is there, and I have understood its message. Continue reading “11 – peace”
Here and now. Really, where am I? What have I achieved so far? What have I experienced, what has led me here, what adventures have I undergone… These are the questions this hexagram asks – but definitely not: Where do I want to go now? Continue reading “12 – stagnation”
Our mental clarity, our ability to differentiate between important and unimportant, is the pivotal point of this hexagram. Our clarity allows us to analyze a situation and the various aspects it comprises: What are my options in this situation? Which of these options should I choose to achieve best results? What or who will help me, give me strength, promote my growth? What aspects of this situation are blocking me or lead me to a dead end in the long term? Sometimes it is enough to have just mental clarity. Sometimes, however, we must take action for the situation to develop and to gain momentum. Continue reading “13 – fellowship with men”
“I, I, all I!” – No, this is not an ego trip. It simply means to be all one with ourselves, knowing who we truly are, deep inside. To quietly and contentedly sit smiling. Just like… a Buddha.
And then, with inner peace and well rooted: return to the world. A world that constantly storms up on us, in all its richness. A world that touches us, inspires, enriches us, affects and sometimes presses us… What a diversity – what a chaos!
A user is very exhausted by the situation he is in at the moment: a lot of (creative) chaos, construction sites, everything is very demanding. He knows that he should let go of all kinds of things, but he doesn’t know where to start. He asks the I Ching for advice and receives hexagram15 – Modesty as an answer.
After a phone call with her husband a user got stomach cramps and vomiting. And suddenly she had the answer in her head: “You have to get a divorce.” Since then she feels deep inner peace, contentment – and no resentment at all. When she later consults the I Ching, the answer is hexagram 15 – Modesty.
“Where does the poison in my life come from?” asks a user. “Does it come from the outside or the inside? What is the source of my blockages – and what is it that always gets me tripped up in the end?”
One user describes his situation as follows: “We don’t feel very comfortable here in the village and in our house and wonder whether we should change. However, our daughter enjoys the location here very much.”
Hexagram 15 – Modesty shows a person who rests in himself, is self-referential and concentrated. His environment meets him with openness, with an observing attitude. Out of this calm and meditative attitude the person acts, full of inner peace, and simultaneously clear and determined. This triggers a change in the environment, which may take on a surprising dynamic. What exactly is the basic meditative attitude and the resulting action? In any case, it is not an action that is the result of cleverness of the mind. Rather, it has to do with presence, with being present in the here and now. The action itself can be small and unimpressive. But it is precisely the drop that will make the barrel overflow and thus trigger change. The pivotal point is therefore one’s own (mental) presence, which fades out all distracting thoughts or feelings (anger, fear, grief), concentrates solely on this moment and acts according to spontaneous inspiration.
Regarding hexagram16 – Enthusiasm I received a couple of questions concerning quite different issues:
“How should I interpret my physical symptoms?”
“What point am I at right now?”
“Without success, I can not keep living. But success always includes some failure. How can I deal with this?”
“What do I have to give up to be happy?”
I find it surprising that – in my understanding – a certain disorientation speaks from all these questions. Personally, I have always been amazed by the name of this hexagram: enthusiasm. How in the world can something like enthusiasm arise from the combination of Kun, the earth (lower trigram) and Zhen, the thunder (upper trigram)?
It is exactly this question – how does enthusiasm arise from Kun and Zhen? – which I asked myself when the answer literally crossed my path. It crossed my path in the form of an incident that made me suddenly understand how something like… enthusiasm!… eventually could arise from what the winding paths of the changing lines suggest.
The story goes something like this: Quite a long time ago a damage was done to me, which I noticed only many years later. As a result, I broke off contact with the person in question. And then recently I run into someone I hadn’t seen in a very, very long time and who knows the story and everyone involved. That day we talked about this and that, but then the conversation turned to this ancient story and… somehow I had the feeling that my counterpart wanted to sound me out in the form of: “Well, and how do you feel, as a victim?”
At that very moment I realized: I don’t want that any more. I no longer want see myself as a victim. Because that’s what I had done, for some time, because the damage had indeed been great, the whole thing vile. But I had worked it out for myself since then, intensively even, and at some point… yes, you can put it that way: At some point I made my peace with it. The chapter was closed for me.
And then this person comes and… wants to see me (again) as a victim. No thanks, no need.
At that moment, the changing lines of the hexagram made suddenly sense to me. I am in a place where I am at peace and comfortable (Kun, the earth). The victim storylies long behind, is worked through. And then someone speaks to me about the old incident and I realize: Hey, that’s not it anymore. The chapter “I, the victim” is done with. It’s no longer a description that applies to me. I am now much more than “the victim”… Voila: Gen, the mountain, releasing what has become obsolete.
But, let’s follow the course of the changing lines even a bit further: What does it mean if I let go of the term “the victim”? And replace it with something else, perhaps with “the one who made it (anyway)”? Then, clearly, the glasses with which I look at the world change (Kan, the water). I no longer see all the little episodes where I’ve been screwed, but I suddenly see… all that I’ve managed and overcome in my life. And instead of fear and worries, I am suddenly filled with… enthusiasm 🙂 in the face of the path that lies ahead of me, the path towards myself (Zhen, the thunder).
Something new is coming to light decisively and powerfully. It will transform the entire situation. However, this new beginning has a price: we must disengage and let go of what is outdated, obsolete, an old pattern – even if it is hard to abandon something that was trusted and familiar for such a long time now. Eventually this image helps: a tree discarding old foliage, getting ready for a new cycle of life, with the old foliage serving as a fertilizer for new growth. We also need this fertilizer which is generated by disengagement: for our own forward bursting growth, which soon will interweave with the world, resonating with it in giving and taking. Continue reading “17 – following”
Is something wrong here? And if so: what is it? A dynamic development ends unexpectedly with a reality check – why? Momentum is basically positive. It turns unpleasant if the autopilot takes control. Autopilot occurs when a situation’s dynamic no longer comes from our own interior, but is determined by external (eventually cultural) imprint. A reality check is quite beneficial: Do I really enjoy what is currently happening? Does it make sense? Does it corresponds to my very heart – or is it a copy of someone else’s life? The answers to these questions will lead to a decision. And probably you must let go of something: maybe the autopilot, which was in control until now? Continue reading “18 – work on what has been spoiled”
We open ourselves to our environment – and become inspired… Not an easy task, if our head and mind are full. Ok, once again: we open ourselves, make ourselves empty and perceptive, curious, without prejudiced, without any prior knowledge. We listen carefully: What does the external world want to tell us? And all off a sudden: we perceive it – and are inspired! Nourished, fertilized, refreshed… connected with what previously was alien, non-familiar. From this contact with the external world a decision arises, followed by a long period of growth and materialization. Maybe it will take some time before we see results. But we need not do anything. Only trust: in our inspiration, in our decision. Continue reading “19 – approach”
Here. Now. At this moment it is wise to withdraw into our own root. To withdraw from the world. To turn our gaze inwards. Just as a plant does in winter. To do nothing. This moment belongs to us alone. We draw strength. Like a wave, which stretches back into the sea, concentrating its energy. And even though it may look as if we surrender – we do not surrender. We gather our strength. We focus our energy. In non-action (Wu Wei) we are provides with everything we may need at this moment. Incidentally letting go of a few old, unnecessary things / thoughts / attitudes… before we powerfully rush back into life. Continue reading “20 – contemplation”
Usually, when we take a decision and want to make a change, we assume that we have to act in a completely new way, to add something unprecedented to the already existing.
Sometimes, however, the solution lies in just the opposite: to do nothing – and to let go of something. Maybe of our self-image, a habit, our accustomed view on something, our habitual “but we always…”. Perhaps it is also our impulse to bang with our fist on the table and to push our will through. Continue reading “21 – biting through”
Sometimes our cool head is our last rescue: when things go haywire, when gut feelings go crazy. But maybe they are not going crazy, we just do not get the message they are telling us. A cool head helps – and points the way for our gut. Scans the darkness. Calms the turmoil. Continue reading “22 – grace”
Here and now… where exactly am I – and with whom or what do I share this here-and-now?
Kun is navel gazing. It is a call to retreat to our own origins as a source of power and to calm down. But what does it look like, this intimate place, our inner source of strength? Do you like what you see? Does it give you strength – or it is just a collection of things (or people, or options, or, or), which creates an illusion of security? Things never give security. And at worst they clutter and block our lives. Continue reading “23 – splitting apart”
In earth’s dark womb something is happening: a decision (Zhen) has been taken and is now followed by a long phase of growth and materialization (Kun). I do not know which is harder: the decision, or the patience.
I received the following questions and descriptions of situations that resulted in hexagram25 – innocence:
One user writes: “After an unpleasant event a few months ago, I am more or less in a kind of crisis. I have my life under control and am getting along reasonably well, but emotionally I am still very much shaken. Since then I try to understand the best I can what actually happened – also by questioning the I Ching.”
Another user asks: “Please, tell me how the story between me and x will develop further during the upcoming year!”
A users has met a person in a quite unique way who later on turned out to be very important for her. Her question: “Will we meet again? Or: what’s the point?”
“I, I, all I!” – I am standing at the summit, I have achieved something. And now? For a moment I rest, enjoying spectacular views. And then? I’m standing at the summit. I have achieved something. I enjoy the views… What else do I see? More summits. Summits which I could set out for. And reenter the course of the world.
So far I received the following inquiries regarding hexagram27 – Providing Nourishment:
A user asks: “What I should do regarding a man, who I would like to know better?”
For more than a year now a user is dealing with all kinds of challenges: selling her home, finding an apartment, a new job, a new partnership. She asks: “What else should and/or must I do?” She suffers from the situation’s uncertainty and constantly encounters blockades. And: slowly she feels very exhausted.
Cooperating with a smug and manipulative colleague is putting a strain on a user. So far, she could protect herself and concentrate on her job’s core tasks. But her colleague regularly disturbs her. She refuses to engage in games or fall into her old patterns as a victim. How can she be true to herself and gain respect in her professional environment?
For hexagram28 – Preponderance of the Great users shared various – in part dramatic – situations with me. What is the common denominator? Eventually, how important it is, in the darkest moment, to be centered, to recollect on oneself: “I, I, all I!”
One user asks the I Ching: “Will I meet the man, who I think I can love?”
Another user asks: “How will my professional situation evolve?”
“Will S. marry me one day?” is yet another user’s question. She knows the much older S. for several years now, the two have talked about marriage and children. However, so far S. made no move to implement anything of it, the two are not even in a relationship. Does S. just make the user wait?
For quite some time now another user experiences her marriage as a dead end road; over the years she had a secret lover, a situation which made her suffer. Last year her son was severely injured in an accident, today the spouses together take care for the permanently disabled child. The secret lover has definitively quit. The marriage persists as an empty shell. The user feels stressed and unhappy in the current situation. For three years now, she intensively practices Qigong and Taiji.
“What do I need to let go of?” a user asks, and the I Ching answers with hexagram 28 – preponderance of the great.*
* The user’s original question had been “What should I do to deal with all my current problems?” The I Ching’s initial answer had been hexagram 21 – biting through. However, to the user this seemed to be more than a mere slogan of perseverance. Thus the above follow-up question.
So far the following feedbacks regarding regarding hexagram 29 – the Abysmal:
Due to circumstances beyond her control a user lives in an international long distance relationship. Her libertarian partner does fine with it, for herself it is a “better-than-nothing”: Basically the situation does not work for her.
Another user reflects on a glassy sea over shoals as follows: “For me, a glassy sea brings the following to mind: keeping everything quiet. From the outside, everything looks calm, however, under the glassy surface there are enormous emotional shoals. These shoals are the ancient behavioral patterns that have been passed on from generation to generation for thousands of years. I myself, as part of this chain, am without any influence on it, my consciousness / body consciousness does not react at all to my wishes for liberation or change. The result is that I am actually incapable of action. I can rebel against the unwanted circumstances, but when my strength is used up, I am left with only resignation. In my case it’s a cycle that has been going on for more than 50 years now.”
The user’s landlady terminated his lease for personal use – after less than a year and a lot of money for renovation work. With three children and a dog, however, it is not easy to find an affordable replacement apartment. The lawyer advises calm. The question to the I Ching is, “Will there be a lawsuit and how will it turn out for us?”
One user asks: “How can I now find joy, peace and hope – as the last scion of a thorny family drama, impoverished, chronically exhausted, in inner emigration? Must the family always have the last word, may we not decide our own relationships and connections?” The I Ching answers with 29 – the abysmal.