21 – biting through

Graphic hexagram 21Usually, 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.

If we found that what we should let go of, found it and actually let go of it, then our glance will open. And we will first feel and then see: the NEW.

Some Reflections

Changes. Is that what hexagram 21 – biting through is about? About how to fundamentally change things, relationships, modes of behavior in one’s own life? I almost get the impression.

This weekend I wrote to a friend who is in such a process of change. And the amazing insight was: Once you have found the switch that needs to be flipped, then the rest goes almost by itself. It still takes time, you need patience, but actually you don’t have to “do” much more.

But where is this switch? With the friend it had to do with (childhood) pain, which he had pushed away for a long time. At some point he found courage and circumstances to face it. To surrender. And since he had done that… everything changes. Because suddenly all those weird patterns are becoming apparent (and obsolete) that had only served to prevent him from facing the pain. Now he can let go of those patterns. And start a completely different, new life. (Yes, but how do you find that switch? Folks, get some support! You don’t always have to do everything on your own, all alone. Or, eventually, I could phrase it like that: If you have decided to seriously look for the “switch” (the decision is very important!), then you only have to be a little attentive, keep your eyes open, because then “support” will run into you. Quite sure :) )

Scope of Questions

Recently I received another question that had resulted in hexagram 21 – biting through:

  • The user’s question to the I Ching is: “How can I break the vicious circle so that my personal relationships are not doomed to failure from the very beginning?”
    The user explains the “vicious circle” as follows: “I sabotage my personal relationships by usually building a bond much faster than other people do. I already see the other as my very best friend or fall in love head over heels while the other person is still just getting to know me. With this I put the other under pressure and they distance themselves, which in turn hurts me very much. What can I do? I can’t switch my feelings on and off deliberately, can I? And when I deliberately control my feelings, it eats me up inside.
    Interestingly, my concern has a certain resemblance to the case study below (father conflict). For me, too, it always boils down to the unpleasant feeling that I am never good enough for other people”.
  • One user’s question was, “What should I do to deal with all my current problems (litigation; stagnation in creative projects; no clear career perspective; pressure from authorities)?” However, the answer of the I Ching – hexagram 21 – biting through – seems to her to be more than a mere slogan of perseverance. Apparently, it is just not a matter of simply gritting one’s teeth and persevering… This is why her follow-up question arises: “What do I have to let go?”, which the I Ching finally answers with hexagram 28 – preponderance of the great.
Case Study

A user with a long smoldering father conflict receives 21 – biting through as the I Ching’s answer.
Determination (Zhen, the thunder; lower trigram) and releasing (Gen, the mountain; first core character) form hexagram 21 – biting through. But what is it, the user should release? We think about it together. And come up with an idea: Maybe it is his self-image. A child who confronts his father. A child who never made it up to his father’s expectations. He was that child for a long time. Is he still?
What changes when he modifies his self-image? When he stops seing himself as his father’s child and begins being the adult man he is? He sees strength and authority – instead of weakness and inexperience. Wisdom collected along the path he has travelled since his childhood.
This small change in focus makes a big difference. Gen, the mountain evolves to Kan, the water (second core character). All we have ever experienced, all situations in which we have proven ourselves, form the primordial grounds (Kan, the water) we draw our strength from. Just that he forgets that sometimes, confronting his father, being the eternal child.
A surprisingly clear insight (Li, the fire; upper trigram)!

Some further Reflections

Transforming the hexagram into an acupuncture point – the following now very experimental! – results in GB38. This is a frequently used point, perhaps because it suits our culture so well. A culture where our decisions easily clash with walls of convention, which in turn generates rage, the classic feel of disturbed GB. Also, the time of the consultation, March, warm, spring-like weather, corresponds to expanding wood, very Zhen, not yet Sun.

Debra Kaatz writes on GB38 Yang Fu:

Yang is the active side of Life… Fu is drawn as a carriage and the ability to grow into manhood and estabilsh a family… Yang Fu means to be supported in the rich energy of yang. Here the warmth and sunshine full of yang energy helps us mature and grow into “manhood”… At this point we are filled with warmth and love to feel secure and confident for opening outward… Kaatz 2005

Georg Zimmermann comments in his translation of the I Ching that both characters of the hexagram’s Chinese name mean to bite, to clench one’s teeth. The challenge is not to bite so hard that you ruin your teeth – and yet strong enough to be able to digest the bites. Thunder and lightning, natural voltage discharges, indicate that there is stress; “clearly defined penalties”, “laws” and “justice” (the image, the judgment) advise clarification; brute force alone will not help the situation but ruin teeth.
All this describes very well the attitude that is required here: take a stand – and in consequence release. Things can definitely not be enforced through brute force.

It is amazing that in the natural course of the I Ching Zhen (determination) evolve either into a growth process (Kun, the earth) – or a release (Gen, the mountain). The release process makes me think of releasing an old confinement, just like a snake skin. The releasing in hexagram 21 – biting through clarifies the situation by turning our attention to Kan (the water), our own primordial grounds.


Something crossed my path today and made me realize the relationship between determination and release: sometimes the old, withered is still there, while the new begins. And while the new is already in full growth, the old dissolve naturally.
It is not necessary to use brute force. Just be prepared to release (and never make the mistake of holding onto something explicitly).
That is what I found today:

The current interpretation can be found here: https://www.no2do.com/hexagramme_en/788787.htm