How do I make decisions? After careful deliberation? From the gut? Both paths have pitfalls. Decisions deriving from deliberation are usually concrete, they follow common lines of argument, but at the risk that I make other people’s arguments my own; gut decisions quite often feel absolutely right, but may appear irrational to others. In any case, they require me to have a good, tight connection to my gut feelings, to my inner voice.
So what is my way in making decisions? Are my decisions coherent, do they fit in with inner feelings and outer circumstances? If so, I can set out: trustingly, prudently and vigilantly. And everything will be fine.
Scope of Questions
Recently I received a new inquiry regarding Hexagram 10 – treading (conduct) – besides the below mentioned case studies. Again, it is about an important decision that has been made and the process of carefully re-examining this decision in the light of reality.
- The user describes his concern as follows: “More than once I have made decisions to address something (corrupt), let it go, dissolved it. This time my decision affects a valuable friendship that existed since quite a long time. During the past two years both of us have been confronted again and again with dependency issues. I have decided to face this problem and free myself. My friend, who is facing the same difficulties, has chosen a different solution. My decision, my path (which is different from his) feels right to me. But it also means that I risk losing my friend. My friend reacts to my decision with anger, reproach and misunderstanding. The effects of my decision on myself are torturous, full of tension, and accompanied by guilt, fears, anxiety, hunger and headaches.”
Earlier two users share questions / situations with me that the I Ching both answered with Hexagram 10 – treading (conduct). Here a short description:
- User A: I want to reorient myself professionally. For quite a while now, I have been pursuing an idea that would fit that purpose. Financially I am now in a position to afford the corresponding education, but suddenly I am unsure: should I do it, is it the right time, do I really want to go for it? My belief has stalled. What is this all about?
- User B: I am pretty athletic and physically competent. Currently I am taking the motorcycle driving license. On training rides and my own excursions with the motorcycle, I repeatedly run into situations in which everything went wrong. A manoeuvring error already resulted in damage to the bike, fortunately I stayed unharmed. After the last unsuccessful U-turn (the machine resulted inoperable), I asked the I Ching: “The Tao constantly slows me down – what does this mean?”
At first glance, the two situations described above appear to have nothing in common. Nevertheless, they have one common denominator: both users made a decision in the past, which they now review in the light of their respective realities. Dui, the lake (lower trigram) describes the moment when inside world and outside world meet. Both users expressed their respective decision (start of an education program; motorcycle licence) towards the outer world and let these decisions become alive. At the same time, the environment responded to their decisions.
The answers which the two users received were the different: User A begins now that her vague ideas materialize, to question the correctness of her decision; user B runs into the proverbial stones on her path – and asks for their meaning.
What leads us to our decisions? Roughly speaking, there are head decisions and gut decisions. Head decisions are usually concrete, they are easily communicated to our fellows, they make perfect sense because they follow popular lines of argument. By contrast, gut decisions often appear to be irrational; sometimes it is impossible to properly explain why we decide this way and not that way, or what is the overall purpose. And yet: quite often gut decisions just feel right.
Both pathways to decisions have their pitfalls. If we solely rely on our head in the decision-making process, far too often we give the sceptre out of hand: we believe in authorities and take other people’s arguments as our own. At the end it is no longer us who makes the decision, but other people who might even benefit from our behaviour. Gut decisions require a good, a tight connection to our gut feelings. Do we perceive our inner voice loudly and clearly? Or is it our inner voice subtly manipulated, e.g. through the promises of advertising?
In hexagram 10 – treading (conduct) the lower trigram Dui transforms into the first core character Li, the fire. Li is the instance that distinguishes the world and separates “clear” and “unclear”. Both users have made decisions. Maybe it is helpful to examine how they arrived at those decisions. Was it the head that decided? Good thing – as long as it is our own head, which decides. Or was it a gut decision? Good – if this decision continues to feel round and true.
However, the strange signs of resistance the motor-biking user B encounters, puzzle me. Sometimes we opt for something – and the world still denies it to us. I would consider some initial obstacles as teething problems; but if resistance continues and even escalates, it is maybe a good idea to closely scrutinize our plans once again. And – even if it hurts – eventually let go. Ideally, years later we may realize that it had been wise not insist.
Once the two users have clarity about their decisions and are sure that their decisions are consistent, they can trustingly embark on their respective journeys (Li develops into Sun, the wind / tree (second core character)). To achieve – even against initial resistance or doubt – their goals (Qian, the heaven; upper trigram).
The judgement to Hexagram 10 – treading (conduct) says:
Treading. Treading upon the tail of the tiger. It does not bite the man. Success.
I think the Hexagram advises us to gently and carefully move forward. The way we would sneak through tangled underbrush. We do not know what exactly lies beneath our feet. Maybe a tiger sleeps somewhere – and its tail lays on the ground, hidden by foliage. If we dash through the woods rather than to sneak, at worst we will stumble across the tiger. If we step gently, if we move forward cautiously, then we hopefully may notice our mistake in time. And everything come to a good end.
The current interpretation can be found here: http://www.no2do.com/hexagramme_en/778777.htm