10 – treading (conduct)

Graphic hexagram 10I 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.

If one seriously answers the various questions posed in the “A Western Approximation”, it quickly becomes clear: the only influence we can have on such a situation is to change ourselves, to work on our own attitudes and reaction patterns. Because we cannot change the “boss”, never, he (or she) is beyond our sphere of influence.

So how can I concretely imagine such a situation as described by the two users?
I am sitting at my desk. I am doing my work calmly and conscientiously. Suddenly, my employer steps behind me. He/she opens his/her mouth… and assigns me more tasks. A huge increase in tasks. A sea of tasks. An ocean of tasks.
I feel a bit like Cinderella. Cinderella who has to pick the peas, and when she’s almost done, the wicked stepmother comes and brings her another pot of peas…. Cinderella never finishes.
Like me. The work is never “done,” never finally good. And that’s why I can never relax, there’s always new, more, more work to do….

How can I free myself from such a cycle? Let’s deal with the questions of “A Western Approximation”:

How can I maintain the balance? Am I aware of the boundary? The boundary between me and you?
Ah, there is a boundary… I and my employer are two different people – with different positions, desires, concerns. And it’s perfectly normal for us to have different concerns….
Actually, that‘s all obvious, it’s as clear as day. So clear that it sometimes completely… escapes us….

Where exactly is this boundary between me and you? Can I sense myself?
When my employer stands in front of me and wants something… do I sense that there is another person who wants something from me? That this other person is separate from me, that s/he is not part of me, but stands outside of me? That this person is not sitting at the levers of my control system, but that it is me who has the power over my control system?

What is my position – and what is yours?
What exactly does my employer want? What are his motivations? To do a good job for his customers, to provide them with a good product. To earn money. Make profits. Cut costs… all right.
I’m certainly part of “doing a good job for his customers” – and I’m part of the costs that need to be cut…

Can I feel it, can I sense this I that I am?
But I am also more than that. I am more than the “eager beaver ” and the “cost factor” – I am a human being! With an intrinsic value! I am a human being with an inner life… I exist… I feel…

Yes. Eventually that is the key question of the entire situation: Who actually sets the agenda here, who defines the game, who sets the rules, who says where things go? Who determines how I feel? In a dysfunctional work relationship, the employer sets all of this unilaterally: He or she alone defines the kind work, the amount of work, the price that he or she pays for it – and that I should dutifully fulfill all of this.

He or she may want it that way. But I may also take a position. What do I think and feel? What do I think about the customers who want to have good work? What do I want in return? Where do I actually stand?
Exactly. Finding that out is a good thing. Because only when I know that, can I conduct myself accordingly…

Scope of Questions

Here a few more inquiries which I received some time ago regarding Hexagram 10 – treading (conduct) . They are about an important decisions that have been made, and the process of carefully re-examining these decisions afterwards, based on reality. So again, it’s about weighing two different perspectives, one’s own internal perspective and the external “environment”-perspective.

  • 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.”
Case Study

Quite some time ago 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.

Some Reflections

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.

The current interpretation can be found here: https://www.no2do.com/hexagramme_en/778777.htm