I’m running a free call this Sunday (10th) about the I Ching as ‘book of transformations’. This is all part of the preparations for this year’s I Ching Class: I’m trying to use the free calls to give a flavour of what it’s about, as well as some practical suggestions and techniques you can take away and use.
This call’s about divination beyond fortune-telling. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the I Ching can’t predict the future, because ‘can’t’ turns out to be a remarkably silly word to use of this oracle. (Also, it can – I’ve seen it happen.) I’m saying that this isn’t the true value of it – in a way, it’s a distraction. “I Ching” translates into English as “Change Book”, and change happens in the present moment.
To start looking at this on a small scale – because this is how the I Ching works, one question and one (usually small and subtle) inner shift at a time –
On the face of it, it’s obvious how consulting with the I Ching can bring about change. You ask for advice –
“What would be a good approach here?”
“How can I achieve that?”
“How can I cope with this?”
– and you receive it. The answer contains suggestions for ways to act that you’d never imagined, or that you hadn’t quite had the confidence to try; you try them; the situation changes; so do you.
But I doubt the I Ching would have been quite so popular for the past 3,000 years if its answers only gave advice. Advice, after all, is of limited usefulness:
“‘How can I possibly cope with this hugely stressful situation?”
Well, gosh, thanks, why didn’t I think of that?
Advice – especially advice about making inward changes – inevitably tends to be abstract. There is no world shortage of this kind of thing.
(In fact, ‘simplified versions’ of the I Ching – you know, the ones that scrupulously remove all that ‘difficult’ old imagery – only add to the supply. When someone tells me they’ve made an I Ching reading and been left wondering how to do what it advised, the chances are they’ve been using one of these, and never had the chance to hear what the I Ching had to say. But that’s a whole other rant…)
The I Ching’s advice comes in the form of stories to inhabit and imagery to step into. Seeing the same situation in a new image is a superb way to transform the situation – starting with your experience of it, and spreading ripples of change out from there.
The I Ching is full to overflowing with mini-parables and vivid characters. You might be invited to become a crane calling her young, or a king, or an apparently-powerless second wife, or a farmer, or a suitor, or a tiger. You might get to see your situation as a tiny vignette (a ram butting a hedge, a cart’s axle coming adrift, an illness that needs no medicine), or it might be revealed as part of a great mythic arc. It’s possible to talk about what these things represent – but not to reduce them to that.
To take an example I might have shared before… that “How can I possibly cope?” question. I asked that one at a time when I’d been congratulating myself on how well I was handling all the stressors – until just one more arrived, and the camel’s back broke with a resounding crack. I felt exhausted, hollowed out, with nothing left to cope with even one more thing. So I subsided to the floor, grabbed the beads, and asked Yi how I was meant to cope.
This overturned my whole way of thinking – the idea that I had my own resources to draw on, and now they’d run out. The inner resource, said Yi, had not gone anywhere – in fact, it could not be diminished. The only question was whether I was reaching it.
That’s basically what I learned from the reading – but only a pale reflection of what I received. There was an abrupt, complete change in how I experienced that inner hollowness and darkness (a well is a deep, dark pit…) – that is, my physical awareness of my own emotions changed. And so my way of responding also changed, on some indescribable energetic level.
So… that’s one way (of many) that the Change Book sparks and nurtures change. More examples, and some suggestions on how to tap into this kind of potential, will be in Sunday’s call: here are the details.
There’ll also be time on the call for me to answer questions about the I Ching and how to work with it as a ‘Book of Transformations’. Please could you send me your question in now? That way I can fit it into the call and include it in the handout. Post your question in the comments, or use the Q&A box on the call page.