Hilary Barrett, I Ching

What are weekly readings good for?

Or annual readings, or readings for the season or even just for the day… all the readings where the question is just,

‘What do I need to be aware of for this period of time?’
or maybe just,
‘Advice?’

You might have some ongoing issues in mind – we usually have, after all – but you’re not asking about any of them specifically. You’re just asking for a guiding principle, something to carry in awareness as you go about daily life.

What they’re no good for

Let’s start with what these readings aren’t good for. First, they’re no replacement for asking direct questions about a specific decision. If you need to decide whether to do X or Y, just ask ‘What if I did X?’ and ‘What if I did Y?’. Be direct, be straightforward; ask what you need to know. Trying to apply general, open readings to specific decisions is pretty much a recipe for muddle and frustration – especially the ‘but which option is this referring to?’ kind.

And more generally… I wouldn’t rely on an open reading for immediate clarity. My weekly reading does have an immediate effect: it sets the tone for the coming week, often rewriting my priorities and plans for me. (I’ve taken to doing the planning after the reading!) But I wouldn’t expect to come to a true understanding of the reading until the end of the week, with the benefit of hindsight.

(I was listening the other day to an online interview with Stephen Karcher. He said that if you have perfect clarity as soon as you cast a reading, any reading, you’re doing it wrong. The reading is supposed to confuse you at first. I don’t know if that’s absolutely always true, but it’s a good principle, I think, and a great antidote to the fear that ‘it hasn’t worked’ if understanding isn’t immediate.)

Another thing these readings aren’t good for: a precise description of a fixed period of time. A weekly reading, for me, says something more like, ‘Here’s an ongoing process that’s becoming especially relevant now, so pay attention.’ I certainly don’t discard it as irrelevant on day 8: it’s in the journal, so I do my best to refer back to it and build on it. (This is why I don’t do daily readings: I just couldn’t keep up.)

Annual readings are tricky in a whole other way. Mine for this year is 56 changing to 23, of all things. It’d be counterproductive, at best, to treat that as a prediction. For me it’s more of an underlying theme and ‘stuff to work on’.

What they are good for

Weekly readings – annual, seasonal and daily ones, too – are good for three things: learning, guidance in crisis, and awareness.

Learning

This is one thing that’s always true: weekly readings always mean learning, at least if I’m paying attention. It goes two ways: the readings give me a better chance of understanding and learning from experience, and experience provides me with new illustrations of the hexagrams and lines.

Also, the readings evolve from one week to the next, and that nudges me to move on. Last week, for instance, one of my moving lines was 9.3:

‘A cart losing its wheel spokes.
Husband and wife avert their eyes.’

Amongst other things, I saw how the wheels came off on various things I’d promised myself I’d do, and the line suggests to me that this is connected with a breakdown in internal communication in the face of great truth (zhi gua 61). My reading for this week begins with Hexagram 53, Gradual Development: slow and steady progress towards marriage and (re)union. I feel it’s inviting me to start moving towards an inner reconnection.

Guidance in crisis

Some things just happen, and don’t leave you time to ask Yi about them. At such times, I’ve found very often a recent reading talks to me and sustains me. Of course, that doesn’t have to be an open reading-for-the-time, but in practice it often is, perhaps because those readings represent a clear, uncluttered invitation to provide what I need, not just what I’m aware of needing.

Awareness

I need a new metaphor for this for the digital age… but an open reading works a lot like tuning a radio. It takes your attention, hones it and gives it focus, so you’re ready to receive messages more clearly. Then the messages flow in, through events, conversations, dreams, reflections, synchronicities. You turn on the radio and hear commentary on your moving line. Or you notice first that the reading describes one situation in your life, then that it also describes another… and then you start to see how these two experiences are images of one another, each reflecting light into the other’s mysteries. Experience expands into new dimensions and full colour.

Hm… I see this is a theme I come back to quite a bit. For instance here’s a post from 2008 about divination for awareness, and this more recent post that mentions a couple of weekly readings.

51 Responses to “What are weekly readings good for?”

  1. Allan Says:

    Steve and Hilary,

    This will be my last comment.

    Something relevant to our respective discussions for your reading pleasure (extracts from my latest article – Getting to know Heaven):

    “The mysterious workings of Heaven and Tao are certainly not easy to comprehend until experienced. We should know our own limitations and be circumspect of what we say or do in public regarding ancient Yijing and Tao practices, lest we inadvertently offend Heaven.

    Good deeds seemed unrewarded and evil deeds seemed unpunished yet Heaven’s and/or divinities’ rewards and punishments often manifest for those who in the know. Those who know this phenomenon down the ages based on what they have taught include Laozi, Confucius, the Buddha, and Mencius.”

    Regards,
    Allan´s last blog post ..Getting to know Heaven

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