...life can be translucent

I Ching with Clarity

For some 3,000 years, people have turned to the I Ching, the Book of Changes, to help them uncover the meaning of their experience, to bring their actions into harmony with their underlying purpose, and above all to build a foundation of confident awareness for their choices.

Down the millennia, as the I Ching tradition has grown richer and deeper, the things we consult about may have changed a little, but the moment of consultation is much the same. These are the times when you’re turning in circles, hemmed in and frustrated by all the things you can’t see or don’t understand. You can think it over (and over, and over); you can ‘journal’ it; you can gather opinions.

But how can you have confidence in choosing a way to go, if you can’t quite be sure of seeing where you are?

Only understand where you are now, and you rediscover your power to make changes. This is the heart of I Ching divination. Once you can truly see into the present moment, all its possibilities open out before you – and you are free to create your future.

What is the I Ching?

The I Ching (or Yijing) is an oracle book: it speaks to you. You can call on its help with any question you have: issues with relationships of all kinds, ways to attain your personal goals, the outcomes of different choices for a key decision. It grounds you in present reality, encourages you to grow, and nurtures your self-knowledge. When things aren’t working, it opens up a space for you to get ‘off the ride’, out of the rut, and choose your own direction. And above all, it’s a wide-open, free-flowing channel for truth.

For I Ching Beginners -

How do you want to get started?

There are two different ways most people first meet the I Ching. There’s,

‘I’m fascinated by this ancient book and I want to learn all about it,’

and there’s,

‘I need help now with this thing (so I’ll learn whatever I need to know to get help with The Thing).’

Learning about the I Ching, or learning from the I Ching?

In the end, these two ways aren’t actually different. It isn’t possible to do one without the other, and people end up wanting both: the ‘learn about Yi’ people draw on its help more as their knowledge grows; the ‘learn from Yi’ people find they want to know more, once they’ve got the help they need.

But... they are different at the beginning:

Not a beginner?

Welcome - I’m glad you’ve come. Clarity’s here to help you deepen, explore and enjoy your relationship with Yi. You might like...

And so you can get to know some like-minded Yi-enthusiasts and we can keep in touch, do join Clarity

Hello, and thank you for visiting!

I’m Hilary - I work as an I Ching diviner and teacher, and I’m the author of I Ching: Walking your path, creating your future.

I hope you enjoy the site and find what you’re looking for here - do contact me with any comments or questions.

Clarity is my one-woman business providing I Ching courses, readings and community. (You can read more about me, and what I do, here.) It lets me spend my time doing the work I love, using my gifts to help you.

(Thank you.)

Warm wishes,

From the blog

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series How Yi helps

Writing lately about ways Yi helps reminded me of possibly my favourite chapter of the Dazhuan (the ‘Great Treatise’, 5th and 6th Wings of the Yijing):

‘Yi is a document that should not be set at a distance.
Its dao is ever-changing,
alternating and moving without rest,
flowing through the six vacant places,
moving up and down without rule.
Whole and broken lines change places,
with no consistent principle:
alternation is all that happens.
Going and coming within limits
gives warning without and within,
shedding light on trouble and its causes,
not as a guide or teacher, but like a parent at one’s side.
First study the statements,
and ponder their purport;
then principles will emerge;
but if one is not the person intended,
the dao will not apply automatically.’

This is quoted from Richard Rutt’s translation – which I appreciate because it lets you read through without interpolated commentary.

Rather like the ancient text of the oracle itself, I think this passage only looks like a set of unconnected statements, and has its own internal logic.

Yi is not to be set at a distance:

  • it does not operate according to fixed rules – there is only change
  • it’s not like an instructor or guardian, but like your father and mother
  • and if you’re not ‘the person intended’, it does nothing

Those are three ways it can’t be set at a distance. To begin with, if Yi operated by fixed rules, you could use like a predictable tool that always behaves in the same way – like arithmetic, or a washing machine. It doesn’t, and so you must be close to it (or let it come close to you) to hear what it says.

Then it is ‘not like a teacher or guide‘ – which is quite startling, because we often do speak of Yi as if it were a teacher. Some even refer to what-speaks-through-Yi as ‘the Sage’. But… you are not close to a Sage: you follow their guidance and do what they say without question.

That’s an attitude to Yi I find disquieting: when someone says, ‘I wanted to do this, but Yi said not to, so I didn’t,’ I often feel there is something wrong. It’s odd in a way, because I trust Yi’s guidance absolutely in my own life. Yet it always seems important that it should at least be possible to have a conversation with Yi that goes like this:

‘How about doing this?’

‘It would be a trainwreck.’

‘OK. Thank you. I still feel it’s something I should do, so I’m doing it anyway.’

Paradoxically, I think this – reserving the right to our own trainwrecks – makes for a closer, more intimate relationship with Yi. If the Oracle becomes the arbiter of decisions, so that you automatically and without question do what it says, then you’re actually ‘setting it at a distance’ from your own intuition and moral sense.

The Dazhuan says Yi is not like a teacher but like ‘father and mother Nearing’ (the verb used is the name of Hexagram 19). Despite the cute illustration for this post, I don’t believe this means you have to be like a small child to Yi’s adult – however much it may feel like that at times! No – this is the relationship of an adult to their parents, or their parents’ spirits: made of love, respect and complete attention, but not knee-jerk obedience.

There’s a twist in the tail of this passage: first it tells you there are no rules or constant principles to Yi but change; then it says that if you study and reflect, ‘principles will emerge’ after all.

Wang Bi’s solution is to say that the ‘constant law’ you will find is change itself, which is an elegant interpretation. I have a feeling, though, that this may be following on from what was said earlier,

‘The Yi has no thought, no action. It is inert and motionless, but when activated it penetrates every cause under heaven.’

The Yi doesn’t have intrinsic principles; it has to be ‘activated’. When you pay attention to what it says and consider what it could mean – in other words, when you are considering your own reading – then ‘principles will emerge.’

Then the final line follows naturally: if you are ‘not the person intended’, in other words if this is not your reading and Yi is not speaking to you personally, then it does not apply.

The passage literally says something like, ‘If not its person, the dao does not act hollowly.’ I like Lynn’s translation: ‘the dao will not operate in vain.’ If you set the Oracle at a distance and treat understanding it as a theoretical exercise, then the dao cannot and does not engage with such emptiness: there is no reading, nothing happens. But if you let Yi be as close to you as a parent and reflect on what it’s saying to you, then it speaks.

parent and child walk across the beach


This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series How Yi helps

Yi helps in the ways we need…

I’ve been thinking about ways Yi helps, and it occurs to me that different ways will be important to different people, or at different times of life.

An obvious example: as a business owner, my days are full of ‘What if I try this?’ questions as I look for the best way forward: there are always decisions to be made. (What to buy, what to sell, what to learn, what strategy to choose, what to concentrate on now… and so on.) Someone who worked for a bigger organisation, implementing other people’s decisions, wouldn’t ask many ‘What about…?’ questions, but they might have a lot of questions about office politics.

A less obvious example: the other day a client described how she appreciates Yi for ‘helping you understand yourself’. For her, that’s at the heart of what Yi does and how it helps, but I realised it’s not the kind of thing I often ask (though when I do, it helps), maybe because I’m more of an introvert to start with.

So how Yi helps depends partly on what demands your way of life makes on you, and partly on where you feel you need most help. I find the biggest gap in my confidence/ competence, where I find Yi helps me most, comes in social relationships. I’d imagine that someone blessed with superb social instincts and ‘people skills’ wouldn’t need to ask half the ‘relationship’ questions I do. (And in fact, looking back through past readings, I can see quite a few questions I probably wouldn’t need to ask now, because of what I’ve learned over the years – from experience and from Yi.)

How to help

An example from many years ago: suddenly finding that the person I’d be spending the next 40 minutes with had been recently bereaved. This was before I’d lost anyone myself; I didn’t even know the person that well; I had no clue how to be or what to say. I asked Yi, and received Hexagram 31, Influence, with no changing lines.

This is one of those beautiful examples of Yi giving an unchanging hexagram when you most need a simple answer. I read the Image of 31 –

‘Above the mountain is a lake. Influence.
Noble one accepts people with emptiness.’

– and imagined the solid mountain creating a secure space for the lake. I spent a very quiet 40 minutes, holding space, accepting, and this was the right way to be.

Seeing another perspective

One of the greatest gifts Yi offers is the different perspective. We have our own way of seeing, the stories we’re telling ourselves or the metaphors we’re thinking in, and then Yi shows us the world in a new way, as we’d never imagined it could be. That can happen with every kind of reading, but I cherish it especially when I’m asking about someone else: it’ll get me out of my own head, and show me what’s important to the other person and what they need.

For example… there was the time I’d managed to anger and upset someone I was working with on a shared project. (Forgive the absolute vagueness of these examples – they’re all about real people, so I’m doing my best to protect their identities.) I came home and wondered whether I should a) leave well alone, not make it any worse, and hope it blew over before I next saw them or b) send a card with an apology. I thought I should probably reach out, but I wasn’t at all sure (this was one relationship where I seemed to get it all wrong, all the time), so I asked Yi, ‘What about sending a card?’

Yi gave me Hexagram 45, Gathering, changing at line 4 to 8, Seeking Union.

‘Great good fortune, no mistake.’

I sent the card, of course. But the reading also helped me know what to write in the card: 45.4 is said to have great good fortune because it is like a minister serving a higher cause, not its own agenda. I wrote a simple apology and thanks for all this person does for the project we’re both devoted to: in other words, in the spirit of Hexagram 45, shifting the focus away from personal friction and towards the bigger shared cause. Card and message were warmly received, and the relationship was mended. (In fact, it’s been good ever since.)

Let Yi make a difference

Something you may notice about these examples: they’re going to make an immediate difference to how I act. As a rule of thumb, the readings when Yi doesn’t help are the ones that aren’t going to make a difference for you. That’s so obvious as to be tautological, but also strangely easy to miss in the heat of the moment. For example, approximately 100% of the ever-popular ‘How does he feel about me?’ readings fall into this category. (More on this in my post of advice for relationship readings.) A Yijing reading isn’t going to resolve the tension and create confidence here; only a human conversation can do that.

No… Yi is here to help when you’re heading into a conversation you don’t know how to handle, or when you can’t understand what’s going on, and you can’t ask the other person. Yi can show you the perspective you couldn’t imagine.

Recognising the limits

On a more depressing note, Yi’s gift of showing me things I couldn’t imagine is also immensely helpful when the other person’s actively hostile. Obviously you don’t want to approach a reading with the assumption that the other person has bad intentions: that way lies wild misinterpretation. But I have more or less the opposite problem: I naturally assume that everyone wants friendliness and co-operation and one another’s good, because really, what else makes sense?

And so there I was, late at night, tying myself in knots writing and rewriting emails, trying to extend olive branches and build bridges after a nasty row. I asked Yi how I was doing and received Hexagram 44 with line 4 changing.

‘In this basket, no fish.
Rising up, pitfall.’

It dawned on me gradually that the ongoing, mutually-beneficial relationship I was trying so hard to build had never been available at all, because the other person involved never had the smallest intention of creating it, only of outmanoeuvering me – which they’d done, comprehensively. With that realisation, I could let it go and sleep well.

In fact, Hexagram 44’s powerful woman who cannot be married has carried that ‘Relationship not available here, move along!’ message for me a few times now. 44.3, for example –

‘Thighs without flesh,
Moving awkwardly now.
No great mistake.’

– when I was struggling not to upset someone. This, said Yi, was a bit like Yu the Great struggling to manage the floods – it wasn’t that I’d done anything very wrong, this was just hard.

The reading I’m most grateful for

I’ve given examples of Yi helping me be more helpful, and helping me to mend a friendship, and giving me peace of mind when there wasn’t anything I could do. The reading I’m most grateful for, though, is none of these – or all of them.

This is from twelve years ago, when my Mum was seriously ill in hospital and I was being kept busy fetching and carrying and so on. I did all she asked, but with the constant awareness of a great logjam where compassion and caring should have flowed. Probably the logjam was made of Baggage – just the normal resentments and undiscussed stuff that any mother and adult daughter might have, but in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time.

I wasn’t particularly thinking about any of that at the time of this reading, though – only about her prognosis. I managed not to ask for that, and instead asked, ‘How can I best prepare for the coming weeks and months with Mum?’

Yi gave me Hexagram 45 with the first line changing, going to 17, Following:

‘There is truth and confidence, but no completion.
Then disorder, then gathering.
Like a call, one clasp of the hands brings laughter.
Do not worry.
Going on, no mistake.’

It’s hard to explain exactly what that line gave me. I recognised the lack of completion, having no idea how this might end. (Mum’s illness was supposed to be treatable and not to affect life expectancy, so nobody said she might die – it was just that I could see that none of the treatments was working.) And I could absolutely recognise ‘disorder’: I felt completely scattered, unable to get myself together at all. And then on that same day, Mum suddenly started holding my hand – ‘like a call‘ – and I began to feel the stirrings of warmth and compassion. Don’t worry, Yi told me, don’t complicate this, just Follow those simple impulses as they arise.

From my journal the following day (Mum was in the nearby cottage hospital at the time):

‘Mum called this morning and asked for me to come over and give her a shower. I did. And compassion and caring flowed naturally, just as Yi promised.

If I just give to her, as much as she needs – how very, very simple that could be.’

And it was. The Baggage, it turned out, did not need to be unpacked all over the hospital to allow us to enjoy this simple relationship. Mum died within a month of the reading, and because Yi had opened the way, I could spend that last month experiencing and acting with love. I’ll always be grateful.

A Resonance Journal retrospective

Over four years ago now, we first brought out the Resonance Journal: software to keep a journal both of your Yijing readings and also of dreams, synchronicities and simple daily experience, and to reveal and explore how all these things connect and resonate together.

We’ve come quite a long way since then. The Resonance Journal now has three built-in translations (LiSe’s, Bradford Hatcher’s and my own) as well as a Yijing glossary (Language of Change); all the text (interface included) is resizable; you can review a random entry (possibly my favourite feature); you can protect your journal with a password; you can print your entries… and so on.

The first seven reasons

Now we’re up to version 2.1 (with easier updates and the ability to export your entries to Excel), I thought it was time I wrote again about the benefits of keeping a Yijing journal. And then I found I’d done so back in 2014, when I came up with ‘the first seven reasons’ why a Yijing journal is a good idea:

  1. You learn more about Yi.
  2. You can draw on your experience to help other people.
  3. You learn from experience.
  4. You learn from dreams.
  5. It’s an opportunity to grow your relationship with Yi.
  6. It allows everything to speak.
  7. Writing your story does you good.

(Here’s the original post.)

Reason number 8: you avoid a cartload of frustration.

(Probably this should have been reason #1.)

When discussing readings with clients, I often hear things like:

‘You know, my last reading had the same hexagram… that feels as if it’s trying to tell me something. I can’t remember what the reading was about, though…’

‘Yes, I’ve asked about this before a few times. I think the answers were positive…’

‘Well, I asked about the alternative and it said… hm, can’t quite remember, just a minute…’

– and then there’s the rustling of paper, or possibly the faint keyboard-rattling of someone searching their browser history, as they rummage about in the dwindling hope of finding what Yi had to say.

I know how this feels because it used to be me, too. It’s not that I didn’t care about the readings or didn’t keep them, it’s just that I couldn’t find them. Being an economically-minded sort of diviner, at first I wrote my readings on scrap paper and stuffed it all into an envelope…

Envelope of readings

…until I graduated to nice, substantial hardback notebooks…

Journal notebooks

…in which I still couldn’t find anything much, especially since I kept forgetting to index them properly.

As you can imagine, I’ve gone through the whole, ‘I know I had a reading about that somewhere…’ and ‘I’m sure I’ve seen this hexagram somewhere recently…’ thing more often than I can count. You know your present reading’s referring back to that one, you know it has something to tell you, you know you need to hear it, you know you’re missing out, and most of all you know this is completely ridiculous because you definitely wrote it down somewhere

So… do not be like me in the last millennium. Keep a journal where you can find the readings you needand see all their interconnections. And if you prefer to write your readings, dreams and reflections on paper, do that and use software to index them.

In short – if you don’t already use the Resonance Journal, download the free trial and get started. In addition to the features I mentioned above, it still has the most comprehensive facilities for searching for readings – by hexagram, trigram, lines changing, tag or full text – you can imagine. Your tooth enamel will thank you 😉 .


Looking away

Ancient Chinese character 'gen', showing a person with a great eyeHexagram 52 is called gen, 艮, and so too is the trigram that’s doubled to make the hexagram. It translates as ‘looking away’: in the ancient character, you can see a reversed human figure with a great eye. Nowadays, it apparently also translates as ‘tough, hard to chew’ – something that resists.

::|The trigram gen is known as ‘mountain’ – you can see why from its shape – and primarily means stopping. The hexagram’s formed of two mountains, and looks to me as if it’s divided into two separate boxes.

Name and structure merge into the hexagram’s spectrum of meaning: its core stance is not to respond, relate or react – not to be moved. Sometimes this looks like obstinacy, sometimes like the stillness of meditation.

Stilling – not a mistake

The Oracle says,

‘Stilling your back,
Not grasping your self.
Moving in your rooms,
Not seeing your people.
Not a mistake.’

As so often when Yi says something is ‘not a mistake’, it’s describing something we tend automatically to think must be a mistake. Surely as good, sensitive social beings we should always be self-aware, and always attuned to other people – especially those in our own homes? No, says Yi, not always: now, it’s OK not to grasp your self or see your people.

The old character for ‘grasp’ has to do with hunting dogs, so this means not trying to hunt down and capture yourself. I think of this mostly as not being self-conscious – not chasing down and second-guessing every thought. (Who else has had the experience of trying to meditate and ending up thinking about how they’re thinking about how they’re thinking?) Not every reaction has to be monitored. Make your back still – of course, your back will hold still quite naturally, especially if you stop trying to turn round and look at it.

Move in your rooms without seeing or meeting with your people. Early Chinese commentators, starting with Wang Bi, saw this as people with their backs turned, unaware of one another and hence blamelessly free from the desire to meet. You don’t desire what you can’t see – and hence you don’t have to impose forcible restraint, which would give rise to evil. This reminds me irresistibly of the wisdom, for me, of not having cake in the house: when it’s there, it calls my name all the time. Out of sight, out of mind.

In RJ Lynn’s wonderful I Ching, I learn that Wang Bi thinks the hexagram begins with ‘not grasping the other person’; Cheng Yi thinks it’s not grasping your self. Either way, the idea is to keep your back turned so as to ‘arrest the emotional response to things, prevent the workings of desire’ (Kong Yingda).

To this I’d add that this is not only about arresting desire, but all emotional reaction, also preventing the workings of anger, shock, fear, and – not least – social anxiety: that need constantly to rethink everything in the light of how other people might react. The ‘rooms’ in question, where we can safely not see people, can be inner as well as outer.

This brings us back to the shape of the hexagram: inner and outer mountains, defining their separate spaces. The authors of the Tuanzhuan, Commentary on the Judgement, also seem to have had the sense that the hexagram was divided in two: ‘Those above and those below are in opposition,’ they wrote of the lines, ‘and have nothing in common.’ (Wilhelm/Baynes)

Ostensibly, this refers to the lack of correspondence between the equivalent lines in the two trigrams (1 with 4, 2 with 5, 3 with 6): yang lines correspond with yin ones; two yang or two yin lines do not correspond, so that with two identical mountain trigrams, no two lines correspond. Only, of course, this is equally true for all eight hexagrams made of a doubled trigram, but only mentioned for this one.

The power of Stilling

Hexagram 52 follows from, and is paired with, Hexagram 51, Shock. This is an inverse pair, meaning there is really only one pattern of lines here – it’s just that we change our perspective, and look at it first from one end, then the other:

|::|::        ::|::|

In fact, you can see Hexagram 52 present already in the Oracle of 51:

‘Shock, creating success.
Shock comes, fear and terror.
Laughing words, shrieking and yelling.
Shock spreads fear for a hundred miles.
Someone does not lose the sacred ladle and libation.’

The officiant who doesn’t lose the sacred ladle or libation amidst all the panic is already Keeping Still. (There are other hexagram pairs where one contains or implies the other, but this might be the clearest example.)

The Sequence says,

‘Things cannot end with stirring up; stop them.’

Hexagram 51 stirs  everything up and sends out ripples and aftershocks. It sets things in motion, but it’s the beginning, not the completion. To recover from a great shock, you also need to stop. I once read that counselling urging people to confront a trauma explicitly, immediately after the experience, actually hindered their recovery. It’s no mistake for 52 to follow 51; blocking things out is fine.

A constant state of excitation doesn’t go anywhere or complete anything, like a heart in fibrillation can’t pump efficiently. Motion has to be balanced with stillness. Also, you can’t change direction without stopping first to recover your balance.

More wisdom from the Tuanzhuan in Wilhelm/Baynes:

‘When it is time to stop, then stop.
When it is time to advance, then advance.
Thus movement and rest do not miss the right time,
And their course becomes bright and clear.’

So it seems the purpose of stopping is to find a course that’s bright and clear. Often in the Yijing Sequence, upheaval and chaotic change is a prelude to greater balance – something that will endure. (Think of 49/50, or 59/60.)

In this particular part of the Sequence, processing change and finding stability is especially important. Hexagram 49 reminds us of the overthrow of the centuries-old Shang dynasty; Hexagram 50, the Vessel, founds the new. 51 and 52 are processing this change; in the same way, the doubled trigrams of 57/58 are processing the drama at Feng and Yi in hexagrams 55 and 56.

In the dramatic change from Shang to Zhou rule, there was also continuity: intermarriage between the two families meant that the Zhou could continue the Shang ancestral offerings – not losing the sacred ladle or libation. Maybe after an intense period of following their mandate – celestial guidance and fated victories – they had an especially strong need to hold fast to what was sacred and keep still.

The inner potential of Stilling

I’ve mentioned how the two trigrams of Hexagram 52 don’t relate to one another. But the Image paints a different picture:

‘Joined mountains. Stilling.
A noble one reflects, and does not come forth from his situation.’

Not just two mountains, but joined mountains. Inner stillness joins with outer stillness: quietly reflecting, and staying put. ‘Coming forth’ is the action of the trigram zhen, Shock – Hexagram 51’s doubled trigram. 52 reflects, and doesn’t seize the initiative and try to create change.

Here’s an intriguing connection: the character ‘joined’ is jian, 兼 , the phonetic component of the name of Hexagram 15, 謙 : Integrity. (This is the ancient part of the name: now, Hexagram 15 is called ‘words’ + ‘joined’, ‘integrity’, but originally it would have been simply ‘joined’, and people would have understood which of the meanings of the character applied.)

You can see the thematic link: to have Integrity is to hold together with truth;  that’s the action of a meditator, resting in awareness, holding together with the present moment and not ‘coming forth from his situation’.

And there’s also a structural link: Hexagram 15 differs from 52 only in its sixth line, which means they share a nuclear hexagram: 40, Release. The nuclear can be seen as the ‘seed’ contained inside the original hexagram, like hexagram DNA. So Integrity is one way of bringing Release to expression, and Stilling is another. To be able to move freely, choosing your own direction, you first need to become wholly still.

Mountains through the mist


This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series How Yi helps

Not just for decisions

It’s no secret that Yi is tremendously helpful when it comes to decision-making. You look at your options, single out the most likely one, and ask Yi, ‘What about this?’ And the oracle tells you what to expect if you take that road – be that sunshine and butterflies, or potholes and lunatic drivers.

This post is not quite about that; it’s about what comes before the moment of decision – not the individual decision, but the ground where it takes root. What I’m calling ‘planning readings’ are the ones where you ask for a guiding principle, or for the best approach to take. You have an intention in mind, and you’re asking how to start moving towards it.

An example from last year: course tech

I ask these readings for all kinds of things – but looking back through my journal, I seem to do so every time I’m facing some awkward technical task. Maybe that’s because this kind of work can rapidly become very hollow and arid – compare feature lists, trawl through reviews, check technical requirements – and leave me completely ungrounded. I’m drawn back to Yi because I need a dose of real-world, full-colour, multi-dimensional significance.

So for instance… last year, I realised I needed to revamp the Foundations Course, and do a better job of presenting future courses, and started looking through WordPress plugins that might help with that. There are hordes of them.

The simplest, least time-consuming option was one that would just allow me to add a ‘complete this lesson’ checkbox on each page so students could track their progress. But then there were much more full-featured, true ‘learning management systems’ that would really make a difference to people’s experience. But then again, was I falling into the Shiny Object trap again?

And so on.

You can see how this could give rise to a multitude of ‘What about option x?’ questions – and there were a few of those. But first, I asked,

‘What’s the right approach to take to course tech?’

And Yi gave me Hexagram 16, Enthusiasm, unchanging:

Fruitful to set up feudal lords and mobilise the armies.’

Big picture, big imaginings, something inspiring, something to galvanise feudal lords and armies… this did not sound like settling for a simple script to add a checkbox. Instead, I looked for a full-featured, creatively-imagined learning management system that would enable me to transform the whole experience of the course – and in the end, settled on ‘Grow Learn Teach‘.

With hindsight, it’s interesting that the developers’ communications are very 16-ish: along the lines of ‘Look what amazing new features we’ve added for you now! Imagine all the great things you can create with this!!’ The hype is all justified; it’s just noticeable because a lot of developers aren’t like that: they add amazing features, but keep them well-hidden. GLT make big claims, have big ambitions, and are building – with Enthusiasm – in pursuit of a big vision.

Over at Clarity, I needed to do a lot of work to set this up at first (the nuclear hexagram of 16 is 39…), but the effect has been both to encourage more people to complete the much-improved course, and also that I’m inspired to create more courses, because now it’s simple to take what people want to learn and make it digestible, attractive and easy to follow through. The extra features are sparking my imagination for future possibilities. And also, GLT has generated a whole new Library page for Change Circle, so that for the first time in years, members can actually find everything.

An example in progress: forum migration

Another year, another technical question. As you may know, the I Ching Community here at Clarity is getting a bit creaky, technically speaking. Members are working round the bugs in a very good-natured way, but…

Time to move. Again, there are a bundle of individual decisions to be made. Which software? How soon to move? How much to outsource, and how much to learn to do myself? Everything seems to depend on everything else, and of course there is tremendous scope for it all to go horribly wrong…

What’s the right approach to forum migration, Yi?

changing to

Yi says it’s Hexagram 63, Already Across, changing to Hexagram 24, Returning.

‘Already across, creating small success.
Constancy bears fruit.
Beginnings, good fortune.
Endings, chaos.’

What was that I was saying about everything going horribly wrong? But – as I would always tell a client who had Hexagram 63 – this doesn’t mean it inevitably falls apart; it means things fall apart when you finish. The trick is to keep moving, with constancy, keep beginning, and never imagine you’ve arrived.

‘Keep on beginning’ is an odd guiding principle for what looks to me like a project with a beginning (take the decisions), middle (migrate everything) and end. Does it mean ‘keep on upgrading’? (We’ll be moving to software that actually is regularly updated, for a change.) Keep on reviewing, keep on thinking of ways to develop the community? Could be…

‘Returning’ as relating hexagram resonates with and amplifies ‘beginnings, good fortune’: going back to the start, finding renewal. 24 reminds me of the core reasons for Clarity to have forums at all – back to the essentials. Amidst the to-ing and fro-ing of 24, and the ‘project management’ details, it’s good to have a direction to go – to stay in touch with the original purpose.

(Also, I do wonder about the relaxed quality of 24, and ‘the seventh day comes, you return’, and how long we might have the forums offline. My natural inclination is to try to juggle things to minimise downtime, to do all the changes at once and rush through as fast as possible. This might suggest something different – though I can’t imagine what would require a full week of downtime!)

Moving lines…

‘The high ancestor attacks the Demon Country.
Three years go round, and he overcomes it.
Don’t use small people.’

‘The neighbour in the East slaughters oxen.
Not like the Western neighbour’s summer offering,
Truly accepting their blessing.’

Line 5 actually tells me which forum software to use: the one that’s markedly less expensive, not quite so shiny, and more streamlined. Line 3 has me spending a lot of time and energy to sort everything out – and taking extra care when hiring. (That will mean some more decision-readings: find someone responsive with good reviews, and then ask Yi, ‘What about working with X?’ I’ve actually been in touch with someone who promises to stay available to fix things for years after the migration, and that – in the light of ‘three years go round’ – seems good!)

I wonder about Demon Country. The bugs? Those should be zapped by moving. The issue with Chinese characters? Could be. And the general technical tangle of forums-and-WikiWing-and-hexagram-search-and-template, of course. And maybe the Facebook-isation of online conversation.

(Note: the zhi gua for these lines are included as a worked example in module 7 of the Foundations Course.)

How to mess this up

(from experience, naturally)

1. Only ask little questions

It’s easy to ask what-about questions – there are always more of them. But while they’re tremendously useful for fine steering, they’re not so useful for planning the whole route. It’s easy to go from one to the next without ever understanding why the answers say what they do, or where all this is taking you. See, for example, this cautionary tale from 2015.

It should be just as easy to ask the larger-scale, longer-term questions – after all, they’re often a great deal simpler. The thing is, even to think of them, we need (I need…) to lift our noses from the grindstone for a moment and take a few steps back.

So I, for one, tend to stay in the minutiae, more ‘how to do it’ and less ‘what’ or ‘why’, and this really limits the difference Yi can make.

(I asked last year about getting business guidance from Yi, and it gave me 39.2 to 48: a beautiful, rich answer. It made me notice that most of my questions are from the servant’s point of view, not the king’s – when the servant isn’t the cause of her own experience.)

2. Forget your readings

And second, once we’ve asked for guidance, we (I…) need to remember it. This is going to take more effort than with a reading for a pressing decision, because you don’t get to apply the whole reading immediately and then move on; instead, you have to hold it in mind, carry it with you, and let it change your awareness.

An embarrassing example from my journal: I asked ‘How to recover my health?’ and received Hexagram 11 with line 1 changing. I’m using the reading now: sleeping more sensible hours, and hence finding time to exercise, and hence having more mental energy. Cycling each Friday morning to an organic garden for fresh vegetables and an extra 90 minutes on the bike – pulling up two thatch grass roots by one stem, as it were. Start anywhere; it’s all connected under the surface.

The reason why this example is embarrassing is that the reading dates back to 2016, and I’d completely forgotten what it said until I looked it up in my journal a few days ago. If I’d kept it in mind, I might be a stone lighter by now…

(This is an embarrassingly easy mistake to avoid, too. After you’ve cast the reading, just put a recurring reminder in your calendar to review it.)

Some advice

(to myself as much as anyone – guided by a reading I cast for this post, ‘How to plan with Yi?’ – 59.5.6 to 7)

Make your planning question as open and simple as possible. Try to ask the question far enough outside the box that Yi can dissolve the box altogether, and show you possibilities you’d never imagined.

Ask about the choices that can make a real difference to your experience – the king’s questions, not just the servant’s. These readings are not about what works best: they’re about what matters most. (In my two examples, not what will get it done fastest, but what will motivate and inspire, and what will stay alive and changing – though you might want to take your questions to a higher level than my examples.) What matters? What is meaningful? Even – what is sacred?

Bring a powerful intent to the reading, with unreserved commitment, ready to receive whatever it says and change anything and everything in response. This is not for topics of mild interest or theoretical speculation. Come prepared to disperse the granaries.

Hold to that intent and use it to contain and channel the reading’s energy. This is not about cultish obedience to whatever Yi ‘tells you to do’, forfeiting self-determination (not to mention common sense). Yi is its own world of imagery and affect and connections – it can suck you into a whirlpool of readings about readings about readings. For a real, fruitful conversation, you need your own inner momentum and purpose, separate from the flow of the reading. (‘Leave, go out and far away!’)

aerial view of road winding through forest


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