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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:

To learn the I Ching

Start with the Beginners’ I Ching Course

It has all you need to get started from scratch. Then if you’re familiar with the basics and want to develop your confidence in interpretation, have a look at the Foundations Course.

To get the I Ching’s help

Start with a free online I Ching reading

(There’s help at hand to explain how it works.)

If you’d like my help, have a look at the I Ching reading services.

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,
Hilary”

Blog

Foundations: trusting the oracle

When I teach the Yijing Foundations Class - which I'll be doing again in September - I concentrate on the few really necessary basics for good readings:

  • ways to relate to all the imagery (words and trigrams)
  • understanding the structure of a reading (primary, relating, lines positions)
    and also
  • knowing what you're asking

I know these are 'foundations' because I've seen over the years how missing any one of them will create confusion and frustration, and stymie the whole process of building a good relationship with the oracle.

But… I've been thinking lately about the other foundations, the ones that don't fit so easily on a syllabus (though I hope they're still conveyed through all the reading practice we do!). These foundations aren't knowledge, nor even skills, but habits of mind.

I think it all comes down to trusting the oracle. Only… what does that mean, in practice?

Respect

Trusting an oracle means respecting it as an oracle, not some kind of random, Rorschach blot test. That is, knowing that it has something specific to say to you, and being willing to pay attention to its whole message.

I believe you show respect to an oracle through the quality of attention you pay it. This needs to be full, true, non-selective attention, and that means reading what it says. Skipping over the oracle's words in favour of the commentary (or forum replies or trigram associations or what you 'know it means') is not respect. (More on this here - about the Yi not being a skip.)

Confidence

The Chinese word fu 孚 - as in the name of Hexagram 61, Inner Truth - means truth, trust and confidence: all the ingredients of rapport and relationship. Sometimes, all that's missing from a reading is confidence.

So often, I hear people say,

'As soon as I read it, it made me think of…'
or
'Oh, that's exactly like…'
or
'It feels as though it's telling me…'

'…but I'm not an expert, I'm not sure - I might have got it all wrong.'

No. No, you have not 'got it wrong'. That 'oh!' moment of recognition is the reading. It feels as though it's speaking to you directly because it's speaking to you directly, because that's how oracles work.

You can't get this wrong, and there is no 'expert', in print or online or in person, who can tell you otherwise, because this is the oracle speaking to you, not to them.

They might tell you, from their experience, that this hexagram or line normally means something else, or that 3,000 years ago it meant something else. That’s valuable information for you to remember for future readings - which has nothing to do with this moment of connection between you and Yi.

Sometimes the moment of recognition is like a lightning bolt, unmissable; sometimes it's more of a tiny spark that needs nurturing and breathing space. (This is another good reason not to read too much of the translator's commentary: it might smother your spark.)

In other words, trusting the oracle is also a matter of trusting yourself. A reading doesn't exist between the covers of a book; it happens when you read.

Patience

What when there's no lightning bolt, not even much of a spark - nothing doing?

For some people, this never happens, but most of us will feel 'stuck' on a reading from time to time. It's very tempting in such moments to jump straight to browsing commentaries, or friendly forum people who can tell you, 'this line means this'. And these will help - sometimes, they'll provide just what you need to unlock your own understanding.

The key, though, is learning to stop saying, 'I don't get it,' and start saying, 'I don’t get it yet '. Then you can go for a walk, or cook supper, or sleep on it, and let the meaning emerge. 'Aha' can also happen slowly. The little word 'yet' makes all the difference in the world - and it can be the only difference between my approach to a reading and someone who's 'stuck'.

Openness

This is the trickiest aspect of respect, I think: openness to the oracle's response, whatever it says.

To awaken this kind of respect, I think it helps to conceive of Yi as a separate being, a 'person' in its own right. Even if you actually believe that the oracle is the voice of some layer or aspect of your own consciousness, you have to let it say things that you - your conscious self - would never have said.

And then you have to be willing to let yourself be guided, and change your plans. To start now, even though you'd feel more comfortable with an extra month's research - or not to start now, but go back to the drawing board instead. To spend money on the risky proposition - or not to buy the super-shiny object available for a limited time only; to start the scary conversation - or not send the email you've been writing in your head for days.

Sometimes this will mean going against other people's advice, or against 'common sense'. It will often appear quite inexplicable to onlookers. Two provisos, though:

First, you have to be very sure that you're responding to what the oracle is actually saying, not just what you wish it had said. (Though in fact, once you've experienced both a real 'aha' moment and wishful-thinking interpretation - and I think we've all done both - it's not so hard to tell the difference…)

And second, the Yi was never intended to be the only guide to a decision: it doesn't replace research, expert advice - or even common sense.

In practice, if you approach every reading with this degree of respect - knowing what difference it could make - it's likely to mean you do fewer readings! If you know you intend to do (or not do) something, if you know that it's the right choice for you, you won't consult. Not because you're worried about what Yi might say, but because you aren't.

More Foundations

I'll be running the Yijing Foundations Class later this year, starting in September. It's designed to include everything you need for fluent readings - the skills to engage with imagery, the knowledge of the structure, clarity about what you're asking, and all the reading practice you need to build up your confidence.

See this page for more information and the full syllabus - and if you're interested, please sign up there so I can keep you posted.

I Ching Community discussion

Reflecting stories

How lucky we are that scholars have dug out some of the ancient stories 'behind' the Yijing - stories its authors would have known naturally, but that can require some real ingenuity to ferret out nowadays.

Hexagrams 55 and 56, Abundance and the Traveller

Hexagram 55 is Abundance, and Abundance, Feng, is also the name of the garrison where Wu gathered his allies and watched the heavens for signs of his mandate to march on the Shang. (S.J.Marshall was the first to unpack this.)

Hexagram 56 tells some of the story of King Hai, the nomadic ruler and ancestor of the Shang, who pastured his flocks at Yi, seduced the king's wife, and lost his flocks and his life there. (Kunst pointed to this one, and Stephen Field goes into detail.)

55 and 56 are a pair of hexagrams - turn 55 upside-down, look at it from the opposite perspective, and you're looking at 56.

paired with

The same is true of these two kings' stories.

When Wu looks around him at Feng, everything he sees is his: his subjects, his garrison, his responsibility, his command, his allies, his resources, even the signs of his mandate in the skies above. And it keeps growing - more allies, more heavenly signs, more weight of responsibility - so that he has to act.

When Hai looks around at Yi, not much he sees is his. These are not his people, the queen is not his wife, this is not his culture or his rules, and pretty soon those will not be his flocks, either.

The Zagua, describing the contrast in this pair, says,

'Abundance has many causes; few connections for the Traveller.'

- shorthand for the complete contrast between the two stories.

Hexagrams 35 and 36: Advancing, and Hiding Brightness

paired with

The Oracle of Hexagram 35 says that kang hou, 康侯, receives a gift of horses. For Wang Bi (translated by R.J. Lynn), kang hou was a 'marquis of peace and prosperity'; for Wilhelm, a 'powerful prince'. But thanks to the discovery of a Zhou dynasty bronze vessel whose inscription records rewards given to Marquis Kang for his loyal service, we know this hexagram refers to a specific individual.

Kang, the brother of Wu, gave devoted service and was rewarded: the gift of horses, the fiefdom, and his achievement memorialised in shining bronze.

Meanwhile in the paired hexagram, 36, line 5 reminds us of Prince Ji, who also gave devoted service, but in the time of the Shang - and had to hide his true nature, to go to extremes to avoid recognition.

'Advancing means daylight, Brightness Hidden means punishment.'

says the Zagua, summing it up. You could say Hexagram 35 is about the importance of making the most of opportunities, and 36 is about hiding your light under a bushel (amongst other things), but the pair in combination, showing the very different experiences of two equally good and loyal people, seems to have more to say.

Trigram note…

Both these hexagram pairs include the trigram li, fire and light, and in both it looks like the position of the hero. Kang's light shines out over the earth; Ji's is buried and hidden for now. Wu's light emerges into thundering action; Hai's burns quickly over the mountainside and dies away.

More?

As usual when I notice something like this in the Yi, I went looking to see if it's part of a bigger pattern that I've missed. This time, the answer is it might be, I can't tell.

There are two different leaders' experiences dealing with 'Demon Country' in 63.3/64.4, but they don't seem to characterise the whole hexagram in the same way that Jizi 'owns' Hexagram 36.

I wonder whether there might be a similar story-pairing in 39/40, though. Hexagram 39, Limping, evokes Yu the Great, the limping hero who conquered the Flood. And Hexagram 40 seems to be telling the story of some other hero, one we can no longer recognise, whose success comes not through decades of toiling in the mud, but the swift flight of arrows.

I Ching Community discussion

Readings for restarting the podcast

I'm sharing two 'behind the scenes' readings of my own in this one - encouragement from Yi that nudged me along the path towards relaunching the podcast. The questions:

'What about restarting the podcast soon?'
and
'How about this idea of a podcast solely of readings?'

There's also a lovely example of Yi making connections between readings - it's always worth being on the alert for those!

Next month's episode will have a reading conversation - subscribe to the podcast to make sure you don't miss it. Would you like yours to be featured - a free reading, in return for your permission to publish? Then book your reading here.

An old friend

I've been writing a lot lately about seeing readings with fresh eyes, engaging with the imagery directly, as if for the first time. Here's a post about the other side of that coin - about the joy of being familiar with Yi, so that readings are like chatting with an old friend.

Joys of familiarity

Naturally, familiarity with Yi tends to make readings quicker and easier. Advice for an awkward meeting? Hexagram 62: take care, stay small, fly low. How about this bright idea I just had? 43.1.4 to 48: slow down, think about your workload and your resources… . Of course there's plenty more to learn from those readings, but this kind of quick, simple insight is a good place to start.

Familiarity also makes it easier to spot the connections between readings, and appreciate the nuances as Yi develops an idea, or lays out a contrast, from one reading to the next. There's a natural flow to the conversation.

And I've found it makes it much easier to see the connections inside a reading - to get an overview of the relationship between the two hexagrams. I like to start each reading by asking myself about this connection: 'If there were a 48-ish aspect to 43, what could it be?' (Hmm… as you show up and 'bring the message' in 43, maybe it asks the question about what you have to give?) Intuiting the answer to that kind of question depends on being able to bring to mind the 'personality' of a hexagram, and that's an awareness that builds over time; I certainly didn't have it twenty years ago.

How do you build familiarity?

Through readings, of course - what else?

Readings will give you unique, personal associations with hexagrams - maybe with one that repeats in your answers again and again until you finally get the message, or one that Yi consistently uses to point to the same thing. This can become a sort of personal shorthand you share with the oracle: 'Hello, you're doing that thing again' or 'Look over here!'

Do ask about all areas of your life, and don't hesitate to ask about experiences you do understand - 'What can I learn from that?' Light-hearted questions, questions about fictional characters… it'll all add to your sense of a hexagram.

It also helps to pay attention to the hexagram structure - that provides the framework for your understanding, so it's not like trying to memorise 64 random flashcards. How does the energy of the lines and trigrams feel, how does it move? (43, for instance, seems to surge up like a geyser.) Where does the hexagram come from in the Sequence - what story could this be telling? What's the other side of the coin, its pair? Its complement? The nuclear hexagram?

If you make time to look at these aspects of your readings, not only does the reading itself have more of a chance to sink in, but you get a deeper sense of hexagram 'personality'. That's the kind of personal familiarity with Yi that makes for easier, more fluent conversations in future.

I Ching Community discussion

Beginners' I Ching course, part 2

If you're new to the I Ching, this episode and the one before it will make the readings in Clarity's podcast much easier to follow. Here’s the audio version of the beginners’ course, part 2.

(You can find the written and illustrated version of the course at https://www.onlineclarity.co.uk/learn/beginners/ .)

Beginners' I Ching course, part 1

If you're new to the I Ching, this episode and the one that follows will make the readings in Clarity's podcast much easier to follow. Here's the audio version of the beginners' course, part 1.

(You can find the written and illustrated version of the course at https://www.onlineclarity.co.uk/learn/beginners/ .)

I Ching Community

Podcast



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