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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?

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

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Ten years

Why ten years?

Years, in the Yijing, usually come in threes. I've counted seven mentions of 'three years', most of them indicating a long period when something doesn't happen:

  • 13.3 three years without rising up
  • 29.6 three years without gain
  • 47.1 and 55.6, three years without meeting anyone
  • 53.5 three years without pregnancy
  • 63.3 and 64.4 three years until victory

Sometimes, good things are promised after the three years are over; sometimes not. In all these lines, though, 'three years' seems to be a way of saying 'a long time'.

There are just three lines that refer to a period of ten years:

'Now sprouting, now hesitating.
Now driving a team of horses.
Not robbers at all, but marital allies.
The child-woman's constancy - no children.
Ten years go by, then there are children.'

Hexagram 3, line 2

'Confused return, pitfall. There is calamity and blunder.
Using this to mobilise the armies: in the end there is great defeat.
For your state's leader, disaster.
For ten years, incapable of marching out.'

Hexagram 24, line 6

'Rejecting nourishment.
Constancy, pitfall.
For ten years, don't act.
No direction bears fruit.'

Hexagram 27, line 3

Is this a reference to the Chinese calendar? That counts in tens and twelves, and it is very ancient. Wilhelm observes that ten years makes 'a complete cycle'. (Strictly speaking, sixty years would make a complete cycle, but ten years would take us round a cycle of Heavenly Stems.) However… while the Ten Heavenly Stems certainly predate the Yi, they were originally used to count days, marking the day on which to honour the ancestor they named. Wikipedia says that while the sexagenary calendar was measuring days from Shang times, the first records of its use for years are in the Mawangdui manuscripts - from the tomb sealed in 168BC. So if 'ten years' meant a complete cycle of time for the authors of the Yijing, then it only just did.

3.2 to 60

'Now sprouting, now hesitating.
Now driving a team of horses.
Not robbers at all, but marital allies.
The child-woman's constancy - no children.
Ten years go by, then there are children.'

Here, Sprouting means hesitating. That is, advancing but with difficulty and detours, maybe going round in circles. The line goes on to show us what sprouting-hesitancy looks like: a mock-abduction of the bride, perhaps to disguise the poverty of the groom, and a ten year delay until there are children.

I think it was from Wu Jing Nuan that I first got the idea that the 'child woman' meant a girl betrothed as a child, before puberty - which would explain the ten year wait for children. Geoffrey Redmond also thinks this a possibility. However, I haven't found any suggestion that child betrothal was a widespread Chinese tradition, and a 女子, nuzi, might just be a young woman, like a 君子, a junzi, is a young noble.

So… perhaps this is just a matter of waiting for the girl to grow up, or perhaps it's an unexplained ten year delay until the marriage is blessed with children. A childless marriage was a calamity, so a ten year delay would be deeply worrying.

We're at the very beginning of the book, in the first hexagram that mingles solid and broken lines - the first encounter of male and female - and the second line is just reaching out for the first time in search of connection in the outer world. Everything is very new, and very hesitant. However, these are not really robbers, and the girl is not really childless. The hesitancy is just a time to find the Measure of it all.

That is, this line is changing to Hexagram 60, Measuring. In this marriage, old boundaries between clans will be Dispersed (Hexagram 59) and new ones grown, in the spirit of Measuring. (The name of Hexagram 60 originally refers to the segments of bamboo: organic divisions, naturally growing to their right size.)

What do these ten years mean? Perhaps just a very long time. Marriage expands your horizons, and so too does thinking so far into the future. It can be a matter of broadening your mental scope, thinking longer term, and hence getting a better perspective on the present.

24.6 to 27

'Confused return, pitfall. There is calamity and blunder.
Using this to mobilise the armies: in the end there is great defeat.
For your state's leader, disaster.
For ten years, incapable of marching out.'

24.6 is not an easy one to rationalise away in readings. It's by some margin the most catastrophic line in the book: calamity, blunder, defeat and disaster, and ten years' incapacity.

Hexagram 24 is Returning, but its sixth line is utterly remote from the 'returning light' of the single yang line in the first place, and hence from any clarity of purpose. It's motivated by its relating hexagram, 27, Nourishment - that is, by sheer hunger (whether need or greed). As Tuck Chang points out, this goes against the wisdom of the Image, when the ancient kings closed the borders so that merchants and princes could not travel.

In readings, this line often describes an attempt to recapture something that's no longer attainable - maybe something stripped away with the supports in the paired line, 23.1:

'Stripping away the bed, by way of its supports.
To disregard constancy: pitfall.'

There may be entrancing fantasies of return and recovery - but not everything lost can be restored, and sometimes you need an inward connection, not something 'out there' to meet your needs. The calamities of the line might be avoided if you can avoid running after the fantasy, and instead allow what's past to be past, and what's new to arise.

The 'ten years' in this line are quite different from those in 3.2 - the difference between 'after ten years, then it happens,' and 'for ten years, it doesn't happen.' This comes with no promise that all will be well after the ten years are up. They just represent a very, very long time - so much longer than the 'seven days' of the Oracle - the longest time mentioned in the book, and maybe the longest time you can imagine.

27.3 to 22

'Rejecting nourishment.
Constancy, pitfall.
For ten years, don't act.
No direction bears fruit.'

The word translated 'rejecting', fu 拂, originally means brushing or shaking something off - a defiant, dismissive gesture. My experience of this line agrees with Bradford Hatcher's interpretation, that it's something like breatharianism: rejecting what you need to live. 'No, no, don't worry about me,' says the ageing parent. 'Move as far away as you like, I don't want to be a nuisance.' 'My work is spiritual,' insists the practitioner, 'so I don't participate in those lower-vibration commercial marketing practices. Also, since I have so few clients, what can I live on?'

Hexagram 22 as relating hexagram suggests that this rejection may have something to do with self-image. But as so often with these 'negative' lines, this is not necessarily the action of a bad or selfish person - just someone in denial.

The meaning of 'ten years' here rather depends on how you translate the negative that follows it. This character is said to mean 'do not!' rather than just 'not', but not everyone translates it that way. Wilhelm translates, 'Do not act thus for ten years,' meaning - he explains - that one should never do so, and Rutt says 'Avoid use for ten years.' But Lynn has, 'He will have no employment for ten years,' Deng Ming Dao, 'For ten years all will be useless and no place will bring gain,' while Bradford contributes the dryer-than-dust, 'For ten years not to be functional is not a direction with merit.'

So this is either a strategy not to use for ten years (or never), or else one that renders you useless for ten years (or forever). That'll probably be a distinction without a difference for most readings: pushing away nourishment is fundamentally not a useful idea. Starting from here will go nowhere. 'Ten years' seems to be simply emphasis: no, not a good idea; no, it won't work tomorrow, either.

Counting?

Looking at the three mentions of seven days, I found some maybe-interesting patterns by counting along the Sequence of hexagrams. Could I find any for ten years?

Well… I've tried counting hexagrams (from 3 to 12), lines (from 3.2 to 4.6), and even pairs of hexagrams (from 3/4 to 21/22) (for no particular reason except that if you can count hexagrams as days, perhaps there should be something bigger you can count as years). To be honest, nothing really jumped out at me - though counting hexagrams showed some faint promise.

Ten hexagrams along from 3.2 (counting inclusively, as always), we might hope to find babies. What we actually find is Hexagram 12, Blocked, which looks at first glance like a dead end. However, 12.2 includes the word bao 包, 'embracing' - a character that shows the child in the womb. The same word's in 12.3, and a component of 'bushy' in 12.5, and all three feature in a nice little Yijing Easter egg with their zhi gua.

Ten hexagram-years after the military disaster of 24.6, we are still in Retreat - Hexagram 33.

And ten hexagram-years after 27.3, we're still 'unemployed', as Lynn translates the line, in Hexagram 36, Brightness Hiding.

If you are not quite convinced by these - no, nor am I. But then, for two of these three cases, the idea isn't that ten years marks the end of a cycle and the beginning of something new, so perhaps we shouldn't be looking for anything very spectacular.

Conclusions?

'Seven days' has quite a clear meaning: the length of time for the wheel to turn so we can start over. 'Ten years' is not so elegant: it seems just to mean a really, really long time.

I began this article by comparing the three instances of 'ten years' with the general expression 'three years', meaning… 'a long time'. So the distinction may seem a bit of an anti-climax. Still... compare the three year wait for conception in 53.5,

'The wild geese gradually progress to the ancestral grave-mounds.
The wife is not pregnant for three years.
In the end, nothing can prevent it.
Good fortune.'

with the ten years of 3.2:

'Now sprouting, now hesitating.
Now driving a team of horses.
Not robbers at all, but marital allies.
The child-woman's constancy - no children.
Ten years go by, then there are children.'

A three year delay is serious, but you can still experience and understand it as 'gradual progress', slow but unstoppable. A ten year delay turns sprouting to hesitating: diversion, delay, turning in circles. (Looking at this line in the light of the other two ten year intervals might give us pause.)

And compare 13.3,

'Hiding away arms in the thickets,
Climbing your high mound.
For three years, not starting anything.'

with 24.6:

'Confused return, pitfall. There is calamity and blunder.
Using this to mobilise the armies: in the end there is great defeat.
For your state's leader, disaster.
For ten years, incapable of marching out.'

We could stow our weapons and disengage for a while to reconnoitre, creating a pause of three years - how different from the unmitigated disaster that is 24.6! There's a clear emotional difference between three years and ten.

Troll Story

In which you will encounter hesitation, second-guessing, repetitious readings, decision, 'contradictory' moving lines (what do you do with those?), a good dose of common sense and a particularly persistent troll.

Also these readings...

Hexagram 18, Corruption, changing at line 3 to 4, Not Knowing:

changing to

Hexagram 49, Radical Change, changing at lines 2, 3 and 5 to 54, the Marrying Maiden:

changing to

Hexagram 6, Arguing, changing at lines 5 and 6 to 40, Release:

changing to

And finally, Hexagram 45, Gathering, changing at line 2 to Hexagram 47, Confined:

changing to

Listen for the full story - I hope you enjoy it! Obviously with that many readings, this is more of a canter through, not a deep dive into any of them. Is this useful/ interesting, or do you prefer the episodes with just one reading?

(If you'd like to discuss your own reading on the podcast - it's free! - book yourself a slot here.)

Seven days

People often ask about the significance of the specific periods of time mentioned in the Yijing. Does this literally mean seven days, or ten years? Very occasionally, it can - but normally, these periods have symbolic value.

It's interesting to see that 'seven days' get three mentions in the Yijing: in the Oracle of Hexagram 24, and then in 51.2 and 63.2. It's always worth taking notice when there are three of something in the Yi. And it's odd that seven days should feature at all. It seems natural enough to us, since we live in seven day weeks - but a Chinese week is ten days long, and the traditional Chinese calendar is all reckoned in tens and twelves. Yet there's only one passing mention of the ten-day week in the Yi (in 55.1).

Hexagram 24: return on the seventh day

Here's the first mention of seven days, introducing the concept:

‘Returning, creating success.
Going out, coming in, without haste.
Partners come, not a mistake.
Turning around and returning on your path.
The seventh day comes, you return.
Fruitful to have a direction to go.’

According to Wilhelm - and also Tuck Chang, who provides good illustrations - we should imagine seven steps of change here, starting with Hexagram 44, the onset of darkness, and progressing through hexagrams 33, 12, 20, 23 and 2 to 24 - the complementary hexagram of 44, where the light returns. Thus seven is a number for return.

Wilhelm writes,

'All movements are accomplished in six stages, and the seventh brings return. Thus the winter solstice, with which the decline of the year begins, comes in the seventh month after the summer solstice; so too sunrise comes in the seventh double hour after sunset. Therefore seven is the number of the young light, and it arises when six, the number of the great darkness, is increased by one. In this way the state of rest gives way to movement.'

Wonderful stuff - though these are examples for months and hours, not days, so not everything is explained!

There's also a simpler way to look at this: if you count seven hexagrams on through the Sequence from 24, you arrive at Hexagram 30, Clarity: from winter solstice to full daylight. The theme is the same: from dark to light, in seven steps.

Seven days as symbol

When a reading mentions seven days, I think it will always be useful to remember the cycle of time as Wilhelm describes it - from the darkest time to the lightest, and hence from loss to gain. It's natural in Hexagram 24 to look for a 'turning point' (Wilhelm's alternative name for the hexagram) - but what about hexagrams 51 and 63?

The name of Hexagram 51, zhen, is made of the character for rain and that for the fifth Earthly Branch, chen 辰, which also means a time, an occasion, and the start of the growing season: the old character shows a plough or hoe, to break the earth. That feeds into the themes of Hexagram 51 - that thunder shows the moment to wake up and pay attention:

'Rolling thunder. Shock.
A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.'

Hexagram 51, Image

You might also say it's the moment to start rebuilding:

'Shock begins. Stilling stops.'

Zagua

As for Hexagram 63… well, the idea that 63/64 are the 'end' of the Yijing is the subject of a very big, oracle-scale joke: Already Across? Not Yet! As the Sequence says,

'Things cannot be finished, and so Not Yet Across follows - and so the completion.'

In other words, this is altogether more of a turning than an ending. It's a good time for beginning:

'Already across, creating success.
Constancy yields a small harvest.
Beginnings, good fortune - endings, chaos.'

Hexagram 63, Oracle

(And a bad time to imagine you've finished anything.)

51.2 zhi 54

'Shock comes, danger.
A hundred thousand coins lost
Climb the nine hills,
Don't give chase.
On the seventh day, gain.'

We can have fun counting hexagrams here, too - but it's much more important to notice that this is the same theme. This is your lowest moment, when Shock has brought great loss. But you should be reassured that the wheel turns, and in seven steps what's yours will return.

Counting games

You can count the nine hills from here. What about the seven days?

Counting seven hexagrams forward (like we did from 24 to 30) would take us to 57, where the sixth line is part of the same theme of loss and gain:

'Subtly penetrating under the bed,
Losing your property and axe.
Constancy, pitfall.'

57.6

No sign of any coins being regained here, though.

What about following Wilhelm's example and counting line changes? The idea behind 24, we're told, is cumulative line changes, such that 7 steps take you from darkness to light: from 44.2 to 33, 33.3 to 12, and so on round to 2.1 and the complementary hexagram 24.

If we do the same here and change all six lines…

51.2 to 54
54.3 to 34
34.4 to 11
11.5 to 5
5.6 to 9
9.1 to 57

…we'll arrive at the complementary hexagram, 57. How interesting that this is the same place we reached simply by counting hexagrams.

So this starts to look as though it might be quite intentional. If only 57.6 were about gaining coins instead of losing yet more property, it would all be very neat and tidy - but in fact the gain line has Wandered off to 56.4.

63.2 zhi 5

'A wife loses her carriage screen.
Don't chase it.
On the seventh day, gain.'

63.2

Once again, it takes seven days to go from loss to gain, and this wheel will turn by itself; there is no need to chase after things.

More counting games

We run into problems if we try to count seven hexagrams along from 63, of course. If you go downstream, as a carriage screen might if it fell in the river you were crossing, the seven steps take you back to 57 again. So that's - again - interesting.

You could also try arranging the hexagrams in a giant circle, and continuing around it: 63, 64, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. We're still Waiting for gain, though crossing the great river will be fruitful. And, of course, Hexagram 5 is also the zhi gua for this line. I enjoy this kind of coincidence between counting and zhi gua.

If you trace some Wilhelm-esque line changes to reach the complementary hexagram, 64, the final step in the series will be 38.1 to 64:

‘Regrets vanish.
Lost horse: don't pursue it, it returns of itself.
See hateful people,
No mistake.’

38.1

which is the remaining 'lost and found' line. That one doesn't mention 'seven days' - but it does incorporate the name of Hexagram 24, so perhaps any more pointers would be redundant.

As so often with the Sequence, there's no tidy, rigorous, fixed system - but I do get a sense that someone is having fun playing with patterns and hiding connections in plain sight.

ferris wheel at night

I Ching Community discussion

Finding meaning

Sergio asked a big question for this podcast reading: how to deal with his sense that his life lacked meaning. Yi's response was quite a modest, domestic one: Hexagram 37, People in the Home, changing at the fifth line to 22, Beauty:

changing to

'With the king's presence, there is a home.
Do not worry. Good fortune.'

Hexagram 37, line 5

Perhaps it's as simple as that...

Hexagram 60 as relating hexagram

Measuring

Hexagram 60 is called Measuring, or Limits - not in the sense of imposing restrictions, but of knowing where the edges are, and discovering or negotiating what's workable.

The original concept is the knots and segments of bamboo, and hence all ways of dividing up something big into smaller segments - the chapters of a book, the festivals of a year - to make it more human-scale, or just more knowable. When a journalist tells you that something is the area of however-many football pitches, they're Measuring it for you.

How do you Measure? The Oracle shows the fundamental standard:

'Measuring, creating success.
Bitter measures do not allow for constancy.’

It's subjective perception. (Not law, not tradition, not morality, but how it tastes.)

The Image unpacks the idea of what does and doesn't allow for constancy:

'Above the lake is the stream. Measuring.
A noble one crafts number and measure,
Reflecting on character in action.'

I think the flow of water between stream and lake is something to be worked out through experimentation: how can you manage the flow to preserve both reservoir and stream? Or how can you manage your own strengths to ensure the work is done? You will need to measure, to count, and to observe and reflect as you go.

So… how does this work when as a relating hexagram? When it's the background to your reading, or your direction or approach?

Notes from my journal

The first place I go to answer a question like that is always my own readings journal. I run a quick 'cast history' search for 60 as relating hexagram, go through the list of readings that pops up and see what they have in common. ('Cast history' search is a Resonance Journal feature.)

I find there are a couple of readings about business commitments: how much more to do for Clarity members during lockdown, for instance, or what kind of podcast routine I can manage. It comes up a few times in readings about productivity and getting organised, quietly reminding me of the underlying question: what can you do? what will you do, in practice? And there are a couple about communication: how to convey what I need to, but without sparking panic?

It can be about boundaries or limits, but the underlying issue always seems to be finding enough, but not too much.

Individual lines

My second port of call (always with the help of 'cast history'!) is the single lines that change to Hexagram 60 - six points of connection where an underlying question of Measuring shines through.

29.1

'Repeated chasms.
Entering into the pit within the chasm.
Pitfall.'

With your first steps into the Chasms, it probably seems wholly reasonable to start Measuring: how far? how deep? Only, it turns out, this doesn't work well. The whole impulse to sound the thing out and measure its depths only gets you deeper in - when what you need is a way through.

People who receive this line often seem to be trying to get the measure of the chasms. This is something like trying to negotiate an agreement with the Grand Canyon, or divide a torrent into bite-sized pieces, or to taste an absence - as when you ask 'How does x feel about me?' but x forgot your existence months ago.

Sometimes the attitude embodied by a relating hexagram looks like the source of a line's experience; sometimes, it looks like what you need to navigate it. Very often, it's both. Since 'Measuring means stopping' (according to the Zagua), perhaps 60 is also what we need at this line. But in practice with this one, I usually find it's the desire to Measure that sucks people further into the pits.

Looking at the fan yao, 60.1 changing to 29 -

'Not going out of the door to the family rooms.
Not a mistake.'

-might show some of the delusion that keeps us stuck in here. It feels fine, 'not a mistake', to stay inside what we know intimately. Measuring, after all, begins with how the experience tastes, and I don't need anything outside me to tell me that.

So… I might be asking how x feels, but my only measure is how I feel. I might ask how about doing this thing for people, purely from my own need to be doing something, with no awareness of their experience. I might feel as though I'm measuring something out there, but I'm really still in the echo chamber of my own unconscious mind.

3.2

'Now sprouting, now hesitating.
Now driving a team of horses.
Not robbers at all, but marital allies.
The child-woman's constancy - no children.
Ten years go by, then there are children.'

Second lines are often about reaching out, making connections, so it's natural for this line to be about marriage - and for the '60-ish-ness' of it to have to do with negotiations and timing.

There is hesitancy: is this the right moment to embark on marriage? Might these be robbers? (Or at least a groom who is signalling his poverty?) What if there are no children? It's all very confusing. I wrote about this a few years back,

Of course Hexagram 3 is the very beginning of everything – and it’s also the first time the marriage theme appears in the Yi at all. The future bride is still a child herself (following Wu Jing Nuan’s interpretation, which has always felt right to me) so it is far too early for children. All you have to do, though, is to be patient and constant for ten years. If you’re willing to wait that long, and can afford to, then there is no need for hesitancy: a delay might be mistaken for a theft, but it is not at all the same thing.

The line has some very hexagram-3-esque ‘fertile confusion’ about it: the one hesitating, then driving the horses, must be the groom; then there’s an abrupt switch of point of view to the bride and her family, the ones who might mistake marital allies for robbers. And then it’s the woman’s constancy that answers that initial hesitancy. The two perspectives are stirred and mixed together, and by the end of this mini-story they’re united (allied, married…) in the promise of children to come.

There's confusion, mistrust and hesitancy, but really no-one is defrauding anyone - they're just finding their measure. Here, Hexagram 60 might be part of the issue, causing hesitation, but it's also the solution: it works perfectly for the 'child-woman' to Measure the time, asking 'Is this a good fit?' and use her own growth and readiness as the standard.

5.3

'Waiting in the bog
Invites the arrival of robbers.'

This is one of those lines that doesn't actually say anything is wrong - there is no omen of misfortune or disaster - but perhaps it simply doesn't need to, and being stuck in the bog and attacked by bandits speaks for itself.

(The word I've translated 'invites' is really clear and unambiguous, by the way: waiting in the bog brings about the arrival of robbers, it causes it. This is just how it works, says Yi: waiting in the bog means getting attacked by bandits, like a sedentary lifestyle means ill health.)

What's the role of Measuring here?

There are many good interpretations of this line at the I Ching Community where people suggest that if you are stuck, you need boundaries - for instance, to set limits to the time and energy you will spend stuck in a boggy relationship. This makes sense. Ask yourself how long it feels right to wait for him to commit to the relationship. Set a limit to how long you will sit staring at a computer screen waiting for motivation to arrive. Have boundaries for those difficult conversations with your mother. Implement a debt-management plan. In all these cases, some wise Measure could prevent you from sinking further in, getting stuck and inviting robbers.

Often, 'inviting robbers' literally means inviting other people to exploit you. The fan yao, 60.3 changing to 5, says 'No measure, and hence lamenting' - and that could be a reminder that there are always bandits, people who don't observe any shared measure, ready to take advantage.

So this line is suffering from a deficit of Measure… isn't it?

Line 3 is on the inner threshold of the hexagram, preparing to cross over into the outer trigram. Or in the case of Hexagram 5, preparing to cross the river, as the Oracle says will bear fruit -

'Waiting, with truth and confidence.
Shining out, creating success: constancy brings good fortune.
Fruitful to cross the great river.'

The idea is to express your confidence that what you need is coming towards you, by moving towards it yourself as far as you can. So why is this line sitting in the mud instead of crossing the river?

I think this can be because it's Measuring.

There was a chivalrous convention in early China, possibly current when the Yi was written, that you didn't attack an enemy chariot when it was stuck in the mud. So it would seem safe to wait in the mud, relying on these shared Measures - and besides, if you managed to drag yourself free and rejoin the fray, it might only make matters worse.

Except, of course, that out in the real world, not everything or everyone will observe your Measure. Besides, Waiting is a state of trust, which - like the Repeating Chasms - isn't quantifiable. (Sinking deeper into the mud seems quite similar to entering into the pit within the chasm - it all gets deeper and damper and more stuck.) Waiting calls for a wholehearted commitment to crossing rivers, not for negotiation - 'I'll trust it this far, I'll be devoted this much, I'm sure everyone will agree this is reasonable.'

So which is it? Are you getting stuck because of a lack of boundaries? Or is a desire to measure the immeasurable quality of Waiting getting you bogged down in negotiations or rationalisations?

In practice, I think it works both ways. This line needs Measure, but in its best sense - the organic internal boundaries of growing bamboo, not unexamined conventions like 'I always sit at the computer to work from 9-5' or 'good children spend time with their ageing parents' or 'a faithful lover waits forever' or indeed 'no-one attacks a chariot when it's stuck'. Those conventions all bring the expectation (or demand) of a reward - inspiration, a loving mother, a happily-ever-after… - when the real world is probably not going to abide by those rules. Look out for bandits, and rethink.

58.4

'Negotiating opening, not yet at rest.
Containing the affliction brings rejoicing.'

I find this line begins with pressing anxiety. The pressure started with the paired line, 57.3

'Subtly penetrating with urgency - shame.'

Now that feeds into the atmosphere here: deep unease about something open-ended and unresolved. Perhaps this is about bartering - the word translated 'negotiating' also means trade, business and merchants. ('You throw in goat and the chicken and we have a deal!') But then again, this word is actually Shang: the name of the dynasty who became the enemies of Zhou; these might be fraught negotiations with a powerful military force.

This is another line where Hexagram 60 works two ways: as the source of the anxiety or as its solution. As I wrote before:

This is 58 changing to 60: Opening’s Measure and Limiting. Hexagram 60 draws lines, subdivides things, breaks them into segments like the bamboo stem. The line seems to show two ways ‘Opening with Measure’ could go: an anxious desire to nail everything down and set comprehensive terms (as I think also happens in 61.6 zhi 60), or breaking things down into manageable portions. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof; cross that bridge when you come to it; eat the elephant one bite at a time.

'Containing the affliction' looks to me like a direct allusion to Measuring, which originally means the joints that divide a bamboo stem into separate segments. That's a good picture of limiting contagion, keeping issues or people compartmentalised instead of letting everything flow and blur together. It shows (amongst other things) a way to prevent anxiety from becoming infectious - to keep it from spreading to other people or into other areas of life.

19.5

'Realisation nearing.
Right for a great leader.
Good fortune.'

The concept of 'Nearing Measure' is present here, but you need to dig into a couple of key words to make it visible.

What's nearing? zhi, a character made of the components 'arrow' and 'mouth', so you can imagine it as words arriving directly at their target. It means understanding, insight, and also announcing, notifying. That is, it's not only about knowing, but about coming to know: becoming aware of something, or making something known; recognising or revealing.

And 'right for' a great leader is 'a great leader's 宜 yi'. This is one word with two meanings in the Yijing: 'right' or 'fitting', and also the Yi sacrifice to the earth. In the Oracle of Hexagram 62, this character pretty clearly means 'fitting' and not 'Yi sacrifice':

'…A bird in flight leaves its call,
Going higher is not fitting, coming down is fitting.'

But in Hexagram 55, I think it means the sacrifice:

'Abundance, creating success.
The king is present to it.
Do not mourn. A Yi sacrifice at noon.'

This was a sacrifice made to the earth by the ruler before a great venture, such as a military campaign. The character shows meats laid out carefully on the altar, each in its own delineated space.

You can imagine how the 'fitting' meaning could evolve from the name of the offering. When the heavens are telling you, through celestial signs, that it is the right time to act, then you respond with a sacrifice to reconcile your endeavour with the earth. You invite earthly alignment to match the alignment of the planets; you seek to make this the right place as well as the right time. Then your action will be truly fitting - or 'commensurate' or 'congruent', as the dictionary also suggests: it will be a good, measured fit. I think this is starting to feel 60-ish.

These two characters let us imagine a story for the line. We've been watching the skies for a celestial alignment - perhaps for many years - and now at last realisation, or notification, nears: the stars are telling us to act. So the great leader, standing at the centre of the trigram earth, responds with a Yi sacrifice. He enters into an agreement with the gods and spirits, and knows he will be acting at the right time, in the right place.

I reckon a contemporary reader of the oracle would have known yi in both meanings: they would be fully aware of the Yi sacrifice, but not limited to taking that literally. What's nearing is a sense of rightness - which might mean new information, fuller insight, or just knowing that everything is lining up at last.

Hexagram 60 provides the measures by which we know this is right. It might feel like something of a Goldilocks moment: not too soon, not too late; not too much, just enough. As the fan yao says, it tastes sweet:

'Sweet measures, good fortune.
Going on brings honour.’

61.6

'Cockcrow rises to heaven.
Constancy, pitfall.'

The bird of this line could be a golden pheasant - a beautiful bird with a less-than-beautiful squawk. However, I find it hard not to imagine something like this:

https://youtu.be/PB1Q-UAdhAU

Apparently there's a Chinese saying that the cockerel's crow rises to heaven, but he stays on the ground. Neither chickens nor pheasants fly particularly well.

Where does Measure come in? Logically, our cockerel is obviously in need of Measure. His Inner Truth is coming up against the limits of the real world, and needs to develop some sense of scale - of what size he really is, in the larger world. In other words, he needs the message that 62's flying bird will bring.

However, in my experience this is another of those lines where Measure works both ways: it's part of the problem as well as the solution.

Where Inner Truth meets Measure, I might start to use what I know to be true, inwardly, as my means of relating to the world at large - as if I could remake the world to my own measure, and make something true if I call for it with sufficient conviction. (Perhaps our cockerel is doing his affirmations in front of the mirror?)

I've seen people receive this line who were trying to force a connection, or summon a relationship into being, with someone not capable of responding. As with other sixth lines, this isn't particularly the sign of a bad, selfish or even necessarily an arrogant person, just one who's somewhat out of touch with reality.

Conclusions?

As relating hexagram, Measuring works things out. It stops, it reflects, it rolls the situation around in its mouth to find how it tastes. It tries to see how much, how far, how long, where to draw lines. And - especially - it tries to go from intimate subjective experience to shared measures. Measuring, we look to our own experience as touchstone for what will be enough but not too much.

Sometimes this attitude helps, sometimes it's a trap, and often it can do/be both. Each primary hexagram engages and deals with issues of Measure - which very often seems to be an issue of how subjective knowing (the way you know how something tastes) meets objective reality. It might, as at 19.5 or even 3.2, do so in perfect harmony; then again, it might not be so easy.

I Ching Community discussion

Levels of questioning?

Something I just came across…

Alan Seale, in Create a World that Works ( a book I haven't read, and no doubt should) described four levels of engagement with experience - from the most easily accessible to the most creative:

Drama - the blow-by-blow, he-said-she-said reliving of events, in a breathless spin of emotional reactions.
Situation - setting out to solve the problem and fix things.
Choice - choosing how to relate to a situation, who to be or what role to play.
Opportunity - seeing what change is possible.

It doesn't take much of a mental leap to see this as a very handy framework for looking at our questions to the oracle - ways that readings can become more creative. Indeed, the introductory articles I've been reading on these 'four levels' (like this one) often characterise them in terms of what questions we're asking.

You can imagine…
Drama: 'What is he doing? How does he feel about me? What will they do next?'
Situation: 'How can I make this work? How can I solve this?'
Choice: 'What is my role? How best to relate to this?'
Opportunity - and here I'm simply 'borrowing' directly: 'What is the opportunity here? What wants to happen?'

'Situation' questions are probably the ones I most often ask, but those 'Choice' and 'Opportunity' questions strike me as intriguing ways to open up the conversation with Yi and invite a new way of seeing. (Also as things Yi might tell me anyway - something I'll be altogether more likely to notice if I've consciously asked the question.)

People's descriptions of the levels seem to come with a coating of judgement we'd probably be better off without. The lowly 'Drama' or 'Situation' levels may just be where we are, and basic questions like 'What's he doing?' or 'What can I do?' may just be the ones we're asking. (And solemnly choosing a 'better' question for Yi that's not the one you're really asking now is a splendid recipe for confusion.)

Still… when I have the mental space to contemplate, or when I'm asking a whole string of questions about the same situation, I think I'll come back to this and try asking from different 'levels of awareness'.

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