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,’
‘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.
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.
Warm wishes, Hilary”
From the blog
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:
‘Enthusiasm. 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?
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!)
‘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.)
(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!’)
Since this post was published, I’ve filled all the available places for readings now and ‘closed’ again. If you’re interested in a reading in future, please be sure to get yourself on the list for ‘Ways of Opening’: that way I’ll be sure to email you when I next open. (Normally, I only notify the people on this list.) Thanks!
If you already know you want a reading…
I’m just opening the doors for my full I Ching reading service, for the first time in ages. (If you’ve already signed up on the readings page, you should have had an email about this last week.) If this is something you’re definitely interested in now, please visit the page, read the details and sign up for the ‘Ways of Opening’ booklet to help find your question. You’ll get an email right away with both the booklet and a link to an ‘Introductions’ form – please follow it!
If you’re not sure…
How is this different from an ‘I Ching chat’?
In a nutshell – it’s more complete, and it costs more.
I Ching chats are more or less always available for booking, and cost £30 (unless you are a Change Circle member, in which case it’s free). You book a chat, send me the basic information about your reading, and we talk for 30 minutes – long enough to give you insight into the reading’s core message, but nowhere near long enough to explore it fully.
Full readings are only available occasionally, and only for five people at a time, to ensure I can give my full attention to each person. This service costs £200 (unless you are a Change Circle member, in which case you get a £50 discount), and is more of a shared journey.
We start out with a call to find your question – my chance to concentrate on listening to you intently to understand your situation. Then there’s a long, spacious call to explore the reading (normally this takes about an hour), and I send you a recording and a written summary of this. And then we have a further three follow-up calls as you’re integrating your understanding of the reading. We might explore more facets of the original reading, see how it interacts with your dreams, or discuss a follow-up reading if something needs asking.
As you can imagine, this kind of deep-dive exploration is better suited to a big question that you want to spend some time on.
What’s changing this time
Like I said, I only open for full readings intermittently, and only for five people at a time. This normally means there are more people who want readings than I can accommodate. In the past, I’ve just emailed everyone who signed up for ‘Ways of Opening’ to say, ‘I’m open, here’s the booking link for the question-finding call,’ and the first five people to sign up would be the ones I read for.
This was nice and simple, but not especially well-thought-out! I might discuss questions with someone, only to realise I wasn’t the right person to help them after all. Meanwhile, there might be someone else who would have greatly benefitted from a reading, but who hadn’t even seen the email until after all the calls were booked (which often happened within an hour of pressing ‘send’). And it was all unnecessarily frenetic.
So this time, I’m trying something different. When you sign up for Ways of Opening, you’ll be sent a link to an ‘introductions form’ where you can introduce me to yourself and your question. That way, if there are more than five people who’d like a reading, I can choose those I feel I can help best. (And if someone does drop out after the opening call – which also sometimes happens because once you’re clear on the question you find you already know the answer! – then I’ll already know whom to ask next.)
This also means I can tell you when I’m closing the doors this time: January 14th is the absolute last day to send in an ‘introductions’ form.
Every year on my birthday, I cast a reading for the coming year. Not as a prediction – imagine the gloom and suspense if you spent a year under the shadow of 24.6! – but for guidance. Perhaps it’s a little like the people who choose a ‘word for the year’ as a theme, except that I let Yi do the choosing.
In practice, the reading provides me with an underlying guiding principle that will feed into my planning for the year, and decisions along the way. Also, it tends to help me make sense of my experiences with hindsight – ‘Oh, is that what that was? Ah…’. That combination means that at this time of year, I’m partly absorbing the reading into plans for 2019, and partly just accepting that full understanding will come with time.
Here’s how I start to work with an annual reading – and how you can too, if you want.
My reading: Clarity and Advancing
Guidance for 2019?
– Hexagram 30, Clarity, changing at lines 1 and 3 to 35, Advancing.
To start with, this reflects a theme I had in mind already: visibility. Being visible goes against all my instincts, and Yi’s made considerable use of Hexagram 36, Brightness Hiding, in talking to me about this. Between the ages of about 6 and 16, getting a lot of people’s attention probably meant getting bullied, and blending into the scenery meant being accepted and safe. At the age of 46, it’s starting to dawn on me that following my 6-year-old self’s best advice while trying to sell stuff on the internet is pretty spectacularly ridiculous.
Startling moving lines…
So… Yi gives me 30, and 35: fire and fire, and fire above the earth. All the lights are on. It’s picking up on this idea of being visible, showing me how it actually works and how it feels. And what it says comes as a bit of a surprise: that changing inner trigram, looking for all the world like a glowing log in the fire, says,
‘Treading in confusion. Honour it, Not a mistake.’
‘In the clear light of the setting sun, If not beating a pot and singing, Then you will be making the lament of great old age. Pitfall.’
That’s less clear – and more emotional – than I’d somehow expected. What can I make of these lines at this stage?
Line 1 –
‘Treading in confusion. Honour it, Not a mistake.’
– is about moving first, and finding out where I’m going later, or following the signs, and finding out where they lead later. The important thing is to be in motion, honouring the journey and whatever guidance there is.
I can apply this to work, finding ways to reach more people with Clarity, and to the other thing I really need to concentrate on this year: getting healthier. There’s no need for me to know exactly what I’m doing before I start doing it. (This post is a pretty good example of 30.1!) That goes against my natural habit of researching all the options, making a comprehensive list of requirements and tasks, sorting the list into the most ergonomic order… etc… first. Also it awakens an underlying fear of the fan yao, 56.1:
‘The traveller – fragmented and bitty, Chops up his place and courts disaster.’
If I honour each glimmer of light, start moving before I know what I’m doing, won’t I sabotage myself by fragmenting my efforts? Answer: not necessarily, no – not if I honour each sign and step, and don’t go running off after the next shiny object.
Line 1’s quite comforting. Line 3 is not:
‘In the clear light of the setting sun, If not beating a pot and singing, Then you will be making the lament of great old age. Pitfall.’
I find my mind going at once to, ‘What setting sun? What day is ending? What lament?’
This looks like the kind of thing I might recognise during the course of the year, but I have a few ideas already. I’m 46, which turns out not to feel exactly like 26, either physically or mentally. (I’m very lucky with my health overall, but there are enough niggles now that I can see I’d better stop taking it for granted.)
Also, Clarity is still not what you’d call a successful business – a fantastic community of wonderful I Ching people, but not a business – and so I can start thinking about how much time I must have wasted, not getting a grip (and not being visible!). My husband says kindly that I’ve built a ‘good foundation’ here, and he’s not wrong – but it’s been 18 years, so why don’t I have a few bricks on the foundation by now? Enough to support us, or even think about buying our own home?
So as my thoughts run along those lines, accompanied by the wailing of the world’s smallest violin, I can hear the ‘lament of great old age’: ‘If only I’d taken my chances! It’s all downhill from here! It’ll never work!’
What Yi has to say about this is interesting: the lament’s a consequence of not beating a pot and singing. This song would be celebrating the past day’s achievements, and the new day’s possibilities. It’s a way of 21 – Biting Through, fully coming to grips with everything, not just making up tales of woe. If you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen with a wooden spoon and some good, loud saucepans…
The hexagram relationship
If I really want to ‘get’ those lines, I need to understand how they emerge from the relationship between hexagrams 30 and 35. Or to put it another way, how do they express an ‘Advancing’ aspect, or perspective, or direction, for Clarity?
The odd thing is that these two hexagrams are one another’s Shadow – hexagrams especially easily mistaken for one another in a way that creates all-round confusion and stuckness. (See the Shadows mini-course inside Change Circle – if you’re not yet a member, you can join here!) Maybe this year is a good time for me to peel these two apart and get unstuck.
‘Clarity. Constancy bears fruit. Creating success. Raising female cattle is good fortune.’
‘Advancing, Prince Kang used a gift of horses to breed a multitude. In the course of a day, he mated them three times.’
Hexagram 30 rears cattle; Hexagram 35 breeds horses. Very, very similar – but one has the sense of developing the capacity to sustain action and insight, while the other is about taking action, making the most of gifts, seizing the day.
Health-wise, this would be the distinction between nurturing energy and using it. (Sometimes 35 seems to burn the candle at both ends.) On the work side of things, too, I can recognise the distinction: it’s the familiar question of whether to concentrate on building up resources, or on promoting and selling what I’ve already made.
Over the past year, for instance, I concentrated almost entirely on developing the Change Circle membership: the new Sequence book, revised and expanded Yijing Foundations, Shadow mini-course, all in a new ‘home’ for easier access. All that comes under the heading of ‘cattle-rearing’: building up resources, creating supportive structures, developing the capacity to support insight. But I didn’t – for instance – make time to run a live Foundations class, or even open for readings. Those would be Hexagram 35 activities: ways of making the most of what I already have to offer.
(So I’ve always chosen between 35 and 30. Wait a minute, Yi, are you saying I’m supposed to do both at once?)
The two Images are also similar-but-different:
‘Doubled light gives rise to Clarity. Great People with continuous light illuminate the four regions.’
‘Light comes forth over the earth. Advancing The noble one’s own light shines in her character.’
Hexagram 30 has light doubled. It sits, with 29, at the centre of its own landscape of 5 hexagram pairs, shining light in all directions. Hexagram 35 goes out over the earth, shining its own light on the path. This looks to me like the difference between using a really strong headlamp (something I’ve learned to value when cycling along unlit roads!) and installing street lighting.
Perhaps the idea is to do both: rear cattle and install street lights using the energy and commitment of Hexagram 35. And yes… I think this does come through in those two moving lines. Honouring each footprint, responding to each sign, making the most of each opportunity; deliberately seeking and stoking joyful, forward-looking energy.
So far, this is telling me more about mindset than actions – but then it’s mindset that determines which actions are possible, or even thinkable.
As for what comes next – there’s some cattle-rearing to be done, in the form of technical upgrades necessary to keep the lights on. And I will also be opening for readings soon, so if you’d be interested in that – maybe for an annual reading? – please ensure you sign up here for the ‘Ways of Opening’ list. (Normally when I open, all the slots are taken by people on this list before I ever get round to making the offer public.)
Happy New Year to you – may your 2019 glow brightly 🙂 .
One of the good things about our little rented home has always been the thick shield of trees that stands between us and the road. Great glossy green laurels, disappearing in late spring under huge white blossoms, blanketing the whole house in heavy scent. The slender, fragile-looking deciduous tree with delicate perfumed white flowers later in the year. The little ‘volunteer’ tree that sprang up by itself a few years back and reached about seven feet tall – I have no idea of its name, but its humble, berry-like little green flowers nourished ecstatic hordes of bees this past summer. Soft furry-leaved glaucous bushes. A forsythia by the gate, blazing bright yellow each March. Holly – always stripped of its berries by the birds well before Christmas.
Well, like I said, we rent, and the landlord came round a month or so back to explain that the trees needed cutting back as they were impeding some overhead wires. This had been done before – a few high branches lopped off with a long trimmer. And then yesterday morning a man came round to say he’d be ‘doing your trees’. There were chainsaw noises.
Maybe you can guess how this ends. I went outside a few hours later to find the team of workmen just finishing cutting down the second to last tree. All the rest were already gone.
I asked the men to hold off until the landlord was called to check if he really wanted the last tree cut down, and then I talked to Yi. Not with a very coherent question, as you can maybe imagine – just ‘talk to me about this’.
Yi gave me Hexagram 22, Beauty, with line 5 changing, going to 37, People in the Home.
It’s one of those readings where it was immediately clear that it was speaking to me, and less clear at first what it was saying. There was 37, the home, in the background. There was 22, a hexagram of – amongst other things – the healing power of plants. Also with 22 comes the idea of deliberate communication, making yourself easy to relate to; that was something I very much needed to do when the landlord came round, so I absorbed it as direct advice.
But the moving line?
‘Beauty in a hilltop garden. A roll of silk: small, so small. Shame. In the end, good fortune.’
Of course I was – and am – simply mourning. But also, for some reason, I found myself saying again and again, I’m sorry, and I couldn’t understand what this was about or where it came from until I absorbed Yi’s words. This was shame.
It wasn’t just that the trees were killed, but that I had a strong connection, a relationship, with these trees; they’d given me shelter and joy for many years – and what could I give them in return? I’ve received so much, but my resources are so small, my power so ludicrously inadequate, that I have nothing to offer; I can’t even stop the chainsaw.
The fan yao, 37.5, fits in here as a background belief –
‘With the king’s presence, there is a home. Do not worry. Good fortune.’
… that this should be my place, where I guarantee the safety of those who live here. When it isn’t, and I can’t, I’m ashamed.
Sometimes Yi offers guidance, and sometimes it shows you what’s happening in the world, or what you’ll find if you walk a particular path. And sometimes, as here, it simply helps me to unravel what’s going on in my own psyche. It brings some calm and a sense of perspective – especially when it quietly says,
‘In the end, good fortune.’
The line itself offers no explanation for this promise, but my sense of it has always been that in the long run, deep commitment is more important than inadequate resources.
Here is a picture of volunteer-tree that I took in June this year. (Click for the full-size image.) If you happen to know what it’s called, could you let me know? The bees would appreciate it very much if I could plant a replacement.
(The landlord did agree to leave the last laurel tree.)
Its name (and nature)
Hexagram 55 is unusual in that its name contains two meanings –
The character feng 豐 means abundant, bountiful, plentiful. The ancient character appears to be an elaborated, decorated version of the character for ‘drum’: see Richard Sears’ site –
Sears says the additions to the character are drummers; others say they are grain stalks. (Probably the character was written both ways.) We get the impression of a peak moment and a thundering great celebration.
And… Feng is also the name of a city founded by King Wen as part of his preparations to overthrow the Shang. This would be where they made plans, gathered resources, enlisted allies and watched the skies for signs of the auspicious moment to march out. They would also have been based there when Wen died and Wu succeeded him as king.
SJ Marshall was, as far as I know, the first to point this out and see its relevance to the hexagram, in his seminal book The Mandate of Heaven. He’s generously made the digital version of this available for free – highly recommended.
The details of exactly what happened at Feng – when and how Wu succeeded Wen, and what kind of celestial sign announced the time to march on Shang – are debated, and unknowable. It’s more important to understand that this is where it all happens. As the Zagua says, Abundance means ‘many causes’ or ‘much incident’. All roads lead here; everything led up to this; everything is centred here, ready for you to act. Here and now, this is the crux.
Looking through my own ‘Abundance’ readings, there are several about having to act as the leader in complicated group situation (whether I wanted the role or not). There’s an intriguing one about someone rethinking and rewriting their memories to support a healthier sense of self in the present moment. And there are two about all-in-one organiser apps – the kind where you gather all your emails, projects, to-dos, files and so forth in one place. All the readings have in common that sense of being at the centre, where you connect everything together and make it meaningful.
‘Abundance [Feng], creating success. The king is present to it. Do not mourn. A fitting sacrifice at noon.’
As Marshall points out, this recalls the story of Wu, who has no time fully to mourn his father. Full mourning required years, including years in seclusion – not an option for a new military leader at a crucial moment.
The king’s ‘presence’ is part of a phrase also used in 37.5, 45 and 59. For more on the word used, jia 假, see LiSe and Harmen. (Google translate is quite good with Dutch!) It’s a tricky one, with its core meaning of ‘second skin’ and associations of fantasy and fakery. There’s clearly no deception involved in these phrases in the Yi: ‘the king jia has/there-is a home,’ or ‘the king jia has/there-is the temple.’ Jia seems to be a prerequisite for there to be a real home or temple. Harmen suggests this means the king places himself in the service of the home or the temple. Remembering the ‘second skin’ meaning, I imagine it as the king assuming his role, putting it on like a mantle of responsibility.
The text in Hexagram 55 is different: not ‘the king jia has/there-is [noun]’ but simply ‘the king jia it’. The king is present to it; the king assumes it; the king takes it on. Why no specifics? Perhaps because the king simply needs to be present to everything here and take it all on. Abbreviating the phrase adds to the sense of urgency.
In readings, this seems to call you into the demands of the present moment: be here, inhabit this responsibility, put it on.
Not mourning, bearing up
And also – do not mourn. Looking beyond the Zhou legend to the inner logic of the hexagram, why do we need to be told not to mourn at such a time? I think it’s because of the loss of a former life where you weren’t the one responsible. There’s a very fine line between bearing up under the weight, celebrating the abundance of opportunity to make things happen, and wanting to disappear into the mourning hut or under the duvet and just wait for it all to go away.
That fine line between bearing up, or not, is embodied in the nuclear hexagram: 28, Great Exceeding:
‘Great Exceeding, the ridgepole warps. Fruitful to have a direction to go. Creating success.’
Here’s 55’s core awareness of stress, overwhelm, and the imperative to act. A sheltering structure – of childhood, or following, or being protected or told what to do – breaks down, and you’re on your own. (Maybe in your own city, surrounded by your own people – but still on your own.)
You can see from the texts of lines 2, 3 and 4 that Abundance is found in the dark. It’s about what becomes visible when you can’t see – especially, I’ve found, when you can’t see how but can still see why. In line 2, you find the trust to go on despite ‘doubts and anxieties’; in line 3, you realise that despite your incapacity, things are unfolding as they should; in line 4, you even make an ally of the Yi lord.
How did you get here?
From Hexagram 54, the Marrying Maiden. (And as part of some much bigger patterns – see Exploring the Sequence inside the Change Circlelibrary.) The Marrying Maiden experiences a strange mixture of frustration and fulfilment: frustration, because she is married off into a situation she didn’t choose and can’t control; fulfilment, because she might be able to make this her home and attain her highest potential here. In the Zhou story, ‘King Yi marries off his daughters’ to ally Shang with Zhou; King Wu (or possibly Wen) will be born from this union.
Abundance brings a similar mix of experiences. There’s a similar sense of being ‘landed’ in a situation you didn’t ask for – but also the overwhelming knowledge that this is where you belong and where your mandate lies. The Sequence itself says simply,
‘Attaining the place where you belong naturally means greatness, and so Abundance follows.’
The step from 54 to 55 is also a single trigram change – from thunder over the lake to thunder arising from light:
In Hexagram 54, you can imagine the thunder’s vibrations rumbling through the lake, circulating in its currents – an acute inner awareness of the changing times. The picture of Hexagram 55 is quite different: fire powering thunder, insight propelling action…
You can paint many pictures with these trigrams: the rocket launch, for instance, or lightning followed instantly by thunder when the storm’s right on top of you. This was the most important picture for the Image authors:
‘Thunder and lightning culminate as one. Abundance. A noble one decides legal proceedings and brings about punishment.’
When you know, you act, and accept the consequences; this is not a hexagram for sitting on the fence and pondering, or keeping your options open. In terms of the simplest trigram associations, zhen above li represents action emerging from vision. In the Zhou legend, this is exactly what happened at Feng: they saw celestial omens, and acted accordingly.
This might remind you of Hexagram 49, where inner fire shines through an outer lake, and the people’s way of life is re-aligned with the stars as the noble one ‘calculates the heavenly signs and clarifies the seasons.’ After all, 55 is only separated from 49 by its fifth line, where ‘a thing of beauty,’ like a new regime and newly harmonious order, is coming.