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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

Yi on authenticity

This is episode 11 of the I Ching with Clarity podcast, featuring another listener's reading.

Sarah asked,

"How can I better convey my authentic and true self with others?"

and Yi replied with Hexagram 45, Gathering, changing at lines 4,5 and 6 to 23, Stripping Away -

changing to

It's a deep, rich reading, profoundly reassuring.

As we were talking about 45.5 -

'Gathering together has a position.
No mistake.
No trust at all.
From the source, ever-flowing constancy.
Regrets vanish.'

Hexagram 45, line 5

- I showed Sarah this page of ancient forms of the character yong, 'perpetual, ever-flowing', which shows a human figure flowing with the river currents. The story it reminded me of was this one, from Zhuangzi.

Enjoy the reading! And if you'd like a free podcast reading yourself, you're very welcome to apply here.

Out of the gate

This is by way of a follow-up to my 'Dispersing Nourishment' reading. I thought I'd share as it's another reading that shows how Yi helps with the small stuff, and on multiple levels. Besides, I appreciate the eloquence of the trigrams in this one.

Background, reading…

My joints ache - not a lot, but more than they used to, especially in the mornings, and especially over the past year. I know the basics I need to do about this (move more, eat more turmeric and less sugar, lose weight), so this reading wasn't about that. Instead, I was thinking about the symbolism of this, with its 'no, you're not free to move' message.

So my question was,

'How to change this? Not so much what to do, as how to be? What inner change will help?'

Yi answered with Hexagram 60, Measuring, changing at line 2 to Hexagram 3, Sprouting.

The central idea of jie, Measuring, is the way bamboo divides itself into regular sections. And Sprouting is associated with the new seedling breaking through the soil. So with the two together (my usual first step of looking at the primary-relating framework), I can imagine the bamboo growing, sprouting again from the root. New stems, new joints - time for some new measures?

Out of the gate

There's plenty more to be said about those two hexagrams, of course, but I mostly wanted to share this reading for its very apt moving line:

‘Not going out of the gate from the courtyard.
Pitfall.’

Hexagram 60, line 2

That one got a wry smile - it's far too literal for comfort. Yi wasn't really accepting the tidy inner/outer distinction I'd tried to make with my question. The Dispersing flood of pandemic-related changes (no shopping, no orchestras, and volunteering confined to Zoom) meant I'd barely been outside our front gate in over a year.

Inner and outer, lake and stream

I adopted 'out of the gate' as a guiding inner principle - learning new 'cello pieces, reading different books, studying new things. That’s all good, but it's surprised me how big a difference it makes literally to head out of the gate, get on the bike and creak and rattle away.

On another level, I feel this reading's talking about free circulation between those inner and outer worlds I'd attempted to separate with my question. After all, the inner and outer trigrams of Hexagram 60 are both made of water, which means it doesn't divide neatly into two separate realms in the same way as - for instance - 38 (fire above the lake) or 41 (mountain above the lake): it's one continuous substance.

I think the Image authors were picturing a flow from inner reserves (of de, character) out into action -

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

My moving line is just at the water-surface of that inner lake: filling up, ready to flow (through the gate!) into the outer stream. And as it changes, it reveals the thunder trigram behind it in Hexagram 3: lake with latent thunder, lake in motion, with a need to move. Water in the lake may be still and contained, but it still remembers how to flow.

(This is the kind of trigram imagery I enjoy - animation, relationships, meanings changing with each new combination - and teach in the Foundations Class. If you've ever found trigrams and their long lists of attributes a bit dry, I can recommend it.)

And finally…

When I came back to this reading, I realised it was a sequel to my 59-27 from the beginning of the pandemic. Not only is 60 the paired hexagram of 59 -

is the inverse of

but 60.2 is the paired line of 59.5:

is the inverse of

Open up all your granaries, yes, and all your stores of knowledge and/or lentils - but opening doesn't stop there.

I Ching Community discussion

Dispersing Nourishment

This is an embarrassingly 'first world problems' kind of reading, but happily Yi doesn't judge - and it was tremendously helpful at the time, so I thought it would be a good one to share.

The background

How were things for you in March 2020? Round here, they were just getting weirpd, and my husband had become too worried about infection for either of us to enter any shop at all, not even the amazing little farm shop where I normally bought fresh vegetables.

This might not have bothered me had supermarket deliveries been available, but they were at capacity providing for the very elderly and vulnerable. Somehow I had to put food on the table - and preferably without creating any more stress.

It seems ridiculous with hindsight, but at the time I was really worried about this. Suddenly my tried-and-trusted, familiar ways of doing things were gone, and I genuinely had no idea how I was going to get hold of things like vegetables, or fresh milk.

Hence the anxious question: 'How can I manage this?'

Yi's answer: Hexagram 59, changing at lines 1, 2 and 5 to 27

Primary and relating hexagram

When a reading has moving lines, I always like to start by getting a feel for how its two hexagrams work together. I find this sets the scene and context for the whole reading. In Yijing Foundations, I compare it to a tent frame: it lends structure to the whole and shows you where everything goes. Also, reading the two hexagram names together can give you a very useful, memorable summary of the reading.

How to cope with this? Dispersing Nourishment. One of the first things I wrote in my journal was 'Disperse your hunger.' (I do enjoy my food!)

59, Dispersing, was obviously what had happened to my weekly routine: I'd cycle to the farm shop on Friday mornings, and the supermarket on Friday afternoons after volunteering. This kept us in fresh food, and had the added benefit of giving me some much-needed exercise, as I creaked and rattled my way along with panniers full of shopping. Now all that had been swept away down the river.

From my journal:

´Dispersing, creating success.
With the king´s presence, there is a temple.
Fruitful to cross the great river,
Constancy bears fruit.´

My habits need to go downstream. I need to stop trying to hang on to my usual sources of nutrition and my usual enjoyment of food. Release it, let it dissolve and evaporate.

…Dispersed Nourishment. Where do I find that sense of being supported and nourished by the world when I can´t have fresh food from the shops? Disperse, look for it elsewhere, from more diverse sources. The garden, the woods, the ´cello, Yi.

Yes, this is why I find it so distressing. I´m not going to be lacking calories, but I´m going to miss out on the frying pan full of orange, green and purple which tells me my health is supported, the earth loves me, I belong. Vegetables from Worton have been a key way I get that input. This is the 27 hunger at work.

(Journal entry, March 2020)

In other words, 27 as relating was comically-obviously about food, but it wasn't just about food - it's the need for balance and stability in 27, and all kinds of nourishment.

Moving lines

Then inside that framework, the moving lines…

'Rescuing with a horse's strength,
Good fortune.'

'Dispersing, flee to your support.
Regrets vanish.'

'Dispersing sweat, his great proclamation.
Dispersing the king's residence / granaries
No mistake.'

Hexagram 59, lines 1, 2 and 5

Line 5 was the first one I could recognise clearly:

ROFL!
Actually literally laughing out loud at that. Getting to the bottom of the king´s freezer & using up the venison stewing steak that´s been there since 2016 (or 15).

(It was 2015. Emptying our freezer was an archaeological expedition.)

Then I began to realise that all three lines were - amongst other things - step-by-step, calming guidance to keeping us fed.

'Rescuing with a horse's strength,
Good fortune.'

59, line 1

Deliveries! Supermarkets didn't, but the local butcher did, and after a week or two I found a small local firm that would do milk and vegetables. Having carrots, no less, arriving on our doorstep really did feel like a visit from a rescuing horse.

'Dispersing, flee to your support.
Regrets vanish.'

59, line 2

I realised this meant finding other ways to get in touch with my sense of nature-as-support - but I only learned gradually how many there were.

The day after the reading, I cycled up the road to see if eggs were still on sale at the farm gate. (They were!) And on the way, by someone's front gate, I spotted a cardboard box - like people use in autumn to share their windfall apples. This one was full of sprigs of sage:

What a delight. From the journal:

Sage. As in 'Cur moriatur homo, cui salvia crescit in horto?' and as in smudging, and the best tea for throat infections. Magical.

I took a sprig, with profound gratitude. After a day or so, I thought to put it in water, in the hopes it might last longer that way.

I also headed out into our garden, which contained exactly no useful vegetables, but in those early spring days did have…

  • nettles
  • ground elder
  • yellow archangel
  • cleavers
  • willowherb
  • primroses, violets, violet leaves, hawthorn buds, the first shoots of marjoram and the occasional dandelion to make salad.

…all of which were perfectly edible. Heading into the garden for a morning forage became a new routine. And I found that the ancient puy lentils lurking in the back of the pantry would still sprout.

As for

'Dispersing sweat, his great proclamation.
Dispersing the king's residence/ granaries
No mistake.'

59 line 5

I excavated all the way to the bottom of the freezer, which turned out to contain enough meat and fish to keep us going for at least a week, supplemented by some beans and rice from the depths of the pantry.

After ten days or so, the rescuing horses arrived with fresh food - and if I'd had the sense to take the lines in order, I might have arranged that rather sooner. But in any case, all was well.

In conclusion…

After the moving lines, I naturally circled back to the primary-relating framework - something I normally do, as it often looks different. It did this time.

From the journal:

The difference now: I feel absolutely provided for; no need to go hungry at all. Dispersing/ scattering the appetites = disperse among all the options, broaden your focus. We are sitting in the middle of plenty, even this early in the year.

Things I learned…

Dispersed nourishment comes from everywhere, and is all the more robust for that. Instead of feeding us with a settled routine, I found myself drawing on all sorts of odd bit of knowledge I'd picked up over the years: how to sprout seeds, how to forage, how to cook dried beans, how to make kefir.

There's more support in line 2 than you knew, if you only take a step back and See. (59.2 zhi 20.)

A whole new appreciation for supermarkets! (I'm back to them now, post-vaccination).

And… when you put a sage sprig in water, it grows roots. You can pot it on and plant it out, and then look what happens…

Photo of the new sage bush thriving in my garden
An 'after' picture!

I Ching Community discussion

Three pots

Introducing the 缶 fou jar

Here's another character that occurs just three times in the Yijing: fou 缶. This is a vessel for holding liquids, something like an amphora, with a narrow neck and large body.

It's originally a pottery jar - that's the first meaning of the character - but was also made in bronze. And from early times, according to Wikipedia, it was also a percussion instrument used in ritual.

There are three of these jars in the Yijing (the italicised word in each line):

'With truth and confidence, seeking union,
No mistake.
With truth and confidence to overflow the vessel
An end comes - further good fortune.'

Hexagram 8, line 1

'A cup of wine, a pair of dishes,
Using earthenware.
Let in with ropes from the window.
In the end, no mistake.'

Hexagram 29, line 4

‘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.’

Hexagram 30, line 3

Fou vessel, Eastern Zhou, Metropolitan Museum of Art

8.1

'With truth and confidence, seeking union,
No mistake.
With truth and confidence to overflow the vessel
An end comes - further good fortune.'

The 'overflowing vessel' is 盈缶, ying fou. Ying itself shows an open bowl with something above it, maybe 'success'; it means full, surplus, satisfy. So here is a wine jar full of truth: all the truth concentrated and stored up in one place, like the energetic growing centre of the zhi gua, Hexagram 3.

In vino veritas, perhaps - or just an exceptionally beautiful image of the overflowing mutual confidence at the root of our desire to be together and sense of belonging. Start as you mean to go on, and it'll end well.

29.4

'A cup of wine, a pair of dishes,
Using earthenware.
Let in with ropes from the window.
In the end, no mistake.'

Zun vessel, Western Zhou, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The fou here is translated 'earthenware' - translators generally agree on this. I wonder, though, whether it might not work better to pass wine in through the window in a fou, with its handles and narrow neck, and then pour it out into the wine-cup. It'd be hard to pass a zun cup without spilling the wine it contained.

So fou here means simplicity - just earthenware will do the job, no need for anything ornate - and perhaps also practicality, handling liquids. (After all, Hexagram 29 is made of the doubled trigram for running water.) How do you get the wine in through the window? 'On its way' or 'available' is not the same thing as safely arrived - this much is clear from other, connected lines (47.4, 48.3). There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip.

An aside: I think this line may be riffing on the shape of the hexagram. There's an open 'window' of yin lines 3 and 4 with a 'window frame' of yang lines 2 and 5 - and these four inner lines unfurl into the nuclear hexagram 27, Nourishment.

30.3

‘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.’

Here the fou is the pot to beat on while you sing. A fou has two distinct uses: it can be full of liquid, or it can be empty and used as a drum. And 30.3 is a very empty line: not much daylight left, not much time left, and also not much human companionship. When you reach a 'great old age', most of the people you know are dead - that’s true enough now, but the experience must have been more marked in a smaller community.

So if you have no-one to drink with, empty out the wine jar and make a drum of it. And since the fou is a percussion instrument for use in ritual, this isn't just about making a cheerful cacophony with the saucepans, but honouring the spirits of the deceased. The music of your fou drum may 'bite through' (zhi gua 21) the obstacle that separates you.

Conclusions?

Is this a deliberately significant group of three, or just coincidence? I think there are signs it's deliberate. For one thing, the two states of this jar, full and empty, correspond to the trigrams of the three hexagrams: a full jar has liquid contained within earthenware :|: ; an empty one contains space within its solid walls |:| .

Also, the three lines share and develop a theme. In 8.1, the jar brim-full of trust is the very beginning of 'Seeking Union' - of people belonging together. In 29.4, the jar let in through the window is part of making a connection, overcoming the isolation of the zhi gua 47. And 30.3 can be about overcoming loneliness. Wine vessel or drum, the fou is about deep connection.

I Ching Community discussion

Advice for an author

Episode 10 of the I Ching with Clarity podcast features a listener's reading.

Lynn Keller's book, Thanksgiving in America, is just coming out; she asked Yi what her focus should be now with the book, and received Hexagram 33, Retreating, changing at lines 3 and 4 to 20, Seeing.

changing to

In the course of the reading I mention a few Chinese characters:

遯 dun, Retreat. I couldn't find an image of the ancient character online, but LiSe shows us the components.

觀 guan, Seeing - the bird with great eyes and a crest, a heron:

guan, seeing, from hanziyuan.net

and 好 hao, 'loving, good' (from 33.4), showing a mother and child:

Chinese character hao ?, good
hao, good, from hanziyuan.net

As I mentioned on the podcast, the Yijing Foundations Class is coming up in September. Do have a look through the details at https://www.onlineclarity.co.uk/c/yijing-foundations-class/, and if you're interested, sign up for more information.

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

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