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Confidence in Change

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

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

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

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

What is the I Ching?

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

For I Ching Beginners -

How do you want to get started?

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

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

and there’s,

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

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

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

But... they are different at the beginning:

Not a beginner?

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

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

Hello, and thank you for visiting!

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

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

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

(Thank you.)

Warm wishes,
Hilary”

From the blog

I wrote before about why we want to do readings for other people – in essence, because we want to help, and we know what Yi gives, and we want to share that. As I prepare for the Reading for Others Class that begins this month (starting on the 19th), I’ve really been learning a lot from the in-depth responses people have sent me to the preliminary survey – about why they wanted the class, what they hoped it would cover, and where the sticking points were for them.

Here are a few of those sticking points, and some pointers on how to get unstuck:

Recognition

When you read for yourself, you naturally recognise how the answer is speaking to you. Recognising even a small part of the reading (‘ah yes, that line is exactly how I feel when this happens…’) gives you a doorway into the whole.

When you read for someone else, recognition doesn’t work in the same way. It might not happen at all. You might be unsure whether you’re truly recognising the person in the answer, or just your own preconceptions and/or baggage around this kind of question. And sometimes you’re going to recognise the answer as something you need to hear yourself, which can be thoroughly disconcerting if you weren’t expecting it.

Two things help here: really listening to the person talking, and taking time to ensure that the question they put to Yi is the one they’re really asking.

In your own relationship with Yi, you might have become quite relaxed about questions: you might be able to ask for a yes/no answer on the understanding that Yi will answer the question behind your question; you might not normally use a question at all; you can probably recognise those moments when Yi isn’t answering your question, but instead addressing a deeper underlying concern that you maybe should have asked about in the first place.

This is all beautiful, and none of it’s likely to work with someone else’s reading. To hear Yi answering their question, a beginner needs to hear the question they’re asking. And being able to hear the conversation is vital for you, too, as interpreter – it gives you a more solid place to stand, as you work to separate out your own preconceptions from what Yi’s saying.

Communication

An interesting thing about that survey – I asked, ‘Why are you interested in a class on reading for other people?’ and people talked about wanting to help, and wanting to share the experience of relationship with Yi. There’s the ‘aha’ – whether all at once, or unfolding over months – the inner shift, when the pieces fall into a new kaleidoscope pattern. That unique, individual experience of meaning is what we cherish and want other people to have.

Nobody wrote that they wanted to tell their friends, family or clients what Yi says. I think that’s because we know they need to hear Yi say it.

It’s one thing to understand someone’s reading, and another to be able to give it to them. So there’s a whole section of the class dedicated to this – I’ve called it the ‘bucket’ (poetic, I know…), because it’s about the container for the reading.

When you look at a reading, you may see multiple layers of meaning: hexagram text, hexagram shapes, trigrams, perhaps nuclear hexagrams, perhaps some associated myth and history, perhaps some reading experiences of your own that paint the whole thing in vivid emotional colours. And here is someone asking you, ‘What does it mean?’ and you need to somehow distil all that richness down into an essence they can take and use, so it’ll make a real difference for them.

The temptation here is to follow in the footsteps of the ‘simplified I Ching for modern times’ brigade and try to explain what it means – to say ‘making a transition’ instead of ‘crossing the great river’ or ‘being very careful’ instead of ‘treading the tail of the tiger’. Advice: don’t. Abstractions are forgettable; tigers are not.

You will need to invite your querent in to the imagery, encourage them to make themselves at home in a world where nothing travels faster than a horse, tigers are protector spirits that also eat people, and wading rivers is dangerous. You may need to choose one image from among the many you can see in text and trigrams. But giving a reading always means giving imagery.

One other tip: be clear in your own mind about the basic structure of the reading: what the primary and relating hexagram represent, how the diverse moving lines work together. This is essential to the health of your ‘well rope’ – the interpretive skill with which you draw out a reading’s meaning – and so I’ve provisionally sorted it into that part of the class (though what we work on in each week’s video meeting will depend on the questions participants have at the time). But it helps in communication, too, to be able to say things like, ‘This one is your hexagram,’ or maybe even, ‘This line gives a voice to your inner teenager.’

Keeping your head above water

Five years ago, I was burned out and had no idea whether I would ever do readings again. I’d been ‘open for readings’, barring a week off here or there for family responsibilities and emergencies, for over ten years, and I’d run out of everything and needed to crawl away and spend a long, long time sitting with an old oak tree and having no plans at all.

It’s true that divination is significantly different from counselling or coaching, because the real source of help is Yi, not the diviner. (That’s probably why I lasted 10 years, not 10 months.) All the same, being the conduit for its help is work. So yes… don’t do what I did, and make yourself absolutely unconditionally available to carry absolutely anything and everything for everybody at any time, indefinitely.

I dare say you, like most people, would have the common sense not to put yourself in that situation in the first place… But even if you’re only reading occasionally for family or friends, you still bear a weight of their expectations – maybe that you’ll come out with something succinct and wise on the spot? – and of responsibility.

I don’t have any universal answers about this – I think the best I can do is share some of the big questions and the personal answers I’ve found. Your answers may be different, but you should probably go looking for some before you do many readings.

How do you need to look after yourself?

I need time outdoors, I need time off from full readings, I need sky and trees, and occasionally if I’m worried about the person I’m reading for I need someone to share my worries with, in confidence.

And you…?

How do you understand your responsibility as a diviner?

I’m responsible for giving them the reading, as completely and as well as I possibly can.

If the querent doesn’t get it, I must keep on trying new ways of communicating until I’ve run out of ideas. If they resist what it says now, I must do my best to make it memorable so they can use it later. If they miss calls, I’ll write up my notes and email the reading. If someone requested a refund before the reading, I’d send it – and I’d also send the reading. Someone else’s reading in my hands is sacred, and I must do everything I can to give it to them. If the zombie apocalypse happens when I’m working on someone’s reading, I suppose I’ll just have to write it out on paper and get on my bike.

And… I’m not responsible for what happens next. Not even for how the person understands the reading – and absolutely not for what they decide to do. I trust the Oracle to do its thing, and I trust the person to walk their own way. Or at least, this is what I keep trying to do.

(And you…?)

cat stuck on tree trunk

Hexagram 8 is called Bi  – 比 – a very ancient, simple character that originally depicts two people side by side. It implies both that they’re together, and that they can be compared to one another, and so the word means belonging, seeking union, holding together, comparing, neighbouring, side-by-side… really, to translate the name of the hexagram we need a single English word for ‘the-desire-for-union-that-inspires-comparing-and-hence-sensing-affinity-and-hence-being-drawn-to-belong-and-stand-together’.

Yi says,

‘Seeking union, good fortune.
At the origin of oracle consultation,
From the source, ever-flowing constancy.
No mistake.
Not at rest, coming on all sides.
For the latecomer, pitfall.’

So the first thing to know about Seeking Union is that it is lucky, it is blessed – just in itself, with no added conditions.

Next, that this is the ‘origin of consulting the oracle, from the source, ever-flowing constancy, no mistake.’ Since ‘constancy’ also refers to divination – to the whole act, from insight to carrying that truth through into the world – this section reads as a single statement about divination. Richard Rutt groups the words slightly differently, and translates,

First divination: supreme [offering].
Long range augury: no misfortune

There is an immediate initial connection to the divine, and then what flows from there, how it works out over time, is without mistake.

Only… what has that to do with Bi? What connects

‘Seeking union, good fortune.’

with

‘At the origin of oracle consultation,
From the source, ever-flowing constancy.
No mistake.’

And come to that, what connects either of them with,

‘Not at rest, coming on all sides.
For the latecomer, pitfall.’

?

To begin at the end – those lines about the restless ones who come, and the pitfall for the latecomer, allude to the story of Yu the Great. After decades of hard toil, he had conquered the floods, and he called the lords and spirits together to found a new world. The character translated ‘on all sides’ is Fang, and it was Fang Feng who came late to Yu’s gathering and was executed. (Fang Feng was a ruler of winds, that blow to and fro; in practice, in readings, there’s often a demon of indecision and procrastination to be dealt with.)

Wilhelm explains the underlying natural logic of this: the straggler who arrives after bonds have already formed between people is automatically excluded. The story of Yu further suggests an act of exclusion of whatever doesn’t belong. Really, these are ways of seeing the same thing: Yu is the embodiment of the group’s natural inner power of cohesion and attraction, which excludes the hesitant latecomer.

Yu’s flood work, that makes this Union possible, was to cause the rivers to flow over the earth to the ocean – you can see this in the component trigrams of Hexagram 8, which show flowing water above, earth below:

::::|:

(You might also see the ‘story until now’ in the preceding hexagrams of the Sequence.)

Yu separated earth from water, and he also separated people from demons separating earth and water; separating people from demons. According to stories cited by Anne Birrell in Chinese Mythology, he both killed and banished demons, and also forged vessels to represent hostile beings:

‘He forged cauldrons in the image of these creatures. He took precautionary measures against all living things on behalf of the people, to make sure that they knew which were the malign spirits. Therefore, when the people went on rivers or entered marshes, or went on mountains or into forests, they never came across adverse beings; neither goblins nor trolls could ever run into them.’

It seems to me that Yu’s work was to bring together what belonged together and separate out what didn’t – that he did comparing-contrasting work.

To do this bi work, you have to be able to identify what belongs – and this is where divination comes in. The core line here:

原筮元永貞
Yuan shi, yuan yong zhen
Origin(al) oracle-consultation, source/supreme ever-flowing/long-range constancy/augury

(Those are two different characters both pronounced yuan, and with overlapping meanings of ‘original source’. The first of them means specifically the source of a spring, and yong ‘ever-flowing’ in its oldest form shows a human figure swimming in the current of a river – the watery imagery a reminder of Yu’s labours.)

The oracle consultation referred to here is clearly, specifically divination with stalks: the first such divination, its origin. Why stalks, not the more ancient tortoise plastrons? Could it be because the tortoise oracle says, in essence, either ‘Yes, the spirits are with you in this idea of yours’ or ‘no, they aren’t’, but the stalks say, ‘Here is an image of how it is’? Like Yu, Yi makes images for us so we can recognise what we’re seeing.

I think that’s what we really ask Yi for: a picture, a pattern for comparison. ‘What’s happening?’ ‘Here – this is.’ ‘What if I did this?’ ‘You’d be doing this – here, have a look.’ We look at the picture Yi offers and recognise the pattern it invites us to see. ‘Oh,’ we say, ‘It’s like that.‘ We get a feel for the situation; we get the picture.

Looking back for a moment through the Sequence: Hexagram 6, where the waters rage below heaven, says, ‘No, not that!’ Hexagram 7, where the waters flow under the earth, gathers energy around that unacceptable thing in order to resolve it. To switch metaphors midstream, Hexagram 7’s creative centre is like the grit in the oyster. Hexagram 8 is more like the formation of a crystal: it has an inner organising principle.

The Zagua (Contrasting Hexagrams) says Seeking Union is joy and the Army is sadness or anxiety. I’ve just realised this doesn’t only refer to how the hexagram makes you feel, but also the nature of its motivating force: one says, ‘No, not like that,’ the other says, ‘Yes, like this.’ (But as the Xugua (Hexagrams in Sequence) indicates, awareness of ‘like this’ is an emergent property of the crowds Hexagram 7 gathers.)

‘Seeking union, good fortune.
At the origin of oracle consultation,
From the source, ever-flowing constancy.
No mistake.
Not at rest, coming on all sides.
For the latecomer, pitfall.’

To Seek Union, to compare and see what belongs together, you divine to see the pattern and inner nature of things. From that original awareness flows a consistent, cohesive way of being; everything – people, ideas, actions – will hold together and will not fall out of alignment. This alignment works like lines of magnetic force to draw people towards you, just as the many beings came to Yu’s gathering to found the Xia dynasty, and just as many potential allies were drawn to the harmonious realm of the Zhou in their early days under King Wen. And for those who hesitate and come late – pitfall.

Snowflake

 

 

In 2014, Sheffield’s half marathon was cancelled. It was some kind of last minute organisational shambles: not until the spectators were lining the route and the runners waiting at the start did the organisers report that their water supplies hadn’t shown up, so they couldn’t go ahead.

The runners started running anyway – and as word of the missing water supplies spread along the 13 mile course, spectators started fetching water. Bottles they bought themselves (until the shops ran out), cupfuls from coffee shops, even rinsed-out milk cartons… hands reached out offering water, all along the route.

Well… of course they did. We know what it’s like to be thirsty, and we know runners need water.

Wanting to give someone a reading is very much the same: we know what it’s like to be stuck and adrift, and once you have the experience of what Yi does and gives, you want to share that.

So wanting to share comes of wanting to help, as anyone would. But what we’re giving with Yi is not so easily bottled, I think.

Presence

Certainly you start with the fundamental human gift of presence, attention and empathy – yet even that seems to me to take on an added significance in a reading. A (the?) core experience of meeting Yi is the sense that you’re being heard by the oracle. When someone meets Yi through you, then your listening is the first they experience, as a sort of place-holder. (Which is a fearsomely daunting thought.)

And then… Sheffield’s spectators did not line the route with banners reading,

‘You Must Be Really Thirsty!’

We don’t only want to listen, but to help – to make change possible for this person. But giving a reading is not ‘helping’ in any way we’re used to. It’s not offering our advice or sharing our opinion – it’s not even, ‘I really want this outcome for you, so let me help you get it.’ (Although we almost certainly do want something for them, so this part is tricky…)

Openness

In fact, I think part of giving a reading is to help the other person to take a few steps back from looking directly for solutions – to move instead towards an overview, finding how things flow, and escaping from problem-wrangling. Which is also not easy, because when someone’s in mid-wrangle it’s natural to want to line up with them, pitch in and help them work it out. ‘What are the pros and cons?’ or ‘Have you thought of this?’ or ‘Maybe he didn’t call because he didn’t realise you’d expect him to, so maybe you should call him,’ or ‘Look, he’s just not that into you and you really need to move on.’

Sharing a reading bypasses all of that. After all, if I were sure I knew the solution this person needs, what would be the point of involving Yi? I need to find my starting place in curiosity and openness – loosening my grip on anything I ‘know’ until it becomes only something I’m wondering about. Yes, that is a real puzzle; no, I don’t know what’s happening, I don’t know what’s true, I don’t know the way through… I wonder what’s true; I wonder what Yi will say.

(One of the joys of reading for others: finding more and more worlds of experience I know nothing about. After listening to a querent and helping them find their question, before they cast their reading and email me the results, there is a beautiful long moment for sinking into not knowing, wondering what Yi will say, looking forward to seeing the picture unveiled.)

Then you give the reading – and what you’re giving is the power to break out of problem-wrangling altogether. A reading can carry someone out of the traps in their thinking, away from the places where they’re stuck, into a bigger and more real world. (I think that’s just as true when the reading says, ‘This is falling apart; there is nothing you can do.’)

Connection

How does it do this? (What is the experience of a reading that we want to share?) I’ve heard so many descriptions, but I think the core of it is reconnection. Reconnecting with a wider reality, when your field of vision’s narrowing and your world’s shrinking; reconnecting with your own strength and confidence; restoring your awareness of connection with a cosmos that speaks with you. Which is probably, in the end, all the same reconnection.

And what makes this possible? What gets someone to ‘escape velocity’ from the gravity of their problems?

Trust in the oracle, of course – there’s no reading without the willingness to listen that first opens a channel of communication. But really, that’s something the querent already has; that’s how they could ask the question.

No… I think what the reader brings is smaller and subtler: the sure knowledge that this works. In interpreting someone else’s reading, you lend them your relationship with Yi – a relationship that’s made of practice and hindsight, of ways of engaging with and understanding a reading, of individual experiences with hexagrams and lines. This will hold the reading together, so it can carry the querent through.

Behind the scenes…

…there are a couple of reasons why I’m sharing this now.

First because I’ve been doing readings, and reflecting on what I’m doing. Then because I asked Yi the question, ‘When someone gives someone a reading, what are they giving?’ and received 34.1.2.3.4 to 2 – an answer you’ll probably recognise in the post above…

And also because all this is part of preparing for the Reading for Others class next month.

It’s going to be especially important for this class to get together a group of people for whom it’s a good fit – people for whom my approach to the Yi resonates, and who can happily work together and bounce ideas off one another as we share readings and feedback. So another reason for sharing this post is as another step towards finding that ‘good fit’ group – to see whether it makes sense to you and whether it describes something you want to do.

If this resonates, and if you’re interested in next month’s class, then do make sure you’re signed up for notifications. (The next steps will probably be an ‘Is this for you?’ questionnaire followed by a conversation.)

Water bottles offered to runners

Plans for Clarity in 2017…

I don’t have my calendar filled in with a Grand Plan for the Year, because you know how those turn out. (I’m learning that they turn into colour-coded confetti by about mid-February.) But I have some plans for the first few months, and it occurred to me you might be wondering what’s available when. So…

In January 2017 I’ll be opening for readings – the full reading service, not the smaller I Ching chats which are more or less always available (though not so much for the next couple of weeks, because Christmas). The still point round the turning of the year, the quiet before Spring, is a natural time to go deeper.

I read for at most half a dozen people at a time: I’ve found that’s a good way to ensure I have plenty of time and energy to work with each reading, mull it over and follow where it leads without hurry. The first thing I do when I open is to email people who have downloaded ‘Ways of Opening’ (a guide/ helper for finding your question), so if you’d be interested in a reading in January, please download a copy now.

In February 2017 I’ll start the class on Reading for Others. This will be very small, probably a ‘beta’ version (ie it’s inexpensive and participants will be involved in shaping and improving the class), since while I’ve been doing this for a (very) long time, I’ve never taught it before.

I won’t start anything else while ‘Reading for Others’ is still running, but later in the year I’d really like to run a Foundations Class again. The Foundations Course is always available, of course, and if you’re part of Change Circle you can always get my help with it in Yi Academy or by phone/Skype. But that’s still not the same as being part of a class, embarking on the course together and getting to know one another along the way. So… Foundations Class, later.

And other intentions…

  • share more with you (remembering my reading for the year – 61.2.4.5 zhi 21)
  • take more breaks
  • spend more time with people and with Yi, and a whole lot less time in website-wrangling

A gift

Here are two downloadable ebooks I put together for you:

  • Book of Stories: an anthology of my posts on this theme over the past year, describing how you can use the stories Yi tells to understand your readings.
  • Questioning: seven articles about how we open our conversations with Yi – a mix of experiences, thoughts and suggestions

Both are pdf files, so right-click and chose ‘save target as’ or the equivalent to download them.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!

Fireworks at night

Each year on my birthday, I ask Yi for guidance for the coming year. Then over the course of the year I revisit the reading, finding guidance and gleaning understanding as I go.

At least, such is the theory. Last year’s reading, cast on 7th December 2015, was Hexagram 55, Abundance, changing at line 4 to 36, Brightness Hiding.

I could recognise the 55 moment, the imperative to take responsibility, do the abundance of things to be done (like redesigning the website) with the abundance of energy and motivation available to do them. And I could recognise 36 as my general tendency to want to stay safe by staying invisible. (Not the most helpful tendency to have in my line of work.) But the moving line…?

‘Feng is screened off
At midday, seeing the Dipper.
Meeting your hidden lord,
Good fortune.’

So here is Wu of Zhou, the new leader, finding his city shrouded in darkness, not quite able to see where he is, but with guidance still clearly visible. (Yes.) And then he meets a hidden lord, a ‘Yi lord’. The Yi people were not normally allies of the Zhou, on the contrary, but Wu made common cause with them against the Shang. So I generally read this line to mean seeking and finding an ally where you wouldn’t normally do so.

“Because of the importance of what you have to do, you will meet what you fear – and because you can see your direction so clearly, you can bring even the hidden lord into alliance with your greater purpose,” says my book (rather ponderously).

“Meet your enemy! He might be the one you need. Sometimes the very things which hold us back contain the energy which can help us to gather the strength to go on,” says LiSe, conveying more in fewer words.

So I understood all about hidden lords in theory, but who was mine? All through the year, I couldn’t seem to spot one. I got more help from a web developer than I might otherwise have done, yes, and I listened to advisers whose perspective is different from mine… but really, I didn’t meet anyone very dark or mysterious. I revisited the reading periodically without being any the wiser, and started to wonder if this might be one of Yi’s giant jokes: that the hidden lord was so well-hidden you’d never know whether or not you’d met him.

With about three days to go before my birthday, I sat down and asked myself again – who is this Yi lord? 

And – as usually happens when I’m prepared to sit and get into dialogue with a reading – I had a moment of recognition, remembering a couple of encounters that I realised were with the Yi lord.

There was a conversation that looked like it must surely become an argument: we were clashing over deep convictions, and when that happens my default setting is to respond in self-defence, as if my very self were under attack. But my interlocutor paused to say, ‘I don’t want to argue’ – and that brought me up short.

And I’d been reading Facebook posts from someone saying she had voted for Trump, and sincerely inviting civil discussion to build understanding. To be clear – I found her invitation disingenuous, and I think standing against what Trump represents is wholly necessary. But that’s also not the same thing as having a row on Facebook, and the parallel, the not-arguing, was striking.

In each case I found myself thinking – if this isn’t an argument, what is it? If I’m not on the defensive here, what am I doing? And I realised that my next impulse was to ask how can I helpAnd especially, how can I help this person to inhabit the real world?

Of course, the Trump voter would no doubt claim to have voted in the ‘real world’: one where we are under threat, and human compassion might be all very nice in theory, but we can’t really afford to extend it to those people who are not like us, and hence scary and not quite real. But that is a fairy story – a construct – a bubble. Not real.

Scratch the surface a bit, and I can find my own inner Yi lord, living in her own little fantasy bubble of fear and threat. The more visible I become, the more she has to say – in fact, she’s been vetoing this post for a couple of weeks now:

“You can’t post this,” she explains, reasonably, “because people won’t accept it – or you. Sharing openly might be all very nice in theory, but you can’t really afford to do it, it isn’t safe, because Those People” (she never quite explains who They are, but she knows all about Them) “don’t believe you’re real, and they’ll hurt you.”

It takes more effort, but I can also at least entertain the idea that this bubble-world might not be real, either.

The deep underlying reality and the stuff the cosmos is made of is connection, meaning, compassion. How do I know? Because readings work. Reality acknowledges, responds and talks to people; I help by making that reality a bit more obvious.


So what can I learn – a bit late – from 55.4 to 36?

I’m familiar with 36, Brightness Hiding, as relating hexagram. In that position I find it mostly has to do with believing that you’re in danger and need to hide your light. The belief can be based on experience, and it may be true now, or it may not. It’s also possible that the light hidden under the earth is being kept safe, like the spark of a fire banked up overnight.

The Yi lord is a dark figure who, oddly enough, somehow manages both to inspire such beliefs and also represent them: he (or she) is a threat, and also believes in a world of threat. And so this is stronger than just, ‘Someone you wouldn’t normally consider as an ally’: it’s someone opposed to all I stand for. But what if I’m at Feng, at the heart of my calling and work, and the Yi lord shows up saying, ‘I don’t want to argue’ and ‘Let’s talk’? If I’m not fighting this darkness, not defending against it – if I’m somehow meant to be making an ally of it, of all things – and I cannot begin to describe how bizarre and unnatural that seems to me – then what on earth is that going to look like?

This is still a mystery to me, but I think it has something to do with the Yi lord’s power to clarify a calling and galvanise action. The changing line’s in the fourth place: first steps in the outer world, asking, ‘What can I do?’ Also, it’s the first line of thunder, the trigram of initiative and setting things in motion. The energy of Yi is added to that of Zhou. (Which is exactly what LiSe’s commentary said…)

I also found, in the moment, that having ‘How can I fight off this threat?’ taken out of the picture left a lot of space for ‘How can I help?’ – for compassion and a desire to share.

A couple of days later, I cast my reading for this year, and received 61.2.4.5 to 21.

 

From the I Ching Community

I wrote before about why we want to do readings for other people – in essence, because we want to help, and we know what Yi gives, and we want to share that. As I prepare for the Reading for Others Class that begins this month (starting on the 19th), I’ve really been learning a lot from the in-depth responses people have sent me to the preliminary survey – about why they wanted the class, what they hoped it would cover, and where the sticking points were for them.

Here are a few of those sticking points, and some pointers on how to get unstuck:

Recognition

When you read for yourself, you naturally recognise how the answer is speaking to you. Recognising even a small part of the reading (‘ah yes, that line is exactly how I feel when this happens…’) gives you a doorway into the whole.

When you read for someone else, recognition doesn’t work in the same way. It might not happen at all. You might be unsure whether you’re truly recognising the person in the answer, or just your own preconceptions and/or baggage around this kind of question. And sometimes you’re going to recognise the answer as something you need to hear yourself, which can be thoroughly disconcerting if you weren’t expecting it.

Two things help here: really listening to the person talking, and taking time to ensure that the question they put to Yi is the one they’re really asking.

In your own relationship with Yi, you might have become quite relaxed about questions: you might be able to ask for a yes/no answer on the understanding that Yi will answer the question behind your question; you might not normally use a question at all; you can probably recognise those moments when Yi isn’t answering your question, but instead addressing a deeper underlying concern that you maybe should have asked about in the first place.

This is all beautiful, and none of it’s likely to work with someone else’s reading. To hear Yi answering their question, a beginner needs to hear the question they’re asking. And being able to hear the conversation is vital for you, too, as interpreter – it gives you a more solid place to stand, as you work to separate out your own preconceptions from what Yi’s saying.

Communication

An interesting thing about that survey – I asked, ‘Why are you interested in a class on reading for other people?’ and people talked about wanting to help, and wanting to share the experience of relationship with Yi. There’s the ‘aha’ – whether all at once, or unfolding over months – the inner shift, when the pieces fall into a new kaleidoscope pattern. That unique, individual experience of meaning is what we cherish and want other people to have.

Nobody wrote that they wanted to tell their friends, family or clients what Yi says. I think that’s because we know they need to hear Yi say it.

It’s one thing to understand someone’s reading, and another to be able to give it to them. So there’s a whole section of the class dedicated to this – I’ve called it the ‘bucket’ (poetic, I know…), because it’s about the container for the reading.

When you look at a reading, you may see multiple layers of meaning: hexagram text, hexagram shapes, trigrams, perhaps nuclear hexagrams, perhaps some associated myth and history, perhaps some reading experiences of your own that paint the whole thing in vivid emotional colours. And here is someone asking you, ‘What does it mean?’ and you need to somehow distil all that richness down into an essence they can take and use, so it’ll make a real difference for them.

The temptation here is to follow in the footsteps of the ‘simplified I Ching for modern times’ brigade and try to explain what it means – to say ‘making a transition’ instead of ‘crossing the great river’ or ‘being very careful’ instead of ‘treading the tail of the tiger’. Advice: don’t. Abstractions are forgettable; tigers are not.

You will need to invite your querent in to the imagery, encourage them to make themselves at home in a world where nothing travels faster than a horse, tigers are protector spirits that also eat people, and wading rivers is dangerous. You may need to choose one image from among the many you can see in text and trigrams. But giving a reading always means giving imagery.

One other tip: be clear in your own mind about the basic structure of the reading: what the primary and relating hexagram represent, how the diverse moving lines work together. This is essential to the health of your ‘well rope’ – the interpretive skill with which you draw out a reading’s meaning – and so I’ve provisionally sorted it into that part of the class (though what we work on in each week’s video meeting will depend on the questions participants have at the time). But it helps in communication, too, to be able to say things like, ‘This one is your hexagram,’ or maybe even, ‘This line gives a voice to your inner teenager.’

Keeping your head above water

Five years ago, I was burned out and had no idea whether I would ever do readings again. I’d been ‘open for readings’, barring a week off here or there for family responsibilities and emergencies, for over ten years, and I’d run out of everything and needed to crawl away and spend a long, long time sitting with an old oak tree and having no plans at all.

It’s true that divination is significantly different from counselling or coaching, because the real source of help is Yi, not the diviner. (That’s probably why I lasted 10 years, not 10 months.) All the same, being the conduit for its help is work. So yes… don’t do what I did, and make yourself absolutely unconditionally available to carry absolutely anything and everything for everybody at any time, indefinitely.

I dare say you, like most people, would have the common sense not to put yourself in that situation in the first place… But even if you’re only reading occasionally for family or friends, you still bear a weight of their expectations – maybe that you’ll come out with something succinct and wise on the spot? – and of responsibility.

I don’t have any universal answers about this – I think the best I can do is share some of the big questions and the personal answers I’ve found. Your answers may be different, but you should probably go looking for some before you do many readings.

How do you need to look after yourself?

I need time outdoors, I need time off from full readings, I need sky and trees, and occasionally if I’m worried about the person I’m reading for I need someone to share my worries with, in confidence.

And you…?

How do you understand your responsibility as a diviner?

I’m responsible for giving them the reading, as completely and as well as I possibly can.

If the querent doesn’t get it, I must keep on trying new ways of communicating until I’ve run out of ideas. If they resist what it says now, I must do my best to make it memorable so they can use it later. If they miss calls, I’ll write up my notes and email the reading. If someone requested a refund before the reading, I’d send it – and I’d also send the reading. Someone else’s reading in my hands is sacred, and I must do everything I can to give it to them. If the zombie apocalypse happens when I’m working on someone’s reading, I suppose I’ll just have to write it out on paper and get on my bike.

And… I’m not responsible for what happens next. Not even for how the person understands the reading – and absolutely not for what they decide to do. I trust the Oracle to do its thing, and I trust the person to walk their own way. Or at least, this is what I keep trying to do.

(And you…?)

cat stuck on tree trunk

Hexagram 8 is called Bi  – 比 – a very ancient, simple character that originally depicts two people side by side. It implies both that they’re together, and that they can be compared to one another, and so the word means belonging, seeking union, holding together, comparing, neighbouring, side-by-side… really, to translate the name of the hexagram we need a single English word for ‘the-desire-for-union-that-inspires-comparing-and-hence-sensing-affinity-and-hence-being-drawn-to-belong-and-stand-together’.

Yi says,

‘Seeking union, good fortune.
At the origin of oracle consultation,
From the source, ever-flowing constancy.
No mistake.
Not at rest, coming on all sides.
For the latecomer, pitfall.’

So the first thing to know about Seeking Union is that it is lucky, it is blessed – just in itself, with no added conditions.

Next, that this is the ‘origin of consulting the oracle, from the source, ever-flowing constancy, no mistake.’ Since ‘constancy’ also refers to divination – to the whole act, from insight to carrying that truth through into the world – this section reads as a single statement about divination. Richard Rutt groups the words slightly differently, and translates,

First divination: supreme [offering].
Long range augury: no misfortune

There is an immediate initial connection to the divine, and then what flows from there, how it works out over time, is without mistake.

Only… what has that to do with Bi? What connects

‘Seeking union, good fortune.’

with

‘At the origin of oracle consultation,
From the source, ever-flowing constancy.
No mistake.’

And come to that, what connects either of them with,

‘Not at rest, coming on all sides.
For the latecomer, pitfall.’

?

To begin at the end – those lines about the restless ones who come, and the pitfall for the latecomer, allude to the story of Yu the Great. After decades of hard toil, he had conquered the floods, and he called the lords and spirits together to found a new world. The character translated ‘on all sides’ is Fang, and it was Fang Feng who came late to Yu’s gathering and was executed. (Fang Feng was a ruler of winds, that blow to and fro; in practice, in readings, there’s often a demon of indecision and procrastination to be dealt with.)

Wilhelm explains the underlying natural logic of this: the straggler who arrives after bonds have already formed between people is automatically excluded. The story of Yu further suggests an act of exclusion of whatever doesn’t belong. Really, these are ways of seeing the same thing: Yu is the embodiment of the group’s natural inner power of cohesion and attraction, which excludes the hesitant latecomer.

Yu’s flood work, that makes this Union possible, was to cause the rivers to flow over the earth to the ocean – you can see this in the component trigrams of Hexagram 8, which show flowing water above, earth below:

::::|:

(You might also see the ‘story until now’ in the preceding hexagrams of the Sequence.)

Yu separated earth from water, and he also separated people from demons separating earth and water; separating people from demons. According to stories cited by Anne Birrell in Chinese Mythology, he both killed and banished demons, and also forged vessels to represent hostile beings:

‘He forged cauldrons in the image of these creatures. He took precautionary measures against all living things on behalf of the people, to make sure that they knew which were the malign spirits. Therefore, when the people went on rivers or entered marshes, or went on mountains or into forests, they never came across adverse beings; neither goblins nor trolls could ever run into them.’

It seems to me that Yu’s work was to bring together what belonged together and separate out what didn’t – that he did comparing-contrasting work.

To do this bi work, you have to be able to identify what belongs – and this is where divination comes in. The core line here:

原筮元永貞
Yuan shi, yuan yong zhen
Origin(al) oracle-consultation, source/supreme ever-flowing/long-range constancy/augury

(Those are two different characters both pronounced yuan, and with overlapping meanings of ‘original source’. The first of them means specifically the source of a spring, and yong ‘ever-flowing’ in its oldest form shows a human figure swimming in the current of a river – the watery imagery a reminder of Yu’s labours.)

The oracle consultation referred to here is clearly, specifically divination with stalks: the first such divination, its origin. Why stalks, not the more ancient tortoise plastrons? Could it be because the tortoise oracle says, in essence, either ‘Yes, the spirits are with you in this idea of yours’ or ‘no, they aren’t’, but the stalks say, ‘Here is an image of how it is’? Like Yu, Yi makes images for us so we can recognise what we’re seeing.

I think that’s what we really ask Yi for: a picture, a pattern for comparison. ‘What’s happening?’ ‘Here – this is.’ ‘What if I did this?’ ‘You’d be doing this – here, have a look.’ We look at the picture Yi offers and recognise the pattern it invites us to see. ‘Oh,’ we say, ‘It’s like that.‘ We get a feel for the situation; we get the picture.

Looking back for a moment through the Sequence: Hexagram 6, where the waters rage below heaven, says, ‘No, not that!’ Hexagram 7, where the waters flow under the earth, gathers energy around that unacceptable thing in order to resolve it. To switch metaphors midstream, Hexagram 7’s creative centre is like the grit in the oyster. Hexagram 8 is more like the formation of a crystal: it has an inner organising principle.

The Zagua (Contrasting Hexagrams) says Seeking Union is joy and the Army is sadness or anxiety. I’ve just realised this doesn’t only refer to how the hexagram makes you feel, but also the nature of its motivating force: one says, ‘No, not like that,’ the other says, ‘Yes, like this.’ (But as the Xugua (Hexagrams in Sequence) indicates, awareness of ‘like this’ is an emergent property of the crowds Hexagram 7 gathers.)

‘Seeking union, good fortune.
At the origin of oracle consultation,
From the source, ever-flowing constancy.
No mistake.
Not at rest, coming on all sides.
For the latecomer, pitfall.’

To Seek Union, to compare and see what belongs together, you divine to see the pattern and inner nature of things. From that original awareness flows a consistent, cohesive way of being; everything – people, ideas, actions – will hold together and will not fall out of alignment. This alignment works like lines of magnetic force to draw people towards you, just as the many beings came to Yu’s gathering to found the Xia dynasty, and just as many potential allies were drawn to the harmonious realm of the Zhou in their early days under King Wen. And for those who hesitate and come late – pitfall.

Snowflake

 

 

In 2014, Sheffield’s half marathon was cancelled. It was some kind of last minute organisational shambles: not until the spectators were lining the route and the runners waiting at the start did the organisers report that their water supplies hadn’t shown up, so they couldn’t go ahead.

The runners started running anyway – and as word of the missing water supplies spread along the 13 mile course, spectators started fetching water. Bottles they bought themselves (until the shops ran out), cupfuls from coffee shops, even rinsed-out milk cartons… hands reached out offering water, all along the route.

Well… of course they did. We know what it’s like to be thirsty, and we know runners need water.

Wanting to give someone a reading is very much the same: we know what it’s like to be stuck and adrift, and once you have the experience of what Yi does and gives, you want to share that.

So wanting to share comes of wanting to help, as anyone would. But what we’re giving with Yi is not so easily bottled, I think.

Presence

Certainly you start with the fundamental human gift of presence, attention and empathy – yet even that seems to me to take on an added significance in a reading. A (the?) core experience of meeting Yi is the sense that you’re being heard by the oracle. When someone meets Yi through you, then your listening is the first they experience, as a sort of place-holder. (Which is a fearsomely daunting thought.)

And then… Sheffield’s spectators did not line the route with banners reading,

‘You Must Be Really Thirsty!’

We don’t only want to listen, but to help – to make change possible for this person. But giving a reading is not ‘helping’ in any way we’re used to. It’s not offering our advice or sharing our opinion – it’s not even, ‘I really want this outcome for you, so let me help you get it.’ (Although we almost certainly do want something for them, so this part is tricky…)

Openness

In fact, I think part of giving a reading is to help the other person to take a few steps back from looking directly for solutions – to move instead towards an overview, finding how things flow, and escaping from problem-wrangling. Which is also not easy, because when someone’s in mid-wrangle it’s natural to want to line up with them, pitch in and help them work it out. ‘What are the pros and cons?’ or ‘Have you thought of this?’ or ‘Maybe he didn’t call because he didn’t realise you’d expect him to, so maybe you should call him,’ or ‘Look, he’s just not that into you and you really need to move on.’

Sharing a reading bypasses all of that. After all, if I were sure I knew the solution this person needs, what would be the point of involving Yi? I need to find my starting place in curiosity and openness – loosening my grip on anything I ‘know’ until it becomes only something I’m wondering about. Yes, that is a real puzzle; no, I don’t know what’s happening, I don’t know what’s true, I don’t know the way through… I wonder what’s true; I wonder what Yi will say.

(One of the joys of reading for others: finding more and more worlds of experience I know nothing about. After listening to a querent and helping them find their question, before they cast their reading and email me the results, there is a beautiful long moment for sinking into not knowing, wondering what Yi will say, looking forward to seeing the picture unveiled.)

Then you give the reading – and what you’re giving is the power to break out of problem-wrangling altogether. A reading can carry someone out of the traps in their thinking, away from the places where they’re stuck, into a bigger and more real world. (I think that’s just as true when the reading says, ‘This is falling apart; there is nothing you can do.’)

Connection

How does it do this? (What is the experience of a reading that we want to share?) I’ve heard so many descriptions, but I think the core of it is reconnection. Reconnecting with a wider reality, when your field of vision’s narrowing and your world’s shrinking; reconnecting with your own strength and confidence; restoring your awareness of connection with a cosmos that speaks with you. Which is probably, in the end, all the same reconnection.

And what makes this possible? What gets someone to ‘escape velocity’ from the gravity of their problems?

Trust in the oracle, of course – there’s no reading without the willingness to listen that first opens a channel of communication. But really, that’s something the querent already has; that’s how they could ask the question.

No… I think what the reader brings is smaller and subtler: the sure knowledge that this works. In interpreting someone else’s reading, you lend them your relationship with Yi – a relationship that’s made of practice and hindsight, of ways of engaging with and understanding a reading, of individual experiences with hexagrams and lines. This will hold the reading together, so it can carry the querent through.

Behind the scenes…

…there are a couple of reasons why I’m sharing this now.

First because I’ve been doing readings, and reflecting on what I’m doing. Then because I asked Yi the question, ‘When someone gives someone a reading, what are they giving?’ and received 34.1.2.3.4 to 2 – an answer you’ll probably recognise in the post above…

And also because all this is part of preparing for the Reading for Others class next month.

It’s going to be especially important for this class to get together a group of people for whom it’s a good fit – people for whom my approach to the Yi resonates, and who can happily work together and bounce ideas off one another as we share readings and feedback. So another reason for sharing this post is as another step towards finding that ‘good fit’ group – to see whether it makes sense to you and whether it describes something you want to do.

If this resonates, and if you’re interested in next month’s class, then do make sure you’re signed up for notifications. (The next steps will probably be an ‘Is this for you?’ questionnaire followed by a conversation.)

Water bottles offered to runners

Plans for Clarity in 2017…

I don’t have my calendar filled in with a Grand Plan for the Year, because you know how those turn out. (I’m learning that they turn into colour-coded confetti by about mid-February.) But I have some plans for the first few months, and it occurred to me you might be wondering what’s available when. So…

In January 2017 I’ll be opening for readings – the full reading service, not the smaller I Ching chats which are more or less always available (though not so much for the next couple of weeks, because Christmas). The still point round the turning of the year, the quiet before Spring, is a natural time to go deeper.

I read for at most half a dozen people at a time: I’ve found that’s a good way to ensure I have plenty of time and energy to work with each reading, mull it over and follow where it leads without hurry. The first thing I do when I open is to email people who have downloaded ‘Ways of Opening’ (a guide/ helper for finding your question), so if you’d be interested in a reading in January, please download a copy now.

In February 2017 I’ll start the class on Reading for Others. This will be very small, probably a ‘beta’ version (ie it’s inexpensive and participants will be involved in shaping and improving the class), since while I’ve been doing this for a (very) long time, I’ve never taught it before.

I won’t start anything else while ‘Reading for Others’ is still running, but later in the year I’d really like to run a Foundations Class again. The Foundations Course is always available, of course, and if you’re part of Change Circle you can always get my help with it in Yi Academy or by phone/Skype. But that’s still not the same as being part of a class, embarking on the course together and getting to know one another along the way. So… Foundations Class, later.

And other intentions…

  • share more with you (remembering my reading for the year – 61.2.4.5 zhi 21)
  • take more breaks
  • spend more time with people and with Yi, and a whole lot less time in website-wrangling

A gift

Here are two downloadable ebooks I put together for you:

  • Book of Stories: an anthology of my posts on this theme over the past year, describing how you can use the stories Yi tells to understand your readings.
  • Questioning: seven articles about how we open our conversations with Yi – a mix of experiences, thoughts and suggestions

Both are pdf files, so right-click and chose ‘save target as’ or the equivalent to download them.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!

Fireworks at night

Each year on my birthday, I ask Yi for guidance for the coming year. Then over the course of the year I revisit the reading, finding guidance and gleaning understanding as I go.

At least, such is the theory. Last year’s reading, cast on 7th December 2015, was Hexagram 55, Abundance, changing at line 4 to 36, Brightness Hiding.

I could recognise the 55 moment, the imperative to take responsibility, do the abundance of things to be done (like redesigning the website) with the abundance of energy and motivation available to do them. And I could recognise 36 as my general tendency to want to stay safe by staying invisible. (Not the most helpful tendency to have in my line of work.) But the moving line…?

‘Feng is screened off
At midday, seeing the Dipper.
Meeting your hidden lord,
Good fortune.’

So here is Wu of Zhou, the new leader, finding his city shrouded in darkness, not quite able to see where he is, but with guidance still clearly visible. (Yes.) And then he meets a hidden lord, a ‘Yi lord’. The Yi people were not normally allies of the Zhou, on the contrary, but Wu made common cause with them against the Shang. So I generally read this line to mean seeking and finding an ally where you wouldn’t normally do so.

“Because of the importance of what you have to do, you will meet what you fear – and because you can see your direction so clearly, you can bring even the hidden lord into alliance with your greater purpose,” says my book (rather ponderously).

“Meet your enemy! He might be the one you need. Sometimes the very things which hold us back contain the energy which can help us to gather the strength to go on,” says LiSe, conveying more in fewer words.

So I understood all about hidden lords in theory, but who was mine? All through the year, I couldn’t seem to spot one. I got more help from a web developer than I might otherwise have done, yes, and I listened to advisers whose perspective is different from mine… but really, I didn’t meet anyone very dark or mysterious. I revisited the reading periodically without being any the wiser, and started to wonder if this might be one of Yi’s giant jokes: that the hidden lord was so well-hidden you’d never know whether or not you’d met him.

With about three days to go before my birthday, I sat down and asked myself again – who is this Yi lord? 

And – as usually happens when I’m prepared to sit and get into dialogue with a reading – I had a moment of recognition, remembering a couple of encounters that I realised were with the Yi lord.

There was a conversation that looked like it must surely become an argument: we were clashing over deep convictions, and when that happens my default setting is to respond in self-defence, as if my very self were under attack. But my interlocutor paused to say, ‘I don’t want to argue’ – and that brought me up short.

And I’d been reading Facebook posts from someone saying she had voted for Trump, and sincerely inviting civil discussion to build understanding. To be clear – I found her invitation disingenuous, and I think standing against what Trump represents is wholly necessary. But that’s also not the same thing as having a row on Facebook, and the parallel, the not-arguing, was striking.

In each case I found myself thinking – if this isn’t an argument, what is it? If I’m not on the defensive here, what am I doing? And I realised that my next impulse was to ask how can I helpAnd especially, how can I help this person to inhabit the real world?

Of course, the Trump voter would no doubt claim to have voted in the ‘real world’: one where we are under threat, and human compassion might be all very nice in theory, but we can’t really afford to extend it to those people who are not like us, and hence scary and not quite real. But that is a fairy story – a construct – a bubble. Not real.

Scratch the surface a bit, and I can find my own inner Yi lord, living in her own little fantasy bubble of fear and threat. The more visible I become, the more she has to say – in fact, she’s been vetoing this post for a couple of weeks now:

“You can’t post this,” she explains, reasonably, “because people won’t accept it – or you. Sharing openly might be all very nice in theory, but you can’t really afford to do it, it isn’t safe, because Those People” (she never quite explains who They are, but she knows all about Them) “don’t believe you’re real, and they’ll hurt you.”

It takes more effort, but I can also at least entertain the idea that this bubble-world might not be real, either.

The deep underlying reality and the stuff the cosmos is made of is connection, meaning, compassion. How do I know? Because readings work. Reality acknowledges, responds and talks to people; I help by making that reality a bit more obvious.


So what can I learn – a bit late – from 55.4 to 36?

I’m familiar with 36, Brightness Hiding, as relating hexagram. In that position I find it mostly has to do with believing that you’re in danger and need to hide your light. The belief can be based on experience, and it may be true now, or it may not. It’s also possible that the light hidden under the earth is being kept safe, like the spark of a fire banked up overnight.

The Yi lord is a dark figure who, oddly enough, somehow manages both to inspire such beliefs and also represent them: he (or she) is a threat, and also believes in a world of threat. And so this is stronger than just, ‘Someone you wouldn’t normally consider as an ally’: it’s someone opposed to all I stand for. But what if I’m at Feng, at the heart of my calling and work, and the Yi lord shows up saying, ‘I don’t want to argue’ and ‘Let’s talk’? If I’m not fighting this darkness, not defending against it – if I’m somehow meant to be making an ally of it, of all things – and I cannot begin to describe how bizarre and unnatural that seems to me – then what on earth is that going to look like?

This is still a mystery to me, but I think it has something to do with the Yi lord’s power to clarify a calling and galvanise action. The changing line’s in the fourth place: first steps in the outer world, asking, ‘What can I do?’ Also, it’s the first line of thunder, the trigram of initiative and setting things in motion. The energy of Yi is added to that of Zhou. (Which is exactly what LiSe’s commentary said…)

I also found, in the moment, that having ‘How can I fight off this threat?’ taken out of the picture left a lot of space for ‘How can I help?’ – for compassion and a desire to share.

A couple of days later, I cast my reading for this year, and received 61.2.4.5 to 21.

 

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