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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

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

(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?

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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

Rain

The Yijing mentions rain several times - in Hexagram 9, and then in 38.6, 43.3, 50.3 and 62.5. What does it represent?

Wilhelm, writing about 50.3, has a succinct answer:

'The fall of rain symbolizes here, as in other instances, release of tension.'

Wilhelm is (here, as in other instances) spot on. But can we learn more by digging deeper?

When it doesn't rain

The Yi's first explicit mention of rain comes in the Oracle of Hexagram 9 - where it isn't raining:

'Small taming, creating success.
Dense clouds without rain
Come from our Western altars.'

Hexagram 9, Oracle

And then the exact same phrase is repeated at the other end of the book, in 62.5:

'Dense clouds without rain
Come from our Western altars.
The prince hunts with tethered arrows,
And gets the one living in a cave.'

Hexagram 62, line 5

In a time of Small Taming, we're building up our capacity in a small way, but it's not there yet, like the clouds are not raining yet. The Western altars indicate a connection with the Zhou people, who were gathering strength like massing clouds.

Schilling takes this one step further:

'Clouds are also a symbol of fruitfulness. That they travel over the western altars without raining indicates that union with the Shang princess will not lead to offspring.'

Dennis Schilling, Yijing, Das Buch der Wandlungen

This historical interpretation fits nicely within the tradition that rain means 'uniting yin and yang'.

The most important thing to understand is that rain is something we want. Minford mentions that there are many oracle bone inscriptions about rain, and they're generally about trying to get some: dancing, making music and sacrificing for rain. Song 210 describes the rain we hope for:

'A great cloud covers the heavens above,
Sends down snows thick-falling.
To them are added the fine rains of spring.
All is swampy and drenched,
All is moistened and soft,
Ready to grow the many grains.'

Book of Songs, trans. Arthur Waley/Joseph Allen

So this is what Hexagram 9 is missing - and so too is 62.5:

'Dense clouds without rain
Come from our Western altars.
The prince hunts with tethered arrows,
And gets the one living in a cave.'

Hexagram 62, line 5

I recently realised that 54.1.2 had good reason to remind us of 10.3. So… why might this be reminding us of Hexagram 9? I think it's drawing a contrast.

Small Taming is a time of 'not yet': no rain yet, the Zhou star not yet risen, not time to act yet. Instead, it's time for small-scale cultivation, preparation, developing alliances and being patient.

Small Exceeding is a quite different time - still acting in a small way, but now crossing the line, sending and receiving the message, making the transition. In a very rudimentary way, you can see the difference in the shape of the hexagrams:

compared to

So… this makes me think that the prince in 62.5 is dealing with the lack of rain. (Schilling actually thinks he is shooting arrows at the clouds to make it rain.) It's line 5, after all: time for the prince to use his tools and his authority and do the small things that may have big results.

An important theme of 62 is getting the message rather than just 'passing by' - and it's hard to imagine a more decisive connection than a corded arrow. The prince acts with the trigram zhen - thunder, swift movement, initiative - becoming dui, interaction (and, of course, water).

Field sees this line as describing Wen's success in 'bagging' the Shang. But I prefer Wilhelm's story here, of a ruler seeking out helpers. After all, the imagery is quite odd: corded arrows specifically for hunting and retrieving birds, mostly waterfowl, and there aren't many cave-dwelling birds. (In China, there are swiftlets - good luck shooting one of these with an arrow.) Perhaps there's a lost allusion to a particular story here, maybe something like the story of Yao finding Shun.

Rain at last: 9.6

'Already rained, already come to rest.
Honour the power it carries.
The wife's constancy brings danger,
The moon is almost full.
Noble one sets out to bring order - pitfall.'

Finally, in the last line of Small Taming, it's rained. As Wang Bi describes it, making it rain is the 'domestication' the hexagram achieves, as the yin outer trigram controls the pure yang inner trigram qian. For reliable rain, you would need a yin force strong enough to 'hold its ground' against the rising vapours of qian. The inner trigram is like the rising air of a warm front, bringing rain. (It sounds as though Wang Bi was paying attention in my GCSE geography class.)

The rain is good news: now we have heaven's favour and can start to grow our crops. Schilling associates this line with King Wen's wife Tai Si giving birth to heirs. It's the same basic idea: growth begins here; blessing is promised in future. If the gathering clouds meant gathering Zhou strength, then the rain means it's time to start more active preparations.

What of all the warnings, though? Danger with the wife's constancy, and pitfall for the noble one who sets out to bring order?

The rain 'carried' de, like a cart carries a load. De is power, and also a quality - virtue, or something's unique nature and way of being. I think this is advice to honour the quality of the time. The rain's brought energy and potential - and so now is the time to plant, watch over the growing seedlings, and wait. The line changes to Hexagram 5, Waiting.

The wife's constancy means danger. To be 'constant' is to be loyal and persistent, holding to what you know to be true; the wife's role is to create the home, ordering and securing the inner space. Freeman Crouch thinks this wife might be King Wen, safeguarding his own kingdom. In any case, this is someone seeking to hold onto what's been gained, and this is perilous. (Though not necessarily wrong-headed - not everything that's dangerous in the Yi is wrong.) The moon's almost full: things are on the cusp of change. As Bradford Hatcher put it, 'All these will continue for as long as the moon stays full. These are not things to found dynasties on.'

(Aside: I don't buy the idea that zhen, 'constancy', really means nothing more than 'divination'. In an oracular text, you wouldn't need to write 'divination of danger for the wife' - just 'danger for the wife' would do. Either zhen is a completely redundant word, or it means something more than 'divination'.)

The wife's constancy is dangerous, but the noble one's zheng, 'setting out to bring order', is disastrous. This is a step beyond securing the home, though it seems to come from the same basic desire for more security: setting out on a military expedition to set the world to rights. But this line changes to the trigram kan - flowing water, like falling rain, and also the flow of change and its dangers. There are limits to what can be secured. The noble one is needed at home, tending the fields, responding to changing conditions.

Rain brings good fortune: 38.6

'Opposed, alone.
Seeing pigs covered in muck,
The chariot loaded with devils.
At first drawing the bow,
Then relaxing the bow.
Not robbers at all, but matrimonial allies.
Going on meets the rain, and so there is good fortune.'

Hexagram 38, line 6

Pigs, mud, chariot, devils, archer, robbers, marriage and rain - a bewildering kaleidoscope of omens, and a fitting culmination for a hexagram of 'seeing differently'. It's possible that many of these images are constellations: you see the muddy pigs and devil-cart in the heavens. Field says that the rising Heavenly Boar in autumn marks the beginning of monsoon season. Minford writes,

'The Lunar Mansion known as the Ghost Cart corresponds to the constellation known to Western Astronomy as Cancer. Immediately south of this, in Canis Major and Puppis, is a Bow and Arrow, pointed at Sirius, the Dog Star (the Heavenly Wolf). According to Wolfram Eberhard, in southern China … "ghost cart" was the name of a special kind of owl, an evil bird which attacked children. It also had astrological connections and could appear as a comet.'

Minford, I Ching, the Book of Change

But in the end, the rain falls on us, down here on the earth, and that feels more important than all those ominous celestial signs. Wang Bi wrote, 'One places value on encountering rain, because it unites yin and yang. Once yin and yang are united, all suspicions will disappear.' As Wilhelm said, this rain brings the release of tension. It also seems to be a good marriage omen. Perhaps this is like Song 62, where Bo has marched boldly to war, and the woman left behind sings:

'Oh, for rain, oh, for rain!
And instead the sun shines dazzling.
All this longing for Bo
Brings weariness to the heart, aching to the head.'

Book of Songs, trans. Arthur Waley/Joseph Allen

38.6's rain brings union, and also seems to wash away misapprehensions, clearing the air for a longer view.

This line, by the way, changes the trigram li, fire, to zhen, thunder - not an explicitly watery trigram until you look at the character: 'rain' and 'moment'.

Rain washes away regrets: 50.3

'The vessel's ears are radically changed,
Its action blocked.
Rich pheasant fat goes uneaten.
Rain on all sides lessens regrets,
In the end, good fortune.'

Hexagram 50, line 3

Here's a truly revolutionary line: the vessel's ears (its carrying loops, but also literally 'ears', for listening) are being radically changed - the name of the paired hexagram, 49. It's all happening here… except that for now, nothing can happen. There's a 'closed for maintenance' sign hanging on this line: the vessel can't be used, the best food goes uneaten. How frustrating.

The frustration, of course, is very reminiscent of Hexagram 9: good things will happen, just not yet. But the rain (which might be coming from all directions, or just be coming soon) will change everything.

Wang Bi says 'rain is something that happens when yin and yang engage in intercourse free of one-sidedness and arrogance,' and that this is the eventual - much-blocked & delayed - meeting of lines 3 and 5. All commentators agree that this rain washes away sorrows, the regrets for the unused vessel and wasted food.

The line promises good fortune in the end. Rather like 9.6 (another change to the trigram kan), this is the turning point, just beginning a period of growth and change. (This line points you to Hexagram 64, Not Yet Across. Nothing's finished yet.)

Getting soaked: 43.3

'Vigour in the cheekbones means a pitfall.
Noble one decides, decides.
Goes alone, meets the rain,
And is indignant as if he were soaked through.
Not a mistake.'

Hexagram 43, line 3

In the other examples, we've seen rain bringing blessing and fertility, relieving tension and clearing the air. This line looks altogether different: this rain brings a soaking, and indignation. It's exactly the same event as in 38.6, though: 遇雨, 'meeting rain', 'getting caught in the rain'. Why the difference?

Line theory says the yang third line is humiliated because it's associated with the inferior yin line 6. Field suggests that the noble one goes 'hurry scurry' and gets wet because he's unprepared. All this is all very well, but it doesn't explain why being rained on should be a bad thing, only in this line.

And… actually, it isn't. This is 'no mistake'.

To go back to basics for a moment: rain brings a change of state. The frustration of 'not yet' ends in 9.6; tension and suspicion end in 38.6; blockage ends in 50.3. Rain brings change that gets things moving and working together, and the same is true of this line.

Vigour in the cheekbones - rigidity, firmness, preserving one's dignity - was disastrous, and the noble one's path is different. He decides, goes out and gets drenched. He may not be pleased about this, but he's also undergone a change of state, from isolated decision-making to wide open communication.

This line changes to Hexagram 58, the doubled trigram dui, whose actions include opening - even forcing open, in the face of resistance. (See Harmen on 'the salient', and how Samgirl described a Taoist practice she pursued in the face of her church's opposition: 'opening channels in me that have been closed for ages.') The noble one's been soaked through, fully exposed to the elements, and this is what makes things grow. This is a third line, after all, coming to the edge of the hexagram's inner space. Deciding isn't just an inner event: time to go out and meet some reality.

Rain's role

From these lines, I think a picture starts to emerge. It only rains in line 3 or line 6 - at the upper edge of a trigram, in its 'sky' line (if the trigram's three lines correspond to the three realms of earth, humanity and heaven). In other words, rain comes at the end, on the verge of a change of state. 'That's out of the way,' says the rain. 'Now we can begin.'

I Ching Community discussion

On the cusp

Episode 13 of the I Ching with Clarity podcast features an author who's on the cusp of sending her book out into the world, just not quite sure why she doesn't feel ready for this. Is this the time, or should she wait?

Yi gave her Hexagram 42, Increasing, changing at lines 5 and 6 to 24, Returning:

changing to

Line 5 is lovely:

'True and confident, with a benevolent heart,
No question: good fortune from the source.
Truth, confidence and benevolence are my own strength.'

Hexagram 42, line 5

Line 6... isn't:

'Absolutely no increase in this,
Maybe someone strikes this one.
The heart's foundation is not lasting,
Pitfall'

Hexagram 42, line 6

What to make of the contrast, and the 'scary' line?

Here's the episode -

Puzzling over 54, line 1

It’s a not-unfamiliar experience with readings: the oracle text of the hexagram says one thing, and then a moving line says something quite different. You probably know the basic principle: the moving line text takes precedence. It's the 'You Are Here' sign to the hexagram's overall scene-setting.

Still, it's worth going beyond that to wonder exactly why the line text is different. Here's a good example…

Hexagram 54 says,

‘Marrying maiden. To set out to bring order: pitfall.
No direction is fruitful.’

That's blunt and unambiguous: your plans, and especially your ideas to fix things and set them to rights, are not looking promising. But then comes line 1:

'Maiden marries as a younger sister.
Lame, can walk.
Setting out to bring order: good fortune.'

From 'setting out to bring order: pitfall' to exactly the opposite. How come?

Why pitfall?

To start with, why is bringing order such a bad idea originally, overall, for the Marrying Maiden?

'Setting out to bring order' translates zheng 征 - which means

  • to go on a long journey
  • to target something, march on it, go straight for it
  • specifically, to launch a punitive military campaign. ('Order' might just mean, 'Everyone pays tribute to the king'.)

The Chinese character shows a foot on the road, so the idea of marching out is fundamental.

The marrying maiden is someone who's married off, probably as a second wife, and certainly not of her own initiative. She's in a position of weakness, and can't impose her idea of order on anything. Also, such marriages would be a way to forge alliances between clans, rendering military action unnecessary and counter-productive.

Why's line 1 different?

This all makes good sense - so what's so different in line 1?

I can think of four differences…

  • It's the first line
  • It's changing
  • 'Younger sister'
  • 'Lame, can walk'

Let's look at each in turn...

It's the first line

The first line of any hexagram has a sense of just entering its realm, just getting started, getting its feet under it. It doesn't enjoy authority, or an overview, and probably not much understanding either, but it can at least begin.

In a lot of hexagrams (26, 43, 63…), this first step is to slow down, to get control of one's momentum before setting a new direction. But as marrying maiden, when you're in a weak position to start with, the important thing is just to get underway somehow.

It's changing

…and as soon as an element changes in the Yi, it creates relationships with other elements that make their presence felt.

This is the bottom line of dui, the lake, changing to kan, depths and running water. So this change is rather like pulling the bathplug: it creates flow.

And this is the line where Marrying Maiden meets Hexagram 40, Release:

changing to

‘Release. The southwest is fruitful.
With no place to go,
To turn round and come back is good fortune.
With a direction to go,
Daybreak, good fortune.’

'The southwest is fruitful': it's a good direction for finding allies, or maybe creating marital alliances. Release brings an underling attitude of 'Let's see what we can do, let's see which paths might lead somewhere, and let's get underway' - all without tying ourselves in knots over what we wish we could do instead, or whether we're likely to fail horribly.

The poor little marrying maiden doesn't have much freedom overall, but she is at least free to do what she can, within the limits. 'Lame, can still walk.'

Bradford Hatcher had a different take on this 54-40 relationship, and talked about the freedom from striving:

'Freedom from all these demands might set her free from the hustle and leave her time to be just herself, enjoying her life as it is.'

Younger sister

This is the first difference in the text: the maiden marries (just as in the first two words of the Oracle) as a younger sister (or possibly with her younger sisters).

'Younger sister' is one Chinese word, di 娣. Its components are 'woman' and 'younger brother' - an element that Sears says originally meant 'sequence' or 'second'.

This points clearly to the junior wife, the woman who comes second in line. As the first line of dui, trigram of the youngest sister, that makes sense. By implication, the whole hexagram is about second wives, but this makes it absolutely explicit.

Hence tradition tells us that this line is about someone in a lowly position who serves with modesty and doesn't rock the boat. The Tuanzhuan says, 'If such a lame one can keep on treading, it shall mean good fortune, for it is to keep on giving support.' (RJ Lynn's translation). The junior wife supports the first wife and strengthens the family.

From this angle, she may be 'setting out to bring order', but in the sense that she's limping along with the rank and file, not leading the expedition.

Lame, can walk

The next new thing in the text: 'lame, can walk'. Richard Rutt didn’t attempt to piece this together:

'The sentence about the lame one who steps out is probably out of place and has nothing to do with the wedding story.'

It surely has something to do with zheng, though: 'treading' and 'marching out' are adjacent characters in the text, both with the 'footsteps' element 彳:

履 征

She can walk, so going on a journey is good fortune.

We might picture the junior wife limping off to her new home. But there may be more to it, as Hexagram 54 line 5 also alludes to to a particular 'younger sister', the Lady Shen who would become the mother of Wu, the Zhou heir and conqueror of the Shang. What if this line prefigures her rise, too?

Minford suggests that zheng here might be 'a figurative description of a marriage "expedition"' - he explains that the 'love is war' metaphor was present in early Chinese texts. Now there are extra layers of meaning: the Zhou, too, started out small and powerless, but marched on Shang successfully in the end. Maybe the protagonist of this line, despite her handicaps, can expect to wield power of her own in future. The traditional idea of success for the unassuming and modest might not tell the whole story.

Hexagram 10, line 3

One other angle on this line: 'Lame, can walk' is a direct quotation from Hexagram 10, line 3. It actually says 'lame, can tread' - the name of Hexagram 10. And 54.2 also quotes the same line. Together, these three lines make up a complete inner dui trigram:

'Maiden marries as a younger sister.
Lame, can walk.
Setting out to bring order: good fortune.'
‘With one eye, can see.
A hermit's constancy bears fruit.’

Hexagram 54, lines 1 and 2

'With one eye, can see.
Lame, can walk.
Treads on the tiger's tail:
It bites him. Pitfall.
Soldier acting as a great leader.'

Hexagram 10, line 3

If we look back from the Marrying Maiden to Treading, what could we learn from the comparison?

When it comes to following tigers - or reflecting all of (outer trigram) heaven - it won't work to hobble along with a limited field of vision. Inadequacy will be found out; 'good enough' isn't. But in Hexagram 54, marrying as the second wife, the lake reflecting (on) this sudden change (outer trigram thunder), just getting by is good enough. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly.

The situation in 54.1 is actually a perfect mirror image of 10.3. The soldier should be following, but tries to act as a great leader. The 'younger sister' is specifically the 'woman who follows' - but this younger sister may yet become the first wife.

(As for the hermit in 54.2, perhaps he's one of those Daoist sages who deliberately makes himself useless, avoiding political power. Or perhaps, as Field says, he's 'the man in the dark,' the imprisoned future King Wen - another one who starts at a disadvantage but wins in the end.)

And in real life?

I can think of a few of my own experiences with this reading that capture something about the line.

One was a reading about a broken molar - it had been filled badly, so it cracked, and then a great lump of enamel had fallen off, leaving exposed dentin. One week on, was it hardening, or was infection setting in? I asked what was happening with the tooth, and received 54.1. I 'set out to bring order' with my usual regimen; that was four years ago, and the tooth is still fine, provided I keep up the daily oil pulling.

Someone contacted me to ask for a full reading with weekly calls. I was happy to work for her, except that she was in Australia, so I'd have to start client work first thing in the morning, a time I'd normally have set aside for writing. Advice? 54.1. I reorganised things, read for her, and it went well. (I've had several readings describe the role of a diviner with Hexagram 54.)

And then there was the 54.1 reading about hiring a particular web designer. To clarify - not anyone I've worked with recently; this was long ago. I hired him despite this reading, which was not my best idea: onlineClarity came second to everything, and deadlines came and went while he ignored all my emails. In the end I tried emailing not to ask for a new date, but to set one unilaterally: I'd pay pro rata for whatever he'd completed by then. That got him moving - though there was still a lot of clear-up to do afterwards from things he'd messed up.

What do these three have in common? I was starting out at a disadvantage, handicapped in some way. The promised good fortune is going to take a lot of effort and probably sore feet; this line's situation isn't one you'd choose to get into, in an ideal world.

However - and this is where it differs from the general picture of Hexagram 54 - there is some power to be found or claimed here that you might not have imagined you had. In each of these readings, I seem to have had to break with my usual habits to access it: rewriting my mornings, or getting completely uncharacteristically assertive with the vanishing designer, or - horrors - giving up chocolate for a while. If little sister ties on her walking boots and limps out with determination, she can make this work.

I Ching Community discussion

About a snake

Pamela contributed a thoroughly unusual reading for episode 12 of the podcast...

She asked,

'What do I need to know about the snake?'

and Yi answered with Hexagram 8, Seeking Union, changing at lines 1, 3 and 5 to 36, Brightness Hiding:

changing to

Here's the snake in question (with thanks to Pamela for the photo):

- listen to the episode for the full story.

And here are three Chinese characters I mentioned during our conversation:

(Isn't that an interesting visual 'rhyme' between bi and yong?)

With its three moving lines, this reading's a bit longer than previous episodes. I hope you still enjoy it - let me know!

Too many readings?

This was going to be a simple post

A worried client emailed me. He'd just been organising his journal, listing all his readings, and found there were a whole lot more on one topic than he'd thought. He said he was wondering if he'd become 'a bit of a Yi-aholic.'

What's a 'Yi-aholic'? Someone addicted to readings, someone who does too many readings - but how many are 'too many', and how would you know?

I had a clear, elegant answer to this question, I thought, so I emailed it to him. Then I thought I would write it up as a blog post, and give the post more 'meat' by consulting Yi on the question too. And that - predictably - is where my nice clear, simple post started to go sideways.

My idea: readings to avoid reality

A good sign that you're doing too many readings (I wrote to my client) is that you're using them to avoid reality. That's exactly the opposite of what readings are truly for, and yet it's uncomfortably easy to do.

The classic example is the woman who doesn't want to talk to him about their relationship, and asks Yi instead. How does he feel about me? How does he feel about the other woman? And then she follows up with more readings about her hurried interpretations of the first readings, and swiftly builds a whole castle in the air of subtle relationship analysis - all without any contact with him at all, as that contact could so easily demolish the whole edifice.

But there are other ways readings can depart from reality, too. There's consultation with Yi when there's a human expert available (a doctor, a lawyer, a financial adviser) who could give a clear, definite answer that's not open to interpretation. And there are readings when you already know what to do, you just don't much want to do it, so perhaps you (by which I mean I) start asking about optimal timing or something. Like I said, this kind of avoidance is uncomfortably easy.

Yi rearranges my ideas

So after outlining the above, I thought I'd cast a reading to give me more idea of how to recognise this reality-avoidance thing.

'What does unhealthy, excessive use of readings look like?'

There aren't any explicit assumptions in that question, but there was one great big assumption behind it: that I knew what 'Yi-aholism' was, and just needed more of a picture of how it manifests.

Yi did not oblige. Instead, it gave me Hexagram 19, Nearing, with lines 1 and 2 changing to 2, Earth:

'Influence nearing.
Constancy, good fortune.'
'Influence nearing, good fortune.
Nothing that does not bear fruit.'

Hexagram 19, lines 1 and 2

Whatever else that reading is, it is not a picture of anything unhealthy or excessive. Influence - connection, rapport, being moved by the oracle - is nearing; this is good fortune; nothing does not bear fruit.

'Nothing does not bear fruit' sounds like 'there is no such thing as an unhealthy reading,' or at least not in the realm I was imagining. They're all 'influence nearing' - all connection with the oracle.

On reflection… because this reading seemed to call for some of that… perhaps this is just human nature, that we need to draw near to an understanding through readings, find a way to relate to hard stuff, before we confront the bald reality. Understanding wells up and grows in its own time, and 'arrival at the eighth month means a pitfall' - there's no benefit to inducing it prematurely.

(Is there anything at all in my idea of 'readings to avoid reality'? I'm reluctant to let it go - but perhaps I should.)

Yi's idea: readings to shoot fish

So if 'reality avoidance' isn't a good description of the problem, what is? Because I think we know there are healthier and less healthy ways to engage with the oracle; we recognise the unhealthy ways when we see them (especially in other people, naturally).

Time for another reading. The question sounds very similar, but the mindset behind it was different: realising I don't get this after all.

'How can we know when there's a problem with readings - what are the signs?'

And Yi answered this one with Hexagram 48, the Well - so often its choice to talk about itself - changing at line 2 to 39, Limping:

'In the well's depths they shoot fish.
The jug is cracked and leaking.'

Oh.

Shooting fish in the well - a reading with immediate utility, looking for an answer I can use, right now. This isn't about watering the growing crops, it's about tonight's supper. I choose my target, focus and shoot. I'll get exactly what I aimed at, if I get anything. (And incidentally, accidentally, my shooting might just crack the jug I'd need to draw water.)

Think of the other way of approaching the Well: lowering the jug until the water flows in and fills it. It could not be more different.

What are the signs of a problem with readings, then? They could be a string of readings that are nothing but 'How can I achieve x?' and 'What if I try approach y to achieving x?' Lots of readings hemmed in by assumptions that I know what I'm aiming for, and can see all the choices available. Even if I got a perfectly clear, usable answer to each reading - a fish with every arrow - I'd still have to keep on coming back again and again, for lack of any deeper understanding.

(Not avoiding reality, exactly - just remaining ignominiously unaware of all of it except for one measly fish.)

Postscript…

I'm pretty sure this reading is talking to me personally, about what misuse and overuse of the oracle looks like when I do it. (I'm trying to escape that, at the moment, by returning to weekly open readings: just asking for guidance and letting Yi set the agenda, for a change.)

I've shared this reading anyway because it's so clear and eloquent, but the answer might well be different for you. If (and only if!) you're concerned about your own reading habits, don't take my word for anything, but ask Yi instead. A more open question, like 'Please show me a picture of my consulting habits,' could be good.

I Ching Community discussion

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.

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