Not just for decisions
It’s no secret that Yi is tremendously helpful when it comes to decision-making. You look at your options, single out the most likely one, and ask Yi, ‘What about this?’ And the oracle tells you what to expect if you take that road – be that sunshine and butterflies, or potholes and lunatic drivers.
This post is not quite about that; it’s about what comes before the moment of decision – not the individual decision, but the ground where it takes root. What I’m calling ‘planning readings’ are the ones where you ask for a guiding principle, or for the best approach to take. You have an intention in mind, and you’re asking how to start moving towards it.
An example from last year: course tech
I ask these readings for all kinds of things – but looking back through my journal, I seem to do so every time I’m facing some awkward technical task. Maybe that’s because this kind of work can rapidly become very hollow and arid – compare feature lists, trawl through reviews, check technical requirements – and leave me completely ungrounded. I’m drawn back to Yi because I need a dose of real-world, full-colour, multi-dimensional significance.
So for instance… last year, I realised I needed to revamp the Foundations Course, and do a better job of presenting future courses, and started looking through WordPress plugins that might help with that. There are hordes of them.
The simplest, least time-consuming option was one that would just allow me to add a ‘complete this lesson’ checkbox on each page so students could track their progress. But then there were much more full-featured, true ‘learning management systems’ that would really make a difference to people’s experience. But then again, was I falling into the Shiny Object trap again?
And so on.
You can see how this could give rise to a multitude of ‘What about option x?’ questions – and there were a few of those. But first, I asked,
‘What’s the right approach to take to course tech?’
And Yi gave me Hexagram 16, Enthusiasm, unchanging:
Fruitful to set up feudal lords and mobilise the armies.’
Big picture, big imaginings, something inspiring, something to galvanise feudal lords and armies… this did not sound like settling for a simple script to add a checkbox. Instead, I looked for a full-featured, creatively-imagined learning management system that would enable me to transform the whole experience of the course – and in the end, settled on ‘Grow Learn Teach‘.
With hindsight, it’s interesting that the developers’ communications are very 16-ish: along the lines of ‘Look what amazing new features we’ve added for you now! Imagine all the great things you can create with this!!’ The hype is all justified; it’s just noticeable because a lot of developers aren’t like that: they add amazing features, but keep them well-hidden. GLT make big claims, have big ambitions, and are building – with Enthusiasm – in pursuit of a big vision.
Over at Clarity, I needed to do a lot of work to set this up at first (the nuclear hexagram of 16 is 39…), but the effect has been both to encourage more people to complete the much-improved course, and also that I’m inspired to create more courses, because now it’s simple to take what people want to learn and make it digestible, attractive and easy to follow through. The extra features are sparking my imagination for future possibilities. And also, GLT has generated a whole new Library page for Change Circle, so that for the first time in years, members can actually find everything.
An example in progress: forum migration
Another year, another technical question. As you may know, the I Ching Community here at Clarity is getting a bit creaky, technically speaking. Members are working round the bugs in a very good-natured way, but…
Time to move. Again, there are a bundle of individual decisions to be made. Which software? How soon to move? How much to outsource, and how much to learn to do myself? Everything seems to depend on everything else, and of course there is tremendous scope for it all to go horribly wrong…
What’s the right approach to forum migration, Yi?
Yi says it’s Hexagram 63, Already Across, changing to Hexagram 24, Returning.
‘Already across, creating small success.
Constancy bears fruit.
Beginnings, good fortune.
What was that I was saying about everything going horribly wrong? But – as I would always tell a client who had Hexagram 63 – this doesn’t mean it inevitably falls apart; it means things fall apart when you finish. The trick is to keep moving, with constancy, keep beginning, and never imagine you’ve arrived.
‘Keep on beginning’ is an odd guiding principle for what looks to me like a project with a beginning (take the decisions), middle (migrate everything) and end. Does it mean ‘keep on upgrading’? (We’ll be moving to software that actually is regularly updated, for a change.) Keep on reviewing, keep on thinking of ways to develop the community? Could be…
‘Returning’ as relating hexagram resonates with and amplifies ‘beginnings, good fortune’: going back to the start, finding renewal. 24 reminds me of the core reasons for Clarity to have forums at all – back to the essentials. Amidst the to-ing and fro-ing of 24, and the ‘project management’ details, it’s good to have a direction to go – to stay in touch with the original purpose.
(Also, I do wonder about the relaxed quality of 24, and ‘the seventh day comes, you return’, and how long we might have the forums offline. My natural inclination is to try to juggle things to minimise downtime, to do all the changes at once and rush through as fast as possible. This might suggest something different – though I can’t imagine what would require a full week of downtime!)
‘The high ancestor attacks the Demon Country.
Three years go round, and he overcomes it.
Don’t use small people.’
‘The neighbour in the East slaughters oxen.
Not like the Western neighbour’s summer offering,
Truly accepting their blessing.’
Line 5 actually tells me which forum software to use: the one that’s markedly less expensive, not quite so shiny, and more streamlined. Line 3 has me spending a lot of time and energy to sort everything out – and taking extra care when hiring. (That will mean some more decision-readings: find someone responsive with good reviews, and then ask Yi, ‘What about working with X?’ I’ve actually been in touch with someone who promises to stay available to fix things for years after the migration, and that – in the light of ‘three years go round’ – seems good!)
I wonder about Demon Country. The bugs? Those should be zapped by moving. The issue with Chinese characters? Could be. And the general technical tangle of forums-and-WikiWing-and-hexagram-search-and-template, of course. And maybe the Facebook-isation of online conversation.
(Note: the zhi gua for these lines are included as a worked example in module 7 of the Foundations Course.)
How to mess this up
(from experience, naturally)
1. Only ask little questions
It’s easy to ask what-about questions – there are always more of them. But while they’re tremendously useful for fine steering, they’re not so useful for planning the whole route. It’s easy to go from one to the next without ever understanding why the answers say what they do, or where all this is taking you. See, for example, this cautionary tale from 2015.
It should be just as easy to ask the larger-scale, longer-term questions – after all, they’re often a great deal simpler. The thing is, even to think of them, we need (I need…) to lift our noses from the grindstone for a moment and take a few steps back.
So I, for one, tend to stay in the minutiae, more ‘how to do it’ and less ‘what’ or ‘why’, and this really limits the difference Yi can make.
(I asked last year about getting business guidance from Yi, and it gave me 39.2 to 48: a beautiful, rich answer. It made me notice that most of my questions are from the servant’s point of view, not the king’s – when the servant isn’t the cause of her own experience.)
2. Forget your readings
And second, once we’ve asked for guidance, we (I…) need to remember it. This is going to take more effort than with a reading for a pressing decision, because you don’t get to apply the whole reading immediately and then move on; instead, you have to hold it in mind, carry it with you, and let it change your awareness.
An embarrassing example from my journal: I asked ‘How to recover my health?’ and received Hexagram 11 with line 1 changing. I’m using the reading now: sleeping more sensible hours, and hence finding time to exercise, and hence having more mental energy. Cycling each Friday morning to an organic garden for fresh vegetables and an extra 90 minutes on the bike – pulling up two thatch grass roots by one stem, as it were. Start anywhere; it’s all connected under the surface.
The reason why this example is embarrassing is that the reading dates back to 2016, and I’d completely forgotten what it said until I looked it up in my journal a few days ago. If I’d kept it in mind, I might be a stone lighter by now…
(This is an embarrassingly easy mistake to avoid, too. After you’ve cast the reading, just put a recurring reminder in your calendar to review it.)
(to myself as much as anyone – guided by a reading I cast for this post, ‘How to plan with Yi?’ – 59.5.6 to 7)
Make your planning question as open and simple as possible. Try to ask the question far enough outside the box that Yi can dissolve the box altogether, and show you possibilities you’d never imagined.
Ask about the choices that can make a real difference to your experience – the king’s questions, not just the servant’s. These readings are not about what works best: they’re about what matters most. (In my two examples, not what will get it done fastest, but what will motivate and inspire, and what will stay alive and changing – though you might want to take your questions to a higher level than my examples.) What matters? What is meaningful? Even – what is sacred?
Bring a powerful intent to the reading, with unreserved commitment, ready to receive whatever it says and change anything and everything in response. This is not for topics of mild interest or theoretical speculation. Come prepared to disperse the granaries.
Hold to that intent and use it to contain and channel the reading’s energy. This is not about cultish obedience to whatever Yi ‘tells you to do’, forfeiting self-determination (not to mention common sense). Yi is its own world of imagery and affect and connections – it can suck you into a whirlpool of readings about readings about readings. For a real, fruitful conversation, you need your own inner momentum and purpose, separate from the flow of the reading. (‘Leave, go out and far away!’)