With the turning of the Chinese Year, more people are contemplating their annual I Ching reading. Over at ‘A touch of Ancients’, Allan Lian has written about the synchronicities that accompanied his reading for last year. He’s pausing at the change of year to look back as well as forward through the eyes of the Yijing – something I think is a very good idea. If you don’t have an annual reading from the previous year to look at (or perhaps even if you do), you can always put the question to Yi, ‘What can I learn from last year’s experiences?’
You can see another approach at Ren Qizhen’s blog, the Way of long life and long vision. He asked a series of questions, about what to expect in the coming year, what the biggest change would be, what he must learn, and continued the conversation in response to these answers.
When asking just for a single reading for the year ahead, I think you are really asking for a pattern – something that will pervade your experience, that you can recognise and learn from again and again in different forms. I do my annual reading on my birthday, December 7th, and was very startled last time to receive Hexagram 6, Conflict, moving to 59, Dispersing. I think of myself as the most peaceful and accepting of individuals. But here I have a moving line that talks to me firmly about not winning by arguing, and instead accepting the calling that comes to me, and settling down peacefully with what is. With this in mind for the past couple of months, I’ve started to notice for the first time how often I am sparked into action by indignant conviction of one kind or another. I hope I’ll be able to take this awareness from small-scale to something larger over the coming months.
In his audio introduction to the I Ching, Ron Masa says he abandoned the idea of annual readings after receiving Hexagram 23. Well, if the thought of a full year’s Stripping Away old stuff would plunge you into 12 months’ depression, then that’s fair enough. But there are other ways to live with a reading.
I wondered what Yi would have to say about this.
Question: “Yi – how can we best use an annual reading?”
Answer: with Great Overstepping, Persevering. Hexagram 28 moving at the fifth line to Hexagram 32.
Hexagram 28 has to do with ‘stepping over’ boundaries, including boundaries in time. So there is the idea of striding out over the threshold of the year. It also suggests crossing boundaries in one’s thinking. Perhaps in your growth through the past year, you might have outgrown your old way of being. Perhaps the old roof beam can no longer take the weight of your new self; perhaps you need to move out and find a bigger space to think in. So one of the uses for an annual reading is to show us where change is needed, and encourage us to step beyond previous limitations.
The moving line speaks of renewal and enjoyment:
‘Withered willow sprouts flowers,
Venerable wife gets upright husband.
No blame, no praise’
The most withered old stick can enjoy a new burst of life with a new year – like a mature woman, settled in her ways, given a new lease of life and adventure by a younger husband. We call it a new year because it can be different from the old one; it stretches out ahead of you full of unknown potentials.
An annual reading should have the effect of increasing our enjoyment of this, not nailing us down to a few limited tasks or possibilities. The reading might offer something new to notice, and enjoy noticing – without demanding results, and without passing judgement. ‘No blame, no praise’ in this line can actually be advice not to leap to conclusions about the value of something new and unconventional. I think this marks out how an annual reading is different from a weekly one, or from specific questions seeking advice or insight. We can look to smaller-scale readings for endorsement or a swift kick.
An annual reading brings together Great Overstepping, crossing boundaries and exceeding limits, with Persevering – which has a range of meaning that extends from the spirit that endures through change, to simple habit. So on the one hand an annual reading is a chance to ‘exceed your programming’ – to overstep the limits of one’s usual habits. And at the same time, since it lasts a year, it has a steadying effect. It shows how the same essence Perseveres through the big transitions from one year to the next. The old character for Persevering shows a single heart and a single boat that travels between two shores. It’s still the same willow-essence that sprouts as new flowers.