The dictionary on my bookshelf calls intuition,
“the power of the mind by which it immediately perceives the truth of things without reasoning or analysis.”
The key here is that intuition is an immediate perception. Analysis brings you to a conclusion step by step; intuition happens straight away. I Ching interpretation involves a mixture of intuition and analysis (which in turn creates more food for the intuition), but it all hangs on a single moment of intuition, when you perceive the connection between question and answer.
Often this is something very simple. You’ve been thinking and talking about being ‘stuck’ and receive hexagram 12, Obstruction, for instance. Sometimes it calls for a little more flexibility on your part: you might have to recognise that talking to your boss is a lot like treading a tiger’s tail, or that taking on a new project is like a marriage.
Once you’ve made that first intuitive connection, you can begin to unwrap the layers of your reading’s insights and advice, step by step. But the moment of connection is a leap – not something you can readily break down into smaller steps.
There are a couple of ways you can learn to make these leaps more easily, though. One is simply to practise. Not just in the moments when you urgently need an answer, but on any experience where you feel a clear emotional connection.
And the other is to ask yourself loads of questions about the elements of the reading. This seems to give your intuition permission to come up with answers. For instance if you had hexagram 48, the Well, you’d ask yourself what in your situation was like a well: an ever-present resource, but one you need to work on reaching.
Somewhere, someone who knows the I Ching well is reading this and wondering why I’m making such a fuss about the obvious and easy. The oracle talks to you; if you’re willing to listen, you hear. And yes, that often is how it goes: instantaneous, effortless recognition. It might happen the instant you see the reading, or after some time has elapsed, but it just happens.
This spontaneous connection, though, is harder to come by when you’re reading for another person. Analysis may move into the driving seat:
“This is what these hexagrams and lines mean, and so this must be what the I Ching is telling you. Now, what was your question again?”
This approach can generate many helpful suggestions, but it’s not a true act of reading for someone. For that, you need to immerse yourself in their situation and question (which is why I always try to have a good, long conversation with a client before an I Ching reading).
I think this state of immersion is what Yi was addressing when I asked it,
“Yi, what is intuition?”
The answer was Hexagram 7, the Army, moving at the second line to Hexagram 2, Earth, the Receptive. That’s not a ‘fluffy’ response: the Army is ordered power, concentrated around a single point. In readings it often has to do with taking responsibility and getting organised.
Yi is identifying intuition specifically with Army’s Earth: the point in our action where we are open to receive guidance:
‘Positioned in the centre of the army.
Good fortune, no mistake.
The king issues a mandate three times.’
This is traditionally known as the line of the military leader, at the centre of the troops and ready for orders. Because he is there – and not in a safer place somewhere behind the lines – he receives the mandate. And this happens not just once, but ‘three times’: constant communication.
So intuition is what happens when you are at the centre of things and ready to lend your strength wholeheartedly, to act on whatever you hear. (Maybe this implies that intuition doesn’t happen in the absence of that readiness to act.)
After casting the reading, I found this excellent post on 6 Ways to Sharpen your Intuition. You might recognise his fourth way as Hexagram 7’s Image: ‘shut down internal judgements’; ‘noble one accepts the ordinary people to gather together crowds.’ But what will take your breath away is the illustration he chooses for the first way, ‘Use your natural empathy’.