I wrote a few days back about how the I Ching unavoidably, undeniably, takes time. I also touched on how it gives time back, re-tuned and humming. Setting aside enough time for a reading means greater clarity, better decisions, and just a more grounded, fluent experience. Also, it makes for much stronger focus and attention: you can see what you hadn’t seen before, and stop ‘seeing’ (and worrying about and adjusting for) what isn’t real. Operating in the real world is a time-saver of the first order.
It’s interesting to see how all this can fit in when you need to adopt some kind of system for ‘managing’ your time. Divination and ‘time management’ don’t seem to have a whole lot in common, but I’ve an idea that the underlying motivation might be similar. We pick up the stalks or beads out of a desire to understand our experience and find it meaningful; we pick up the organizer or whatever out of a desire to make daily activities meaningful – to get to the end of the day (or week, or year) and feel we’ve got somewhere, not just whirred round the track one more time without derailing.
So the time management people talk about establishing the biggest goals first – knowing what you really want in life – and then mapping out the smaller stages that will get you there, and the still smaller components of the small stages, until you have single tasks you can schedule into your day. Then every day you see both the small do-able things, and also the big beautiful things they’re leading to – which is a wonderful thing, as it makes those small things infinitely more attractive and likely to get done.
The only problem with all this is that the whole day can fill up with the do-able little things with no space left. Where’s the magic, or the time to respond to synchronicities – or the space to ask an oracle questions beginning with something other than ‘How can I…?’
(‘How can I…?’ questions are very useful and creative things, a staple of ordinary everyday life-changing divination. It’s just that there are also other kinds of question, and it’s good to have the space for those, too.)
What would be a good way to blend all the planning with the unplannable, and leave space for the mystery to get a look-in?
What works for me is to remember to ask Yi about the big picture things. It’s a way of checking which wall your ladder’s leaning on before you start climbing.
‘What would it mean for me to attain that goal I aspire to?’
‘What does it mean for me to aspire to that now?’
‘What am I here to give?’
These don’t yield once-for-all answers, by the way. What started out as a hugely creative, inspiring goal may become something else altogether long before you reach it. It’s OK to ask these questions more than once – if there’s a time of year when you pause to take stock, you might include readings like these in the process.
Then you’d naturally want to talk with Yi about decisions (‘What if I…?’) and ask for advice (‘How can I…?’) And down at the weekly level, I like to bring the planning together with a weekly reading. ‘OK, so this week I need to sort this out and work on that and start planning the other… Yi, what do I need to be aware of now?‘ I’m not just asking for advice on how to do what I’ve already decided Must Get Done; I’m opening up for guidance of any kind. Or I might simply ask for ‘advice for the week’ – and if the advice is hexagram 52, and my existing plan was to chase my tail, I find myself revising the plan.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to fit these things together. The only essential is that ‘planning for real life’ shouldn’t be allowed to get shut up inside its own small box, with conversations with Yi stored safely in a separate compartment. Before too long, the ‘real life planning’ box fills up with notions that are both unrealistic and fundamentally lifeless. Why not discard the boxes – we know Yi isn’t going to fit in one, anyway – and bring all our ways of planning/imagining/coping/aspiring together? So that planning-time is also reading time, or your weekly reading is on the fridge door next to the shopping list, or the organiser program has readings in its ‘projects’ folder and brainstorming in its ‘readings’ folder.
This liberates oodles of time – time that might otherwise have been spent on things that just aren’t a good fit. It also ensures you see openings and creative possibilities that you’d never have seen if plan-fixated. And it means you receive one of the I Ching’s best gifts – that feeling of living in more dimensions and more colours.