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More laws of Yijing practice

Continuing with Harmen’s Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice

Law 3 –

Too much is less than enough.

“Can I expect any positive movement from P’s corner in the next couple of months?” I got Hex 10 unchanging. I get a sense that 10 means moving with caution. So I asked ….. “Why would he hesitate or cautiously?” I got 53.1.4 > 13 which I assume is about wanting to make gradual progress the natural proper way but I’ve seen various interpretations of this line so I’m not going to try to work this one out…….any help is appreciated. I also asked “Do I need to do anything more at this stage or should I just wait?” I got Hex 13.3.6 changing to 17. 13 & 17 often confuse me!

Asking many questions to the Yijing is most often not very helpful and does not bring any positive progress to your situation. If you don’t give yourself the time to understand the first answer from the Yi, then there is no use in asking again – and again – and again. If the root is not properly planted the tree will not grow. The same goes for all the systems that can be applied to extract meaning from the answer, adding information to information. They also form a terrific fire exit if you don’t (want to) understand the first answer. But it doesn’t make the answer go away, it only obfuscates it. Therefore, “too much is less than enough”.

Again I find myself mostly agreeing… 😉 . As I was saying in the thread about the first post, people often ask repeated questions not out of impatience, but out of a lack of confidence. They don’t understand at once, and so they think they will never understand at all; they don’t trust their own intuition as guide, and find little or no value in their own natural response. The key is (as Harmen was saying in that thread) to give yourself time not to understand. You immerse yourself in the reading, you keep on reading it as answer, you ask yourself questions about its imagery… and understanding starts to emerge. This may take a few minutes, hours, days or months.

One way to simplify the whole thing is to allow time for choosing the question, too, and start by asking only what you need to know – but that’s a discussion for Law 4.

Points where I don’t agree –

If you do allow that time not to understand, and then to understand, and then find another question arises… then there’s no reason I can see not to ask it. And of course some questions naturally belong in pairs.

And I especially don’t agree with,

The same goes for all the systems that can be applied to extract meaning from the answer, adding information to information. They also form a terrific fire exit if you don’t (want to) understand the first answer. But it doesn’t make the answer go away, it only obfuscates it.

On the contrary – the systems for going deeper into an answer are there to give people more time with that first answer. They often reveal that the follow-up questions aren’t necessary because those questions are already answered. They can become a way of ‘adding information to information’ and evading what the answer actually says (so can lots of things), but they are not ultimately about getting ‘more information’ but about diving deeper into the reading and getting a stronger sense of what it has to say.

For instance, if I need to do some 13-ing, create some harmony with people, what do I not need to do? Hexagram 7: lead an army; run a ‘campaign’ to realise my objective; start regarding P as an obstacle or an enemy rather than a partner. Where might I be coming from? Hexagram 12 – utterly blocked communication, no messages getting through. That’s certainly recognisable, so how can I get it ‘unblocked’? Have a look at the trigrams and their associated Image text, see what changes to create ‘harmony between people’… and so on.

Law 4 –

When you cling to your question you will lose the answer.

This Law is similar to what I talked about in another article: questions can be misleading and drive you away from what you actually need. Asking questions to the Yijing is not bad, as long as you take care not to frame your question in such a way that the answer that you need can not be given. Questions are a very subjective matter, and questions like “is he the right guy for me” make it easy to ignore your own responsibility. Don’t be afraid not to ask questions, the answer from the Yi can be more encompassing if you leave out your own limited understanding of the situation. Therefore, “if you cling to your question you will lose the answer”.

I wrote a post in response to that article of Harmen’s, too. In the comments, several people described how they had received the answer by not clinging to the question.

I’d suggest asking a question that’s as open, simple and direct as possible – but asking, all the same, because the practice of thinking out what you need to know and putting it into words as a question is useful in itself, and because it is much, much easier to read what Yi has to say as the answer to a question. Is the answer telling you what someone else is doing, what you are doing, what’s happening in general, what will happen next, what you should be doing…? Especially for those beginners who are already having trouble trusting their intuition, it doesn’t help to add this extra layer of uncertainty. Just asking ‘What do I need to understand about this?’ is enough to simplify things, without limiting what Yi can say.

There are two important points implicit in Harmen’s ‘fourth law’. First, that your choice of question can make it enormously hard for you to hear what you most need to know. To ‘Is he the right guy for me?’ I’d add ‘How does he feel about me?’ ‘What will he do?’ and, as often as not, ‘What will happen?’

I find it helps to examine my question before I ask it, along these lines:

‘I want to know whether he will reply!
Why do I need to know now whether he will reply?
So I don’t have to live in suspense any more!
Why do I need not to live in suspense?
So I can think straight and see what to do next.’

So what I need to know now, in this moment, might be ‘what’s most important for me to tackle next?’ – or even ‘how can I live with suspense and still think straight?’ Or, come to that, ‘What do I need to understand now about this?’

The second point is that it’s as well to hold only lightly to your question as you read the answer. The question is your gateway to understanding the answer – because, and insofar as, it’s a clear and direct expression of what you are asking in your heart. The Yijing responds to your whole self, through your question.

I’ve had someone ask me,

‘I asked the Yi whether I could succeed in accomplishing a, but in its reply it seems to be advising me to do b instead – so has it failed to answer my question?’

In a sense, I suppose you could say that it has. More to the point, it has answered you: what you need, the reasons why you want ‘a’ so urgently in the first place. This is another moment when you can lose the answer by clinging to the question.

One response to More laws of Yijing practice

  1. I like both of these, with at least half a nod to Hilary’s exception on 3. Not so much with the Han and Wing and new age algorithms, but if you are exploring interpretive dimensions that may have been used by the authors (and I would of course count bagua in zhen and hui position, opposites, inverses, zhi gua and fan yao here) I think working your way around the problem is perfectly legitimate. I do like the fire exit comment though – it can be as much a distraction as asking too many questions.
    On three, I think this was first said of Americans: a mile wide and an inch deep. The impatience and shallowness that we see so much is part of the reason there’s so much fate and so little higher purpose. Even people who don’t like the probabilities of the yarrow stalks might justify the method simply because it slows people down.
    On four, I think the Yi talks in a couple of places of the importance of asking the right question instead of just getting right answers. A lot of times the answer requires approaching the subject or inquiry from a completely different angle or level.

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