Most people seem to get started with the Yijing by asking about a relationship. It’s a good way to start: it’s present, immediate and something you care about – when you ask these questions, you’re really asking them.
It’s also potentially tricky, that mix of getting started with overwhelming emotion. Easy to get tangled up in doing reading after reading that isn’t really helping you at all, without even noticing. And this is a shame, because readings can and will help: Yi offers clearer insight and more complete understanding (of the other person and of yourself), things that provide a stronger foundation for that relationship you’re building.
(Note: I’m writing this article assuming you’re asking about a man, because writing s/he all the way through feels silly. It’s all just as true if you’re asking about a woman.)
So, how to start?
One reading at a time
First, start with one reading. Read everything it says, together with your question, and allow yourself time to understand. Sleep on it. Ask for help if you need it. Think about what difference this answer makes – how you’ll respond to it, whether there are things you’ll change.
Yes, it is very tempting to ask questions in dozens so you can get all the answers at once, clarify everything and leave no shred of doubt. Problem… it doesn’t work. You bounce about between your dozen or two dozen answers and don’t have the time or focus to take any of them in, let alone respond to them.
(Tip: there are online readings, like the one at this site, that make it quick and easy to ask. They do give genuine readings; Yi isn’t fussy. Nonetheless, for your first few readings, I strongly recommend you get pen and paper and three coins and cast your own hexagram. It’ll give you a much better understanding of what you’re looking at and how it fits together; also, when you have to spend the time to cast, it gets much easier not to ask your next 23 questions.)
Starting with one reading means you start with one question. It’s never hard to think of one (or thirty) in these situations, but some lead to much more helpful readings than others.
Basically, any question designed to make things emotionally safe for you before you take any risks (or any more risks) counts as not-so-helpful, because it’s trying to achieve the impossible.
I can think of a couple of ‘making it safe first’ questions…
Crystal ball questions
‘What will happen?’
‘Is this meant to be?’
What will happen depends on what you choose and what he chooses. ‘What will happen if I…?’ is a better start to a question, because it recognises your choice. But he also still chooses freely and will not be tied down by an oracle. ‘What difference will it make if I…?’ is a more lucid kind of question here.
‘How does he feel about me?’
with its friends,
‘Why is he doing this?’
‘What did he mean by that?’
‘Why isn’t he calling me?’
This is a radically unhelpful question in a whole lot of ways.
Does he want you to know the answer to this? And if he doesn’t, is it at all reasonable to expect Yi to help you to spy on his inner life?
If you can spy on his inner life, and he’s confused and his feelings keep changing, all this is going to show in the reading. It is not going to be easy to understand. Also, it is not necessarily going to be true tomorrow.
It is hugely, terrifyingly hard to interpret these readings objectively. It’s excruciatingly easy to respond instead by building a fantasy relationship-castle out of a string of readings, with each question based on a misinterpretation of the reading before. What you end up with has nothing to do with the reality – and yet it is strangely addictive. It’s always easier to ask another question – fitting the curtains and carpets in your imaginary castle – rather than actually going and talking to the man himself.
And on that subject – substituting readings for communication does not make for a good relationship.
If you’re in a relationship with someone and can’t ask what they mean or how they feel, then a better question to ask might be,
‘What can I do to help us to communicate better?’
Come to that… substituting obsessive speculation about what he feels for becoming conscious of your own present desires and choices? “If I knew what he felt, I’d know what I can safely let myself feel”? That also doesn’t tend to work. (If only…)
And finally, it’s surprisingly hard to ask a clear, unambiguous question about this. For instance, is ‘how does he feel about me?’ meant to give you a picture of his emotional state? Or of how you appear when seen through his eyes? Believe me, this is not something you want to be trying to work out after casting the reading.
Questions that help
A possible first question (remembering that you’re starting with just the one) might be,
‘What kind of relationship could we create here? What’s the potential?‘
It’s true that this is perilously close to asking, ‘What will happen?’ The difference is the awareness behind the question.
You know that the relationship is something you and he will create; you know there is no stone tablet with your relationship future carved into it, ready for Yi to download for you. Still, some relationships are just never likely to get far, some people are not what they seem; Yi can help you to avoid disasters. Also, spending time with one of these responses gives you a chance to discover how you feel about that potential.
Seeking to understand
A useful question in an ongoing relationship – asking how he feels.
Yes, I do remember the first half of this post. But these readings can actually be helpful when you’ve already asked questions about yourself, and when you’re in an existing relationship (by which I mean one that any outside observer would recognise as a relationship!) and having problems. Yi can help you to see how things look to him, so that you can listen better when you talk.
‘What do I need to understand about…?’
‘How does this look to him?’
can be helpful. You do still need to be absolutely clear about what you’re asking – whether it’s to see him through Yi-eyes, or to see through his eyes. Is either possible? Will you understand what you see anyway? There are no guarantees – but you can at least avoid the hideous muddle of not knowing what you’re interpreting.
If you’re not sure whether it’s right to ask, you could even start with a question like, ‘What difference would it make to talk with Yi about x?’
Questions about yourself
Anything that’s about you, here and now, is likely to help.
These are the questions we forget to ask, and – of course – they’re the ones that can make most difference.
‘What’s going on with me here?’ (for instance ‘what’s up with how I react when he does that again?’) This is good to know.
Or try, as I was saying, ‘What difference would it make if I…?’
(But only if you are willing and ready to do that thing now, and not just castle-building! The reality of your intentions does reflect in the reading.)
Asking for guidance
Possibly the most helpful question to start with is just to ask for advice.
‘What’s the best attitude to take to this relationship?’
‘How to be with this?’
You may even find that’s all you really wanted to know.