From time to time, someone asks me about the validity of consulting with a computer program. Does it work – are the answers real? I always say yes, it works. What matters is not the physical method, but the quality of your attention.
I have plenty of experience to back this up: both powerful, clear readings that came via a computer algorithm, and stories from people who have cast first with the computer, then had second thoughts and turned to a more tangible method, only to receive the same answer again. The cosmos works; the Yijing works; you can’t break it by using a computer.
All this is certainly true. If you’re in a dark room, it doesn’t matter whether you open the door or the window shutters; the light will enter through any opening you give it. Everything’s made of Yi-stuff, including computers. And it’s certainly the quality of your attention that matters, and all the rest – coins/ computers/ beads/ stalks, incense/ meditation/ ritual/ none – is only important insofar as it affects that.
Which means, of course, that it can be supremely important.
Something that makes a great difference for me: where I consult. Most of my readings are done sitting behind my desk, by picking up the beads that sit beside the computer keyboard. (And then I record them in my journal – only I prefer casting with beads, visualising the hexagram in the mind’s eye before I see it on paper or screen.) But consulting outside is different.
When I was asking Yi how it was made, I found myself heading outside to ask: feet on the earth, under the sky. Big questions seem better asked with trees for company. I’m not sure why… it could be because readings are about connecting with reality, and it feels harder to do that from inside the artificial cocoon of wires, wifi and double glazing. The force that makes hexagrams is everywhere – but when I’m out in the woods, that same force is busy photosynthesising, decaying, squawking, climbing, growing, buzzing, weaving… hard to miss.
Yesterday I took water, lunch and the tablet and gave myself as long as I wanted out in the woods. It was bliss. And… when I wanted to talk with Yi, and had omitted to take beads with me, I couldn’t bring myself to use the perfectly good app installed on the tablet. Instead, I used three oak leaves in place of coins.
How to consult the Yi with three oak leaves
- Ask permission politely from the tree.
- Toss the leaves in the air and let them float down.
- A leaf that falls with its rib running along your line of sight (pointing towards/ away from you) counts 3; a leaf that falls across you, at right angles to your line of sight, counts 2.
- Since casting this way takes some concentration, you may want to keep track of the lines as you cast them:
(Of course, then I took this photo with the tablet before using it to jot down question and thoughts and look up the text. Wonderful stuff, technology.)