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Questions of choice

choicetreeI spend a lot of time thinking about what we ask the Yi and helping other people find their questions. This is a bit odd, because finding the question really isn’t complicated at all. It’s not a matter of devising a question nor even really of deciding on one, but of finding it: discovering what you’re already asking.

I think it’s one of those things that are simple but not necessarily easy. And when it isn’t easy – when your question doesn’t leap to the eye – then talking to yourself helps to unearth it. It works well to ask yourself questions.

The simplest one is, ‘What do I need to know?’

(It’s worth digging a bit more into the answer to that one, to test its truth. Why do you need to know this? What difference will the answer make?)

Another good question question: 

‘Where is my choice?’

One way I sometimes help people find questions is through the application of some quite dry logic, to find just where they’re perched among the branches of their ‘decision tree’ –

‘If I do x, I could do it this way or that way or maybe that way, and I could do that now or later and when should I tell my friends…?’

– well, your question might be about how to do x, but it might be about whether to do it at all. We often need to disentangle ourselves from the twiggy bits to get back towards the trunk of the decision and find the choice we have now.

This kind of ‘decision reading’ seems to be only a small subset of possible readings. Certainly the ‘decision tree’ approach isn’t always the most effective way to find someone’s true, heartfelt question. (You might end up barking up the wrong tree altogether… 😉 ) However… while not all readings are ‘decision readings’, it’s hard to think of any reading that isn’t about choice.

There is always a choice somewhere. It’s not necessarily ‘what to do’, of course – there may not be anything to be done, or you may not have much meaningful choice in your actions. But you’re still consulting Yi about a choice – maybe how to be with the thing, how to think about it, how to relate to it…

And if you’re getting tangled up in the ‘decision tree’, it may be that there’s a prior choice of how to be and relate.

For example – I’ve been sunk deep in redesign work for months now, and while I’m making respectable progress, ye gods and small fishes is this taking ages. What should or could I be outsourcing, and to whom, and how could I avoid having an experience like last time (outsourcing to an ‘absentee web designer’), if it’s even possible to be sure of avoiding people like that…?

But before I get embroiled in what and how and even whether to outsource – where is my choice, really? I think it’s in how to think about what I’m doing, as I spend hours and hours every day up to my neck in templates and css files. Is this wise? Is this self-sabotage? Time-wasting? Is it some other thing I haven’t imagined? I don’t want to start taking decisions about what to do next until I’m more settled in my attitude to what I’m doing.

So my first question was What am I doing with the redesign? (and my second one was …and what should I be doing with it? closely followed by how about hiring this person to help with the forum menu?)

(What I’m doing, by the way, turns out to be Hexagram 31 changing at lines 4 and 5 to 15 – in other words, not self-sabotage nor yet completely off-track, though with some to-ing and fro-ing. I’ve added a note to WikiWing about line 4.)

3 responses to Questions of choice

  1. you make the good point re choice – underlying everything we do represents a choice “when to or not to raise your voice” (courtesy George Harrison). That choice itself is what drives a decision-tree, methinks.

    The hardest part in getting something done is simply making the choice/decision to do it. “If something’s not right,it’s wrong” (courtesy Bob Dylan) can make choices easy. If a choice cannot pass the most basic smell test of is it right or wrong AT THE OUTSET, in the end, you could’ve known the end from the beginning.

    On a more practical level, your web work is effective and shows clarity of thought. yes, you can spend LOTS of time on dealing with CSS issues (caveat: i used to design websites with PHP/mySQL – i’m a programmer now doing smartPhone apps, so I can feel your pain, believe me) but you have an affinity for it – and it helps to express yourself.

    Handing it off to someone else can be rewarding in terms of time saved, but a dis-benefit, perhaps, in not obtaining the satisfaction of achieving a successful outcome yourself doing something you enjoy.



  2. Thanks for your comment and the fellow-feeling!

    The hardest part in getting something done is simply making the choice/decision to do it.

    Yes… but this decision isn’t a one-off, it has to be taken every day. I think 31.4 has something to do with that.

  3. Thank you for these new approaches to the I Ching!!

    I was elated to try out the question “What do I need to know?” It struck me as a novel question to ask, indeed. So I did & received: 42 Increase (changing lines: 1 yang, 5 yang) changing to 23 Splitting Apart.

    Now, at first I was excited to read the hexagrams in a new way, as instructional. But after a day or so I saw that the hexagrams are still unfolding in a linear way. As my insights into the I Ching suggest the hexagrams are like a map unfolding with the seeds of the present into the immediate future.

    So the kind & great heart of 5 yang & the supreme deeds of 1 yang represent my greathearted excitement of a new way of working with the oracle & the question itself was a great new deed or act. The Splitting Apart represents my culmination with the questioon in the heights, & probably anticipates the undoing of the question.

    As you see, my scale for the I Ching is that it is representational & not counseling. Still very profound oracle but has its limitations, I think, in application & in the dimension of time.

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