Each year on my birthday, I ask Yi for guidance for the coming year. Then over the course of the year I revisit the reading, finding guidance and gleaning understanding as I go.
At least, such is the theory. Last year’s reading, cast on 7th December 2015, was Hexagram 55, Abundance, changing at line 4 to 36, Brightness Hiding.
I could recognise the 55 moment, the imperative to take responsibility, do the abundance of things to be done (like redesigning the website) with the abundance of energy and motivation available to do them. And I could recognise 36 as my general tendency to want to stay safe by staying invisible. (Not the most helpful tendency to have in my line of work.) But the moving line…?
‘Feng is screened off
At midday, seeing the Dipper.
Meeting your hidden lord,
So here is Wu of Zhou, the new leader, finding his city shrouded in darkness, not quite able to see where he is, but with guidance still clearly visible. (Yes.) And then he meets a hidden lord, a ‘Yi lord’. The Yi people were not normally allies of the Zhou, on the contrary, but Wu made common cause with them against the Shang. So I generally read this line to mean seeking and finding an ally where you wouldn’t normally do so.
“Because of the importance of what you have to do, you will meet what you fear – and because you can see your direction so clearly, you can bring even the hidden lord into alliance with your greater purpose,” says my book (rather ponderously).
“Meet your enemy! He might be the one you need. Sometimes the very things which hold us back contain the energy which can help us to gather the strength to go on,” says LiSe, conveying more in fewer words.
So I understood all about hidden lords in theory, but who was mine? All through the year, I couldn’t seem to spot one. I got more help from a web developer than I might otherwise have done, yes, and I listened to advisers whose perspective is different from mine… but really, I didn’t meet anyone very dark or mysterious. I revisited the reading periodically without being any the wiser, and started to wonder if this might be one of Yi’s giant jokes: that the hidden lord was so well-hidden you’d never know whether or not you’d met him.
With about three days to go before my birthday, I sat down and asked myself again – who is this Yi lord?
And – as usually happens when I’m prepared to sit and get into dialogue with a reading – I had a moment of recognition, remembering a couple of encounters that I realised were with the Yi lord.
There was a conversation that looked like it must surely become an argument: we were clashing over deep convictions, and when that happens my default setting is to respond in self-defence, as if my very self were under attack. But my interlocutor paused to say, ‘I don’t want to argue’ – and that brought me up short.
And I’d been reading Facebook posts from someone saying she had voted for Trump, and sincerely inviting civil discussion to build understanding. To be clear – I found her invitation disingenuous, and I think standing against what Trump represents is wholly necessary. But that’s also not the same thing as having a row on Facebook, and the parallel, the not-arguing, was striking.
In each case I found myself thinking – if this isn’t an argument, what is it? If I’m not on the defensive here, what am I doing? And I realised that my next impulse was to ask how can I help? And especially, how can I help this person to inhabit the real world?
Of course, the Trump voter would no doubt claim to have voted in the ‘real world’: one where we are under threat, and human compassion might be all very nice in theory, but we can’t really afford to extend it to those people who are not like us, and hence scary and not quite real. But that is a fairy story – a construct – a bubble. Not real.
Scratch the surface a bit, and I can find my own inner Yi lord, living in her own little fantasy bubble of fear and threat. The more visible I become, the more she has to say – in fact, she’s been vetoing this post for a couple of weeks now:
“You can’t post this,” she explains, reasonably, “because people won’t accept it – or you. Sharing openly might be all very nice in theory, but you can’t really afford to do it, it isn’t safe, because Those People” (she never quite explains who They are, but she knows all about Them) “don’t believe you’re real, and they’ll hurt you.”
It takes more effort, but I can also at least entertain the idea that this bubble-world might not be real, either.
The deep underlying reality and the stuff the cosmos is made of is connection, meaning, compassion. How do I know? Because readings work. Reality acknowledges, responds and talks to people; I help by making that reality a bit more obvious.
So what can I learn – a bit late – from 55.4 to 36?
I’m familiar with 36, Brightness Hiding, as relating hexagram. In that position I find it mostly has to do with believing that you’re in danger and need to hide your light. The belief can be based on experience, and it may be true now, or it may not. It’s also possible that the light hidden under the earth is being kept safe, like the spark of a fire banked up overnight.
The Yi lord is a dark figure who, oddly enough, somehow manages both to inspire such beliefs and also represent them: he (or she) is a threat, and also believes in a world of threat. And so this is stronger than just, ‘Someone you wouldn’t normally consider as an ally’: it’s someone opposed to all I stand for. But what if I’m at Feng, at the heart of my calling and work, and the Yi lord shows up saying, ‘I don’t want to argue’ and ‘Let’s talk’? If I’m not fighting this darkness, not defending against it – if I’m somehow meant to be making an ally of it, of all things – and I cannot begin to describe how bizarre and unnatural that seems to me – then what on earth is that going to look like?
This is still a mystery to me, but I think it has something to do with the Yi lord’s power to clarify a calling and galvanise action. The changing line’s in the fourth place: first steps in the outer world, asking, ‘What can I do?’ Also, it’s the first line of thunder, the trigram of initiative and setting things in motion. The energy of Yi is added to that of Zhou. (Which is exactly what LiSe’s commentary said…)
I also found, in the moment, that having ‘How can I fight off this threat?’ taken out of the picture left a lot of space for ‘How can I help?’ – for compassion and a desire to share.
A couple of days later, I cast my reading for this year, and received 22.214.171.124 to 21.