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Still not enough time for the I Ching

Still not enough time for the I Ching

Some 11 years ago (!) I wrote about people telling me they didn’t have enough time for the I Ching, and the gifts of time it offers. Well… we haven’t got noticeably less busy since 2008, and I still hear this quite often.

What distresses me most are the people who explain they’re as interested in the Yi as they ever were, but just now their life has become too stressful: they’re doing something too new, or going through too many changes, and will probably come back to the Yijing when things have settled down.

This isn’t called the Book of Settled Things: it’s made for times of stress and change. For me, it’s second nature in impossible, harried moments to grab the beads and ask for help; I wish it could be that way for everyone. (‘Help!?‘ is a very good question for Yi.)

To sum up what I wrote before: yes, a reading takes time. Also, it’s worth it.

A firm grounding in the full reality of your situation; understanding the scope and limits of your responsibility; a clear vision of your next step: these things save time, in a purely practical way. And beyond that, readings have the potential to transform your whole experience of time – from ‘time management’ into flow.

But now I come to think about it, I realise I get sucked into this ‘not enough time’ mindset, too. Nowadays, I’d never consciously tell myself I don’t have time for a reading: I’ve learned from experience that I don’t have time not to do readings. Instead, I can get my head down, immerse myself in something, and somehow forget I know an oracle that can help. Only when a friend asks, ‘What did Yi say about it?’ do I realise that it would have something to say, and I could usefully listen. I just get too deep into doing stuff.

Advice from the Oracle

And so with all this in mind, I asked Yi for advice to help solve the problem of not having time for readings.

Yi gave me Hexagram 29, Repeating Chasms, changing at line 2 to 8, Seeking Union.

changing to

It starts – as readings often do – by acknowledging you. If you feel you don’t have time for readings, it’s because you’re in the midst of repeating chasms, navigating one pit after another, swimming as hard as you can – and looking for a lifebelt, not a swimming lesson.

In other words, Yi isn’t describing this as a problem of time management, nor yet of misunderstanding what the oracle is. The issue we call ‘not having time for readings’ is just Chasm stuff: overwhelm (see the Sequence from Hexagram 28), falling, darkness and the unknown. It’s in absolute uncertainty that we stop asking.

white-water torrent in a rocky gorge
‘Ah, but have you fully considered the fan yao and zhi gua?’

‘Repeating chasms.
There is truth and confidence.
A connected heart creates success,
Movement brings honour.’

Hexagram 29, the Oracle

The first requirement in the chasms is fu, ‘truth and confidence’: being where we are, and trusting that. This is going to be hard, mid-chasm, when we’re probably concentrating on being somewhere else as soon as possible.

A ‘connected heart’ is a diviner’s heart: bound to reality, intuitively within the flow of the time. Be where you are, connect – we need to get in the habit of noticing when we’re lost, and asking then – and act from that connection.

Amidst Repeating Chasms, Seek Union:

‘Seeking union, good fortune.
At the origin of oracle consultation,
From the source, ever-flowing constancy.
No mistake.
Not at rest, coming on all sides.
For the latecomer, pitfall.’

Hexagram 8, Oracle

I’ve written before about how Hexagram 8 is about the origin of oracle consulation with stalks, and with it the ability to name and know patterns.

From my previous post:

The oracle consultation referred to here is clearly, specifically, divination with stalks: the first such divination, its origin. Why stalks, not the more ancient tortoise plastrons? Could it be because the tortoise oracle says, in essence, either ‘Yes, the spirits are with you in this idea of yours’ or ‘No, they aren’t’, but the stalks say, ‘Here is an image of how it is’? Like Yu, Yi makes images for us so we can recognise what we’re seeing.

I think that’s what we really ask Yi for: a picture, a pattern for comparison. ‘What’s happening?’ ‘Here – this is.’ ‘What if I did this?’ ‘You’d be doing this – here, have a look.’ We look at the picture Yi offers and recognise the pattern it invites us to see. ‘Oh,’ we say, ‘It’s like that. ’  We get a feel for the situation; we get the picture.

Hexagram 8 musings

So when we’re in the chasm and aspire to Hexagram 8, we’re seeking that kind of connection: to form a cogent picture of where(/when) we are, recognise it and know what kind of time this is.

How can you seek union from the middle of repeating chasms?


‘The chasm has sheer sides
Seek small gains.’

Hexagram 29, line 2

Typical Yijing advice: direct, compassionate and eminently sensible. When you don’t have time for a reading, seek small gains.

That’s not a major life insight from an in-depth reading, or a grand solution to sweep all the problems away. (We know the Chasms don’t work like that: the only way out is through.) This is Yi as flotation device, not deus ex machina.

In fact, I’ve sometimes found people in the midst of the chasms are actually scared of doing a big reading: it’s much more helpful to ask something small and immediate.

The issue might not be so much with finding time for a reading as with finding the emotional capacity. There’s the moment of asking, not knowing what Yi will say, and then there’ll be the reading itself to absorb. Things are already quite intense enough without adding something huge and portentous from Yi; we’re already bearing enough reality to be going on with.

So instead of looking for a question that encompasses the whole situation, you could try,

  • ‘Help for today?’ or
  • ‘What to remember?’ or
  • ‘What’s one thing I could do differently?’ or
  • ‘Next step?’

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