Hexagram 12 is called Pi 否 – Blocked, Standstill, Stasis, Negation. It encapsulates the experience of being denied and stymied. The noble one’s constancy bears no fruit: despite your best, most creative efforts, it just isn’t happening.
The Sequence into this one is (as so often) quite enigmatic:
‘Things cannot end with flowing together, and so Blocked follows.’Hexagram 12, Xugua
Yes, but why can’t things end with flowing together? Hexagram 11, Flow, with everything in sync and working smoothly, seems like a perfectly balanced, sustainable state of affairs. Why should it be superseded by this hampering and frustration?
I’ve always had the feeling the answer to this lay somewhere in the nuclear hexagram of 12: 53, Gradual Development, with its Image of the tree on the mountain, growing immensely slowly. Could being blocked and slowed down this way somehow make for stronger growth?
In his lovely book, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben explains how a sapling just a few yards high, one that looks to be ten years old at most, could actually be over eighty.
This is because the parent tree, in whose shade it grows, is absorbing about 97% of the available sunlight with its dense canopy of leaves. The tiny trickle of light remaining isn’t enough for the sapling to grow; it can only survive.
So at once I think of ‘Heaven and earth do not interact’ in the Image, and the young plant that can’t see the sky and liberate its full potential for growth. Here’s a perfect picture of being Blocked and unable to make progress.
But then comes the eye-opening information. This comprehensive shading and ‘blocking’ by the parent tree is actually known as upbringing. It makes for robust, sturdy saplings, because they form tiny woody cells with very little air. The small cell size makes them more flexible, less likely to break in storms; the density makes them more resistant to fungal infection and better able to heal wounds from browsing deer.
Trees – like those in artificial plantations – that grow freely in full light from the start have a much shorter life-expectancy.
And this is why trees, at least, need Hexagram 12.