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Too many readings?

Too many readings?

This was going to be a simple post

A worried client emailed me. He’d just been organising his journal, listing all his readings, and found there were a whole lot more on one topic than he’d thought. He said he was wondering if he’d become ‘a bit of a Yi-aholic.’

What’s a ‘Yi-aholic’? Someone addicted to readings, someone who does too many readings – but how many are ‘too many’, and how would you know?

I had a clear, elegant answer to this question, I thought, so I emailed it to him. Then I thought I would write it up as a blog post, and give the post more ‘meat’ by consulting Yi on the question too. And that – predictably – is where my nice clear, simple post started to go sideways.

My idea: readings to avoid reality

A good sign that you’re doing too many readings (I wrote to my client) is that you’re using them to avoid reality. That’s exactly the opposite of what readings are truly for, and yet it’s uncomfortably easy to do.

The classic example is the woman who doesn’t want to talk to him about their relationship, and asks Yi instead. How does he feel about me? How does he feel about the other woman? And then she follows up with more readings about her hurried interpretations of the first readings, and swiftly builds a whole castle in the air of subtle relationship analysis – all without any contact with him at all, as that contact could so easily demolish the whole edifice.

But there are other ways readings can depart from reality, too. There’s consultation with Yi when there’s a human expert available (a doctor, a lawyer, a financial adviser) who could give a clear, definite answer that’s not open to interpretation. And there are readings when you already know what to do, you just don’t much want to do it, so perhaps you (by which I mean I) start asking about optimal timing or something. Like I said, this kind of avoidance is uncomfortably easy.

Yi rearranges my ideas

So after outlining the above, I thought I’d cast a reading to give me more idea of how to recognise this reality-avoidance thing.

‘What does unhealthy, excessive use of readings look like?’

There aren’t any explicit assumptions in that question, but there was one great big assumption behind it: that I knew what ‘Yi-aholism’ was, and just needed more of a picture of how it manifests.

Yi did not oblige. Instead, it gave me Hexagram 19, Nearing, with lines 1 and 2 changing to 2, Earth:

‘Influence nearing.
Constancy, good fortune.’
‘Influence nearing, good fortune.
Nothing that does not bear fruit.’

Hexagram 19, lines 1 and 2

Whatever else that reading is, it is not a picture of anything unhealthy or excessive. Influence – connection, rapport, being moved by the oracle – is nearing; this is good fortune; nothing does not bear fruit.

‘Nothing does not bear fruit’ sounds like ‘there is no such thing as an unhealthy reading,’ or at least not in the realm I was imagining. They’re all ‘influence nearing’ – all connection with the oracle.

On reflection… because this reading seemed to call for some of that… perhaps this is just human nature, that we need to draw near to an understanding through readings, find a way to relate to hard stuff, before we confront the bald reality. Understanding wells up and grows in its own time, and ‘arrival at the eighth month means a pitfall’ – there’s no benefit to inducing it prematurely.

(Is there anything at all in my idea of ‘readings to avoid reality’? I’m reluctant to let it go – but perhaps I should.)

Yi’s idea: readings to shoot fish

So if ‘reality avoidance’ isn’t a good description of the problem, what is? Because I think we know there are healthier and less healthy ways to engage with the oracle; we recognise the unhealthy ways when we see them (especially in other people, naturally).

Time for another reading. The question sounds very similar, but the mindset behind it was different: realising I don’t get this after all.

‘How can we know when there’s a problem with readings – what are the signs?’

And Yi answered this one with Hexagram 48, the Well – so often its choice to talk about itself – changing at line 2 to 39, Limping:

‘In the well’s depths they shoot fish.
The jug is cracked and leaking.’

Oh.

Shooting fish in the well – a reading with immediate utility, looking for an answer I can use, right now. This isn’t about watering the growing crops, it’s about tonight’s supper. I choose my target, focus and shoot. I’ll get exactly what I aimed at, if I get anything. (And incidentally, accidentally, my shooting might just crack the jug I’d need to draw water.)

Think of the other way of approaching the Well: lowering the jug until the water flows in and fills it. It could not be more different.

What are the signs of a problem with readings, then? They could be a string of readings that are nothing but ‘How can I achieve x?’ and ‘What if I try approach y to achieving x?’ Lots of readings hemmed in by assumptions that I know what I’m aiming for, and can see all the choices available. Even if I got a perfectly clear, usable answer to each reading – a fish with every arrow – I’d still have to keep on coming back again and again, for lack of any deeper understanding.

(Not avoiding reality, exactly – just remaining ignominiously unaware of all of it except for one measly fish.)

Postscript…

I’m pretty sure this reading is talking to me personally, about what misuse and overuse of the oracle looks like when I do it. (I’m trying to escape that, at the moment, by returning to weekly open readings: just asking for guidance and letting Yi set the agenda, for a change.)

I’ve shared this reading anyway because it’s so clear and eloquent, but the answer might well be different for you. If (and only if!) you’re concerned about your own reading habits, don’t take my word for anything, but ask Yi instead. A more open question, like ‘Please show me a picture of my consulting habits,’ could be good.

I Ching Community discussion

2 responses to Too many readings?

  1. “Too many readings ?”, and I know the whole idea with your blog post don’t lay in this question yet it reminded me of the times I’ve been to a kindergarten for one or other reasons and also when I in the midseventies worked in such one, always were met with questions, questions, questions and more questions from “those small kinds of ladies and gentlemen” and I do think that we, in relation to the I Ching also are small children and that it is OK to ask, even the most stupid questions which, seen from the Hight’s of this Sage, ain’t stupid or silly at all. Children could be called masters in asking questions yet their questions will never be felt stupid nor silly. I have many times wondered about questions I asked the I Ching about and like You mentioned above, whether these questions were asked by me for me to avoid the reality at hand like: “Leave the problems to the I Ching” – but I also do think that in the end, it’s better to ask when in doubt than not.

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