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Reflections on Lasting

Reflections on Lasting

A little background

Let me set some context for this one.

Back in November 2021, I’d just finished planting garlic round the half-dozen raised beds I’ve created over the years, then mulching the beds with a good layer of compost, ready for sowing the following spring. The next day, we had a visit from our old landlord’s executors to say they would be selling up, so we would need to leave in the New Year.

We’d lived in the same home for some 28 years, and I’d put down deep roots. There was the orchestra where I’d played for most of that time; the woods across the road and the nearby common where I know the trees; the local Stroke Club where I’d volunteered for some time, that I’d been running since 2020; chamber music once a week with a wonderful violinist, musician and friend. And we were going to have to move to a completely different part of the country to find a big enough house that we could afford, so I would be leaving all of this behind.

Three weeks later, on my birthday, I cast my reading for the coming year, and received one unchanging hexagram: 32, Lasting.

Lasting?

I’ve had plenty of opportunity since then to reflect on what that can mean – helped by the fact that our rather unusual approach to the process means that a matter of days before leaving, I still didn’t know where I’d be moving to. Instead I found myself packing my life into boxes and moving it by the van-load to a storage container, with no idea when it might come out again. I felt as though I was playing Jenga with Maslow’s pyramid.

The name of the hexagram

Hexagram 32 is heng, Lasting – defined as constant, ordinary, habitual, a constant rule. It also has associations with fixing the omen – that’s ‘fixing’ in much the same sense as fixing dye into cloth: how you carry through a reading and intentionally make your new understanding last, writing it deep into the fabric of your life.

What kind of thing Lasts? The Chinese character itself gives a good hint:

heng, Lasting

It shows a heart, and what Richard Sears calls a ‘sun path’: the sun and/or moon between the east and west horizons. This component means ‘extending all the way across’ or ‘all the way through’. Sears summarises this as “Two sides of the sky with something going across – boat, sun, moon, stars.” I wonder if perhaps different scribes had different things in mind. But in any case, the core idea is the same: there’s a habitual course, a cycle, a never-ending journey. And the idea that Lasting means change is baked in: the moon is known for it, after all.

Somewhere to go

‘Lasting, creating success.
Not a mistake.
Constancy bears fruit,
Fruitful to have somewhere to go.’

‘Fruitful to have somewhere to go’ has sounded like one of Yi’s worse jokes to me at times: well, yes, ‘somewhere to go’ would indeed be a nice thing to have. But it is an essential part of Lasting – normally, I’d say it’s what saves it from running on auto-pilot, just going round and round in a rut. You have to ask, where is this going? What are these habitual patterns and ‘constant rules’ creating?

In this reading, it reminds me I need a sense of ‘towards’ as well as ‘away from’ – don’t just try to hang on to your life as it was, Hilary; ask where you’re going. What’s next? What do you want to explore? And think beyond the uncertainty to envision your life on the other side of the chasm.

(I’ve found this extraordinarily hard. There’s no logical reason not to have a vision for work when I don’t know where I’ll be working, or for health when I don’t know where I’ll be walking, but there’s a real mental block nonetheless. If it weren’t for this reading, it’d never have occurred to me to try.)

The trigrams bring the same sense of ‘towards’, of momentum:

‘Thunder and wind, Lasting.
A noble one stands firm and does not change his bearings.’

It’s revealing that the trigrams that create Lasting are not rock or still water but their inverse: thunder and wind, the most mobile trigrams, probably the ones you’d most naturally think of as bringing change. The noble one doesn’t stand firm and refuse to budge; he keeps moving in his chosen direction. It’s fruitful to have somewhere to go.

Influence Lasting

All this is natural when you remember that Lasting is inspired by Hexagram 31, Influence.

‘Influence, creating success.
Constancy bears fruit.
Taking a woman, good fortune.’
‘Lasting, creating success.
Not a mistake.
Constancy bears fruit,
Fruitful to have somewhere to go.’

Oracle texts for hexagrams 31 and 32

When I read those two Oracle texts in succession (always a good way of connecting with the Sequence), I get the sense that the initial promise of 31, welcoming in the new and its potentials, is carried through into Lasting – not a mistake – where it becomes this sense of direction. Whatever begins with falling in love, with being moved…

‘Influence calls, Lasting endures.’

Zagua, Contrasting hexagrams

…with what calls you – this can Last.

I’ve been responding to Lasting in two ways, each of which feels more important at different times depending on the degree of uncertainty of any particular day: what lasts? what can I hold on to? – and what do I want to ‘fix’ in my life? what do I want to create that lasts? Both of these start with Influence: what moves me and brings me to life.

For instance, finding habits and routine that express my identity and will last no matter where I end up living. There is nowhere in this country I won’t be able to go out under the sky each morning, or practise the ‘cello each evening. Wherever I am, I can sit down and write, do readings, talk with Yi, and of course, just as soon as I’m sure of an internet connection, get Well Gatherings underway again for Change Circle members.

And then, of course, there’s the tradition behind these two hexagrams: that they represent attraction and marriage.

‘The way of husband and wife cannot fail to endure, and so Lasting follows. Lasting means enduring.’

Xugua, Sequence of hexagrams

That’s a good, literal and direct reminder for me, with no interpretation needed. Working this out together is a powerful experience.

What lasts?

I wonder whether the authors of the Tuanzhuan, the commentary on the oracle, might not have been inspired by that picture of the moon between two shores:

Long-lasting in its dao, the dao of heaven and earth, heng is long-lasting and never stops. Favourable when there is somewhere to go: an end must be followed by a new beginning.
Sun and moon are set in heaven
and can shine on for ever;
the four seasons change in sequence
and can go on for ever.
Sages are long-lasting in their dao,
so that all under heaven can be realised.
Observe what is heng, and the nature of all things in heaven and earth can be seen.
(Rutt, Zhouyi)

I’m not often drawn to the Tuanzhuan, but I do love this passage. ‘An end must be followed by a new beginning; sun and moon are set in heaven and can go on for ever, the four seasons change in sequence and can go on for ever, sages are long-lasting in their dao‘ – or literally on their path. It could not be plainer: Lasting happens through change.

Bradford Hatcher adds another image: ‘We are what remains of that plucky, old lungfish who first crawled up onto shore. Some of that fellow endures. We persist by adaptation, not by remaining the same.’

What lasts?

The cycle of the year keeps turning. That storage container we rented is in a business park surrounded by open fields, and as we packed box after box of belongings into its depths, the skylarks flooded us with a torrent of song. I’ve harvested the mustard greens I planted last year, seen the garlic shoot up, the beech hedge come into leaf and the wisteria into flower one more time – and yes, the jackdaws are nesting in the chimney again. I’ve been reminded that wherever I am next spring, there will still be nettles to harvest.

The final laurel tree that I just barely managed to save from the chainsaw in 2018 still didn’t escape being ‘shaped’ – having maybe half its canopy hacked out. Many of the remaining branches died off, but it sent up a defiant mass of suckers and is still growing strong.

Lasting Laurel

Marriage lasts.

Yi lasts. (It’s been doing OK for the past few millennia.)

So does Clarity – or in other words, so does my connection with you. At first, I thought I’d put most of my work on hold until we were settled again. That turns out not to be practical, not when ‘unsettled’ looks set to last (!) most of the year. I have to find ways to keep creating and serving and making a living while in this interesting limbo – and again, it’s partly a matter of developing a routine, and partly of having ‘somewhere to go’ and a vision for life on the other side of the move. Consciously fixing the omen, creating Lasting, is a human activity in the face of change.

Essence of lasting

One last reflection – the nuclear hexagram of Lasting is 43, Deciding. ‘We are what we repeatedly do,’ as Aristotle didn’t say: Lasting contains an emergent decision. Hexagram 43 brings the message: here I am, here’s who I am. Or as Bradford Hatcher asks,
‘Between yourself and your cells, what is it that you reduce to or keep?’

Beech and wisteria, Lasting

I Ching Community discussion

7 responses to Reflections on Lasting

  1. Hilary, I am new here; still finding my way through your work and the forums. My immediate, although uneducated response, as I began reading this post, is that Lasting seems right because the things that seem central to you are lasting; your writing, your music, your husband, and this 2-decade-old amazing platform. I certainly am familiar with the upheaval of a forced move – the shock, followed by endless disruption, but I imagine you will plant your garden of vitality, magic, and wisdom in any place you inhabit.

  2. Loved this! I am so inspired by it.
    I am in a similar process of upheaval, have been letting go of 30 years accumulated roots since December with the aim of shaking of the the last of the tethers by August and relocating to the other side of the country…
    ‘Thunder and wind the most mobile of trigrams’ something to hold onto (how?). I can feel as I ponder it that I can’t hold onto lasting – the thunder and wind need to become part of my inner being… And when I begin to allow them to shake up my inner core I feel myself coming more fully to life…
    Thank you so much for sharing this reading, I have a large smile now as I contemplate my move…

    • I’m glad!

      Interesting thought about not being able to hold on to Lasting – maybe if we’re trying furiously to hang onto something, that’s a pretty good sign that it doesn’t Last…

  3. At first glance it does seem as though 32.Lasting should be an omen for calm and quiet but when we look at the Image, the wind and the thunder, it seems to be saying the situation is full of change and upheaval BUT with a little flexibility one will be able to endure. The lines also give encouragement on how to stay sane through it all, mainly by not trying too hard to make the current situation permanent but also by not being too eager to change it either.

    • 🙂

      I haven’t really studied the lines of 32 as a group – I should. Lots of nuance and shifting perspectives on when to hold firm and when to let go.

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