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You are the expert

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Recently, when I don’t have any particular news to link to, I’ve taken to making my forum signature read, “You are the expert on your own readings.” I’ve found this is something people really need to hear. There’s a very widespread tendency to rush to commentaries, or the helpful people on the I Ching Community forum, instead of listening to and trusting your own natural response to what the Oracle says.

Don’t misunderstand me – I love helping people with their readings. But all too often, I hear this:

“Oh, I had a feeling it was saying this… It really felt as though it was speaking to me, but I’m not the expert, so I don’t know, I’m not sure. Perhaps I got it wrong.”

And I respond every time that they did not get it wrong and that their immediate feeling of the Oracle speaking to them was actually their reading. It’s not something to second guess and dismiss before you go and consult a real expert who can tell you what it really means.

Why you are the expert

When you consult the Yijing, it responds to you as a whole person. It both answers your question and responds specifically to your way of thinking: it joins in with the conversation in your head. No one else is going to know how you are talking to yourself about the subject in the privacy of your own mind. The Oracle responds not just to how you word the question, but to how you picture the situation and the imagery you’re thinking in – whether you feel you are engaged in a fight, say, or in a climb, or maybe drowning. Whether its response echoes your thoughts or it challenges them, you are uniquely well placed to recognise what it’s saying.

This does not just come with experience. I’ve had clients who in their very first reading, their first ever encounter with the Yijing, were able to take the reins and do the interpreting themselves. I just needed to unpack the imagery for them and show them how it all worked together.

Also, you may have unique personal connections with the imagery of your reading – connections no one else would know. Possibly my favourite example of this was a father who asked about helping his daughter who has cerebral palsy and received Hexagram 16, Enthusiasm. The name of this hexagram also contains a component meaning elephant, and some people actually translate it as “Elephant”. I wouldn’t always necessarily mention the elephants to a client, but on this occasion it felt like a good idea. And the father explained that when he did relaxation exercises with his daughter to reduce the spasticity in her muscles, he would say, “Tell the elephants to let go of your legs.”

I’ve mentioned this example before, chiefly because it’s one where I had the rare presence of mind to seek my client’s permission to share his reading experience. But it’s a striking one because, obviously, nobody else was going to know what those elephants meant. I certainly didn’t!

And with experience, you will also develop your own unique associations with hexagrams. Hexagram 16 provides an example here, too: it’s one I’ve received again and again when asking about responding to limited time offers. (That’s the kind of thing where you can get lifetime access to some exciting piece of software but only if you buy now; if you wait, it’s going to be much more expensive.) Hexagram 16 talked to me about my wild, elephantine enthusiasm for these things which was largely ungrounded in the consideration of whether I had any use for them at all.

Now, Hexagram 16 is not always about being unrealistic and carried away by enthusiasm and imaginings. Sometimes, as in my most recent podcast, it’s exactly the attitude you need. But when I, in particular, am thinking of buying something and get Hexagram 16, I know what to look for, because I have this series of readings in my journal. For anyone else to get the message, they would need to know all my readings as well as I do.

How to tap into your own expertise

Using help

You may be saying, “This all sounds good in theory, but in practice I don’t understand my readings at all, and I need help.” Being the expert on your own readings is not at all incompatible with getting help. The point is that when a book or another person offers you an interpretation, you are the only one who can decide whether it resonates.

A newish member of the I Ching Community has actually taken to signing off all of his reading posts with “Take what resonates and discard the rest.” This is good advice overall – with the one proviso that “what resonates” is not necessarily the same as what you want to hear. (We do occasionally get friction at the I Ching Community when an interpretation offered is just not what someone wants to hear – which isn’t fair on the person who took the time to help.)

Also, when you are looking for help, again in the forum or in conversation with a diviner, in a private reading or from a book of commentary, look for a helper who doesn’t just “tell you what the reading means,” but someone who will help you relate to what the Oracle says. If you’re a beginner, you may need help to recognise yourself in the reading’s imagery and trace a pathway from that to understanding. But it’s that pathway you’re looking for. You need to understand where the interpretation of a reading is coming from – it should ‘show its workings’, as it were.

On your own

(Some tips you may have seen from me before!)

The very best advice I can give you is to take your time with your reading. Read what the oracle says: read it aloud if you can, and listen to it as an answer. Play with the imagery. Pretend whatever commentaries you have access to don’t exist. Sleep on it. And don’t be alarmed if you don’t understand everything at once!

For guidance on how to go about all this – connecting with imagery and navigating the many parts of a reading with confidence – I can recommend my own Yijing Foundations Course, which is available on its own or as part of Change Circle membership.

The best Yijing book you will ever own is your own readings journal. It doesn’t matter too much what you use for this, provided you can easily refer back to your past readings and find the ones with the same hexagrams (a first step to developing your own unique shared language with Yi). This is made easy with the Resonance Journal, which is designed especially for Yijing readings.

And take the time to listen for your own response to what the Oracle says. A reading is a conversation. You ask Yi a question, it responds (maybe it asks you another question); the response to what it says arises within you. All this interaction is your reading. So when something strikes a chord, when you have an inkling of what it’s saying, give that some space and keep listening! The absolute worst thing you can do is to mistrust your inklings, shut them down, and rush off in search of an expert.

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