Before you think about putting your question into words, just immerse yourself in it. Let all the issues, hopes and fears involved bubble up to the surface – writing, or talking it through with a friend, might help.
(I normally write out all the circumstances, dilemmas and emotions behind my question in my reading journal before I cast. I find this helps to bring these things firmly to consciousness – keeps me from squirming away from the difficult parts – which clarifies the whole conversation. It’s also really useful to refer to when I’m looking through my reading journal later.)
Odd, but true: the best preparation for bringing a real question to the oracle is to ask yourself some searching questions. Think of it as the beginning of the conversation. The Yijing is already asking silently, ‘How can I help? What do you need me to show you?’ So ask yourself…
- What’s brought me to the oracle?
- What do I need to know?
- What difference do I want this reading to make?
The question that emerges from this process will often fit into one of those ‘templates’ I suggested earlier –
- What do I need to understand about…?
- What best to do about…?
- How can I…?
- What if I…?
In other words, you might be asking for a description, or for advice, or for prediction. Any of these is fine – and often a single situation will lead you to ask each kind of question in turn. You just need to be clear in your own mind about what you’re asking.