Different Parts of the Being

It was a great pleasure this evening to offer I Ching Guidance to someone ten years my senior. Though in matters such as mindfulness - or to use the words of my new friend, M, soul - age is just a number, and how one puts learning into practice is everything. On that front, the evening was rich with conversation.

Being new to I Ching, M, asked all kinds of questions about the process and about my soon-to-be-available-publicly The Book of Gardens; and it was a true joy to have ready and practical answers. We chatted on the various narratives we are all susceptible to - notably the religious and economic ones - getting swept away to a story, tied to its ending, often having to overlook the means by which we may arrive there... Certainly the narrative of constant-growth economics ties us to an end which never finds fruition... And as I argue in the Book of Gardens, such a narrative has us believing and acting in a way that keeps us feeling very separate and isolated from everything around us - especially each other...

I went through the questioning process of honing in onto a question, which is both the most fun and the most difficult of part working with I Ching: "Different parts of the being," said M, "are asking the question."

And he's quite right.

{ Rossetti: How They Met Themselves watercolour, 1864 }
We all have a question present to us. We all have various things occurring in our lives which present themes. If you are alive you are probably learning. The degree to which you are conscious to your learning may vary from person to person, but in the heart of all your thinking - always - always there resides a question... Part of the process - just as M described - was to ask first, well: "How do we listen?" How do we listen for the question..?

We each have roles to play on behalf of each other, and we each have a sense of duty to ourselves, and balancing these competing sets of needs make for many questions - many voices - inside of our thinking. Taking the opportunity to sift through this, and get to the central theme of ones life is what I Ching is all about, and why it will remain a timeless classic for our species. Using the question - something truly unique to You - brings out your innate concentration, and leads you toward generating your own insight to what is best to your own life. The only 'trick' to the process is to make time for it. Using I Ching Guidance, is one such opportunity that I offer to you, and greatly enjoy sharing.

These two sets of voices then - the outward responsibilities, and the inward - reminded me of the Doppleganger myth. According to German legend, the moment of your death arrives when you face your twin as if in a mirror. It is as if the other version of you - living out his or her days autonomous to yours - wanders equally on this planet, going about stuff, confused yet searching, and then BAM! meets his or her twin...You! The myth then describes the dying process as one hyper-quick flashback through your time seen through the eyes of the others who encountered you moment-to-moment-to-moment... You literally see your life 'flash before you.'

As I mention in The Book of Gardens, such a myth only raises a foreboding second head if one has something to hide.

Which I suppose is where Mindfulness and the I Ching comes in. I Ching makes physical various loci of attention otherwise buried in the day-to-day maelstrom of your thinking. As usual, I was taken aback by the relevance of what the coin-toss brought out:

#17, Following.
Just as one must follow through to find a question, so too does one follow the events and energies which insulate ones thinking from even asking the question. One follows - either consciously or unconsciously - the predominant set of thoughts which 'speak' the loudest. Underneath it all though - when we look - resides always our truest, most deepest wish. This process I call The Practical Value of Wonder.

It's like a vitamin for your neurology, creating space and uncovering the vitality for your best thinking.

At this time, all of M's coin tosses revealed yin & yang in their 'young' states. That is, the energies in each line are just establishing: the time is new, and none of the energy is moving away from their given state.

Following, is characterized by the image of Thunder inside the Lake; the quality of Action inside Joy; as well as the characters The Eldest Son and The Youngest Daughter. These are various contemplations to concentrate ones focus on the question at hand.

To envision this, place your concentration of the 'Inside' at your navel, or the belly. Bring to mind there the image of Thunder as you have experienced thunder in your time thus far. From there, move to the idea of having action generating there from the Inside. Thunder, containing a masculine quality, or suddenness, or sudden strength, can also be imaged there inside your belly. Take some time to sift through this - the image, quality, and character - and make them personal to you. Personalize their energies, and feel them as they reside in your body - here, in the belly. The action of thunder, says much about M currently on the Inside.

On the outside, or just behind your forehead, imagine the image of Lake,which is synonymous to the quality of Joy. As I write this five blocks away from the beach here on this hot July afternoon, it does not take too great a leap to pair Lake with Joy...

#17, Following.

When we look here upon the correspondences between the bottom and top trigrams, lines 1 & 4 are both yang. This may illustrate a congruency for M at this time, in that his sense of self-hood is well established. The potential caution is of excessive yang which burns itself up more readily: but here both lines of yang are young yang, which speaks to me of having crossed through a time of transition, positioned well in what is fresh and new.

Lines 2 & 5 have yin inside yang. This is the area of interpersonal relations, and having yang in the fifth position (close to the 'leadership' of the sixth line) is generally a good thing. Every good leader needs excellent managers and supportive workers. Balanced and supported by the line below, this shows that M is in a place where he is flexible toward others while being active socially. Again, both lines are young and establishing, so the potential for growth and simultaneous renewal is present and balanced.

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And in the last set of correspondences, lines 3 & 6, both are yin... which returns us again to the idea of being open and flexible to M's place in society, and how M is thinking on society. M is quite ready for new information and experiences.

So... what with all this seeming random positive-ness, what else is M to do other than to follow his own understanding of truth and benefit? Each step brings us closer toward seeing ourselves in our fulness. What - or rather, how - would you like to greet such a person?...

I am of the conviction that taking regular time to listen in for ones truest Question - to be present with your immediate sense of longing - is of immense health-giving benefit. It allows for our best decisions, personally, interpersonally, and how we may then become global citizens.

Thanks M. Looking forward to a round of Chess!


Observing Opportunity.

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Human curiosity is a lovely timeless thing. No matter what life hands us, curiosity truly just waits under the surface.

To that end, I met with a curious new friend for a hike and I Ching Guidance the other week. No, I'm not giving guidance to cats just yet - we'll save that for our later years - but curiosity and cats do pair together so well, and the site of 'dressing cats up as sushi' seemed too good to pass over. 'Hell' may be fashioned for the inquisitive, but I'd rather ask, than have a hell sneak up on me.

My friend S cast the following combination of hexagrams, with one minor movement of old yin into young yang in the top, sixth, line. This is in the area of how S moves, acts, and thinks on society as she is out-and-about in the world. Such an area for change is something which I think many of us will relate to today: how we are perceived, our life satisfaction, our vulnerabilities, our habits, and what is available to us to answer the questions and callings within...

My last post illustrated decently the areas of image, quality, and character contained by a hexagram study, so rather than explain these fresh again here, I'll dive into the deep end.

On the left, hexagram #8 Accord, is characterized by the image of Earth inside Water. The qualities of which are receptivity inside danger, or, receptivity inside mastering pitfalls.

Hexagram #20 Observing, on the right, is characterized by the image of Earth inside Wind. The qualities of which are receptivity inside action.

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Briefly meditate on these images/qualities for a moment. The inside (the body, or the belly) is filled with the receptive, the Earth. Imagine how readily the Earth bends to our will. It accepts whatever is given: storms, fires, excavations, industry, grumpy humans throwing things at it... The Earth makes way and accepts all the forces that move above and through it.

Breathe deep into your belly and torso this notion of receptivity, or the receptive. Breathe with this for several large breaths until you begin to relax and the imaging becomes more subtle... Underneath the surface of our Earth, thrive millions and millions of its subjects, churning out a rather serious cosmic compost, giving and taking lives, ashes to ashes, dust to dust... Breathe this sense of Earth into your belly.

When life hands us a big challenge it is surprising just how long it can take to move beyond it - to digest it - and usually a person begins to do so after some time of rest and reflection. Hibernation almost; or withdrawing into the cave. That yin (the receptive) is so very present here in this casting of I Ching, and that S is now several years into co-parenting, it seems natural that an accord has been largely developed, and S moves now toward an active change for how S is perceived in the world. Certainly the readiness to jump into an I Ching reading speaks toward that readiness - to seek out new information.

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On the outside then, or just behind the forehead, meditate briefly on the image of water. There are all kinds of water: rain, streams, oceans, lakes, rivers... Continue with observing your breath through your torso while imagining the qualities of water inside your head. Water amends - like Earth - to anything we give to it - boats, rocks, debris, sunken ships... and it is not something we can survive inside for any length of time without coming up for air. So there is a constant sense of 'alert' when water is present - despite its engaging beauty.

This water, this 'mastering pitfalls,' is in transition, moving in this case into Wind. Shift your meditation now to this image of Wind - moving from Water to Wind. It is a slight, yet dynamic shift. The air envelopes everything - as does Earth and Water - and Wind, covers a tremendous amount of ground quickly. Here, S's perception is growing - expanding. From a time of mystery perhaps, S moves into a time of Perspective...

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S, spoke of a quality kind of like craving in our ensuing conversation. The lower three lines of each hexagram speak to this, in that the levels of personal, interpersonal, and societal are consistently receptive (yin). Being mid life (though S argues to be 1/3 through life!) S has available all the tools to do as is pleasing: sense of self - check - established relationships - check - and professional experience to draw upon to craft further a career...

... Yet at this time, S, awaits upon word of work in the fall, and is quite ready to make the move.

The movement in the top trigrams also speaks to this shift: water is the middle daughter, and wind is the eldest daughter. The movement in character alone depicts a kind of graduation, or a growing in authority. Given the underlying consistency of yin in the lower trigrams, S, has all the personal authority at the ready to claim this next move. She is consistently receptive on the inside trigram; that is, within her inner life and perceptions.

So all may appear well, in that a decision - or by a piece of new information - all may fall into place, and presto! all may be well. And right at that point bubbled up a sense of caution for me...

That this is a time of slight and gradual transition, the level of consistency here gives rise to becoming too passive in awaiting the change. The change is taking place out in the world, so there are factors at play that if one doesn't seize the daycertainly the day will unfold as it may... There is excitement to be found so long as there is no panic to do so.

Looking twice upon this caution, the idea of 'complacency' came to mind, yet only toward how S wants to be known in the world. That is, in having the life experience to draw upon, now is truly a time for not conforming to outside ideas. Rather, today is the day for capitalizing on the inward learning that has taken place in recent years, and moving actively into a sense of Decision based upon life's little lessons it must hand us. Such qualitatively-based decision making is like making the layers of inward looking decidedly active - seeking fulfillment or Satisfaction, perhaps uncovering something forgotten or delayed, starting that thing that has yet to be tried...

After a time of great change, or even upheaval, certainly a time of exhaustion and rest are probably the best thing to be doing: rest IS the action in such times. But once any 'craving' or unsettledness stirs, it is a time to consider taking concrete action, seeking out opportunity.



Bright Leo Gazing.

I've had a couple of I Ching sessions over the last few months, but have been far too busy to blog about them. The good news contained in that is that I've readied my Book of Gardens for self-publication now, and am going to make a few more adjustments to it before releasing it publicly. An excerpt from the book came to mind while crafting this post, and is pasted below...

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My new friend K met with me today, and I had the good fortune of exchanging with her a review of my astrological birth-chart. I also had the privilege of being the first person she's offered this to(!) 

K, is not the only astrologer in her family, and sharing her process with others has been something she has been considering for some time. Similar to my first post from a year-and-a-half ago, once a person knows their source of wisdom well, much benefit and learning can be generated by sharing it with others. The exchange of insight produces more insight...

Illumination into Action


K's question drew one of the "timeless" hexagrams, #30 - Fire, moving into #37 People in the Home (Hexagram Titles are in accord with Professor Thomas Cleary's Buddhist I Ching). My own practice for describing I Ching to another has come along well in the past eighteen months, but nevertheless, describing the movement of energy demands a fair amount of attention to uncover the best words.

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What remains constant between these two hexagrams is the element of fire - or illumination - on the inside, lower half. Fire is characterized by a single yin line in the centre of two yang lines. 

As usual, I made sure I did not know K's question(s), as I look only to speak on the movements of yin & yang, ensuring that my listener works alongside me to apply the image, the quality, and the character to their own question process. I would otherwise probably fall into the pitfall of advising; and though I love the study of psychology, a psychologist I am not.

Following this pattern of considering image, quality, and character, the hexagrams arising here depict one major shift when we look at them in terms of their four component trigrams. 75% of this time for K is characterized by Fire - by illumination. At first there is fire within fire: illumination within illumination.  This hexagram, along with #1 Heaven, #2 Earth, and #30 Mastering Pitfalls (Water) are considered universal, or timeless, in that they have a presence at all times. That K was introducing herself to I Ching may well be contributing to one of these timeless hexagrams rising into play, pairing her own self-study of psyche via astrology to an introductory exploration of I Ching.

Simultaneously though, the pure Fire of this first hexagram is moving toward fire-within-wind, or, illumination-within-action. Meditating on this alone brings about a certain quality: imagine that fire-on-the-inside takes place within your belly, and fire-on-the-outside takes place within your mind, or the front of your head. Use this contemplation of image to concentrate your mind, and really centre your mental focus on these areas in your body. Though this may prove best to have someone talk you through it, if you truly place an image of a warm hearth at your belly - and stay with that for a few deep belly breaths - it cannot help but calm and focus you. From there then, imagine a second hearth just behind the front of your forehead... After a moment of focusing in this way, shift then the outer image (the one in your head) from fire, to that of wind, and note the arising qualitative difference. 

This small exercise in concentration and imagination brings your thinking and feeling onto task. Contemplating image, and quality, generally pair together like this. Much of I Ching begins with this kind of familiarity.

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Having made this exchange of Astrology for I Ching, and knowing that I was K's inaugural client, it struck me readily that her own source of wisdom has been something of a long time source of inspiration - a reliable self-study. A person cannot really offer these practices to others unless the information and wisdom has been absorbed fully. Knowing the map, one enters the territory...

The movement between this pairing of hexagrams takes place in the fourth and fifth lines - the heart & throat chakras. I draw a correlation between looking to Serve, or fulfill-a-purpose, with the movement here in the fourth and fifth lines. The heart line here becomes more receptive, while the voice/fifth line becomes more active.


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Whether her deepening involvement with Astology has anything to do with her question, I of course have no idea and nor do I want to for fear of advising falsely. However: the correlation is quite strong. Her decision to move into this avenue of work and service most likely took a great deal of reflection,  consideration and decision making. No doubt she followed something much like a guiding "light" to do so.

After describing these movements taking place in the outside (top trigram), we looked briefly on the levels of personal (lines 1 & 4), the interpersonal (lines 2 & 5), and the societal (lines 3 & 6). 

I may have written in earlier posts that the lines of a hexagram are numbered from bottom to top, but I suppose it is worth repeating just that. The first three lines then, look at the personal, interpersonal, and societal as she experiences and thinks on them in private; or, the Inside. And the top lines (4,5,6) direct our considerations of the personal, interpersonal, and societal as we experience them in real-time out in the world. The Outside. More on the contemplation of "Inside & Outside" appear here in the blog.

Looking upon the changes here in this way, there is movement on the personal and interpersonal levels - as she experiences them in the world at large (the Outside) - which, regardless of her question, correlate strongly to this move to serve others with astrology. Stated briefly: how she views herself in the world and her relations with others is here in movement. Out busy in the day-to-day, personally for her it is a time of increasing receptivity (the change taking place in the fourth line); and interpersonally it is a time of increasing activity (the change taking place in the fifth line)

Sounds like career change?? 

From the astrological reading she gave me, I happen to have an interesting configuration of planets in the house relating to career and work (ie: Mercury & Venus; with Jupiter! in higher learning & long distance travel) - so in the above description, you may well be witnessing my own bias upon career and roles coming into view, and yet I Ching hides nothing(!) It can only reveal what-is.

The third correlation I drew was that Fire can also be considered as a middle male child, while the Wind (contained in the upper part of the second hexagram in this pair) can be considered as the eldest daughter. So the aspect of maturation, or family rank, also corresponds to the enlargement into serving others with her now well-studied wisdom.


Looking a little more deeply into this idea of rank, or progress and progression, here is an excerpt from my upcoming book which looks at character as a matter of degree:

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Introduction: The Book of Gardens: A Lover's Manual for Planet Earth
by Philip W. Sarsons

(20% of proceeds being donated to Johnson's Landing )

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Lastly, we meditated together on the images: fire/illumination inside the belly, with fire moving to wind in the mind. The sensation of ensuing breadth which I experienced was rather interesting. Naturally, wind fans flames; the fire removes the excess, and the wind carries insight over a greater territory. One's vision covers more ground.

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I truly look forward to future exchanges with K, because similar to myself, K looks at any one movement of our cosmos as a movement of mind and psyche. She began her examination of my birth-chart with a review of the Kybalion main principles, as well as gazing upon a selection of tarot cards - selected in accord with the numerology associated with my birth date. As with I Ching, there are few coincidences, and the primary card associated to my birth is... The Hermit!

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Indeed: living alone on a mountainside has been one of the highlights in my life. Yet, like the Heirophant, I aim currently toward a rounder social experience which includes the mystical.

Bravo K! A world of increased Joy stands before you, and I look forward to sharing future readings greatly! There can be no greater pleasure than shining each our light onto how we understand Our Psyche, seeing our selves-as-nature. 

In time, should you develop a web presence, I'll greatly look forward to supporting you. It's a powerful thing to share sincerely from a place of well studied and integrated wisdom. 

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