Stepping off the treadmill. Exhaustion: A Beginning.

"Y" came in for an I Ching reading today, and we had a lovely discussion and contemplation. After an initial meditation and explaining the basics of the process (something I'll soon blog about for future reference), we hoped right into it, and this is what she threw:


As per the norm, we focused in on the images: water inside lake (on the left) and then wind inside thunder (on the right). The Image, focuses your mind onto the task at hand. Words like Lake, Thunder, Wind… these are broad enough in scope that your imaginative ability readily attach themselves to. The Qualities of water inside lake, are described as danger inside joy, and the title of the hexagram is Exhaustion. "Y" is moving out of a time of exhaustion - indeed, a knee surgery(!) - and into a time of Constancy.

Numbering the lines from bottom to top (one through six) there are natural correspondences between 1&4, 2&5, and 3&6. With Exhaustion, as we can see that by these correspondences, only one pair is  in balance right now: lines 1&3. This pertains to "Y's" Personal foundation - her own thoughts on herself - whereas the next two lines - indicative of the Inter-personal, and the Societal - are not balanced: there is a double yang in the interpersonal lines (2&4) and a double yin for the Societal (3&6). This can read as too much activity between herself and others, and too much passivity by herself with the world. Such is a picture of exhaustion: ones energies are withdrawn by the world out of necessity, and communicating with others can be taxing. The lesson of Exhaustion is to bring in the energies available onto oneself to avoid further calamity.

Here in this reading, as the time moves into Constancy (hexagram #32), there is a much more balanced picture taking place - each yin is paired to a yang. Lines 3 and 5 are changing lines… How Y understands the world is moving into a more active time, and how she incorporates others into her life is becoming more receptive. Indeed, Y mentioned how she has been branching out toward a variety of modalities over the past while, gathering new information, and how she is finding a finer and fuller sense of equilibrium with her children.

Our discussion over the course of two hours was very rich, touching on a number of subjects, including Depression. The thing about any given emotion is that the sooner it becomes named, the sooner a person can move on into the next thing needed by our situation and our Life Force. Exhaustion is one such thing. We both regaled in stories where the exhaustion was so great, truly all one could do was laugh. So with the I Ching, anything whose 'skin' appears negative, also holds a large turn-around; an inversion of energy. Thus is Exhaustion the sign of a beginning. Unlike my last reading with Fi, where she was grateful for the increase of the feminine coming back into her life, here, there is an arising 'masculine' presence in-coming by means of the action of Thunder in the second hexagram. Certainly being post-surgery requires a time for healing, and then a time for active recovery. Y  has bee steadily moving into such a transition for several months. 

Thunder is in the top half of Constancy, the Elder Brother, whereas the other three trigrams are all feminine: Water, the Middle Daughter; Lake, the Youngest Daughter, and Wind, the Eldest Daughter. It is interesting to note how exhaustion is characterized by the two younger girls, and Constancy is characterized by the two eldest children. Certainly there comes a time within all healing processes where a push from the bigger-brother-within, is a welcome thing.

By the time our discussion moved into Family Position, I had illustrated the method of how I Ching brings the mind closer and closer in to the qualitative focus one eventually brings onto the question. The Image begins the task (i.e.: water, thunder, lake, etc) - like opening a door - and the Quality focuses the mind and concentrates the energy (i.e.: danger, action, joy), and the Family Position concentrates things yet again. All of these focuses - layering them on  one by one - bring out the hermeneutical feeling of what the original question of "Y" asked. Sitting with the feelings at each stage very much quiet the mind - at each stage - and the culmination of these stages allows for very rich thinking and decision making.


I confess here… this isn't one of my more eloquent blog posts… I've cut to the chase largely for "Y's" benefit, because she got so much out of our discussion… and BECAUSE I'M EXHAUSTED. :) Which is of course all fine-and-good. I am looking forward to a Christmas break from things. I am very proud to have published my Book of Gardens this year, and am diligently building the website for it.  When I work in-person, I definitely take my cues from the person in the room and can tell if I am speaking way above a person's understanding or not. My goal is to share such a rich method of self examination. What took me 18 years is certainly not going to land in a few hours, but the excitement for the basics will! 

The urgent message of my book stands, that amid the decisions upon us all today, what direction will we take?.. "Y's" exhaustion parallel's rather characteristically of our so-called 'trickle-down' economy, which seems to only trickle down an increasing amount of pressure for the 'little guy.'  

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Much of the discussion in the back of the book pertains to the many divides we build and sustain daily with our human actions - monetized by credit instruments. I illustrate the psychological mechanisms which has us rather bound to growth-economics (i.e.: scarcity thinking) and that from the cause of this being through the very 'money' supply we use to meet our needs, our human problems go very much mis-diagnosed as intrinsic, personal, and inter-personal - whereas in fact it is a cultural monetary policy which keeps us trapped on a treadmill. You can read more about iT here, and purchase a copy - here.

Once I've introduced the basic lay-of-the-land with I Ching as I did for Y today, the discussion inevitably becomes rich and multi-directional. I'm also beginning to notice commonalities from one reading into the next, namely, the total surprised-recognition of the Questioner when I announce the titles of their hexagrams. This very much speaks to Thomas Cleary's work of translation, that his titles hit the bullseye each time with each hexagram study. His work is thorough, and his scholarship absolute tops. It took many years to digest his work, and I'm proud and lucky to say I have many more ahead.

It was a delight to sit with you today Y, and I hope to see you again for another Question.


Progression to Joy: Return of the Feminine.

It’s approaching the two year mark since I began offering I Ching readings to people and I continue to marvel at the omnipresent sense of reinvention housed in this ancient avenue of study. I equally marvel at the degree of shared enjoyment which is generated by the study of the I Ching. 

A new friend and colleague, Fi, is the first person to have two readings with me, one week apart. Each time, she cast a hexagram with some subtle change, and overall, a very interesting and highly sequential picture came clear. I found this extremely inspiring for how much the I Ching reveals always and quite simply what-is:

There are two clear progressions taking place here, and one inversion: Yang shrinks in the upper half/trigram, and by the fourth hexagram yang increases within the bottom/lower half. There is a constant progression toward a greater yin presence, while steadily, from below, the constancy eventually births a second line of yang.

Fi, recently completed a major construction project and expressed feeling relieved as of late to ‘invite back in the feminine,’ after having been in such a rough-and-tumble environment working alongside nine men. “42, Increase,” is a picture of this time of action within action: Thunder below, and Wind above. Thunder is a ‘masculine’ action and stays constant on the inside/below for the first three hexagrams before changing into Lake (… Joy) … Wind, above, in the first hexagram, describes a feminine action. Together, Wind & Thunder make for a storm of activity - as indeed building a house must be…

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Though we did not discuss gender in any overt way during our discussion, there is a significant and steady tipping of the scales in the above sequence of hexagrams. Each trigram has a family position. Here, in the first hexagram, Wind, the Eldest Daughter, is above Thunder, the Eldest Son. Qualitatively these family positions suggest different levels of authority and ability, and the progression here is very interesting when parallel to Fi’s recent accomplishments. 


Looking just at the top halves of this series of hexagrams, we have: Wind, the Eldest Daughter, moving into Mountain, the Youngest Son; moving into Earth, the Mother, the receptive in full, and remaining as such into the fourth and final hexagram.

Fi made mention of a sense of relief having got through such a major project, and expressed a sense of gratitude for the feminine flooding back into her day-to-day. And indeed the upper half of a hexagram is indeed how ones thoughts-and-actions are moving out in the world.

In the lower halves of this series of hexagrams a different pattern reinforces this development: Thunder, the Eldest Son stays steady and constant for the first three hexagrams until changing into Lake, the Youngest Daughter, Joy, in the fourth. Biologically, eldest children generally take on responsibilities at the arrival of younger children. So overall, in this progression of hexagrams, this kind of authority, or decisive quality is waning, making way for more youthful energy... The lower halves of a hexagram reflect back more ones thoughts-and-actions within one's sense of self, or ones interior and private world. So the overall picture then is one of Fi needing great strength, or perseverance, to get through to this new time of arising (and intrinsic) joy. 

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Lake, is indeed synonymous with Joy. Fi, is indeed strong, healthy, fiery, and with great will. This reflects back the image of Thunder being constant (and on the Inside) for so long. Thunder is sudden and decisive. Wind, is forceful and flexible. 

As we look again at the first two hexagrams, the change which takes place is a ‘loss’ of one yang line. Conversely, this is a ‘gain’ of one line of yin. That process repeats into the third hexagram in this series, leaving only one yang line left - her resources worn down, making way for qualitatively different resources to arise. When we look upon Thomas Cleary’s titles for these hexagrams, we move from “Increase,” to “Nourishment,” to “Return,” and then finally into “Overseeing.” If we were to ascribe a narrative to this progression, certainly a return to the mature (and happy) feminine is very present.


In her second reading (the third & fourth hexagrams pictured above), I spoke on hexagram #23, Stripping Away.


As you look upon it, you can see it is ‘flipped’ in comparison to #24, Return. I prefer the word inversion, and the I Ching hosts several different kinds of inversions. Thomas Cleary is an exceptional scholar who illustrates fully how Yin/Yang are in constant motion, and at the ready to invert into their other at any given moment in time. Yin/Yang are dynamic energies, rather than fixed entities. Both Return, and Stripping Away, when side-by-side like this depict a kind of exhaustion, and I’d like to suggest that where in #23 the exhaustion comes along by surprise, Return illustrates a sense of complete acceptance. I'll illustrate this better at the end of the post, from an example within my book

Through this particular sequence of four hexagrams the top trigrams inherently depict a kind of ‘stripping away’ … Yang is stripped back until there is only one left: activity and action head toward their natural rest, and the benefits of rest arise. Reflectiveness become present. This, is Return. … The inversion which very much catches my eye though is how the top trigram in the first hexagram inverts into the lower trigram of the fourth(!) Wind… inverts into Lake… That sense of age, responsibility and weariness, becomes spent and is replaced by an invigoration: Wind 'converts' into Lake; Action, inverts into Joy(!)

As I explain to everyone who comes to me for an I Ching reading - I am not a psychologist - so I do not want to know what your question is. I will speak to the movement of the energy of yin/yang at hand, only - as in the above - as I’d rather not be biased inside the reading. Doing so, the Questioner (you) becomes a very present partner to exploring what houses your underlying energies. NONETHELESS, a titbit in conversation always arises which becomes the jewel to shine a light through onto the reading. Clearly, Fi is headed into calm waters, away from the storm - the thunder and wind. She leaves the mountain pass and reclaims the joy of the mother earth around her.

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It is clear to me now that after so many years of personal reflection through I Ching, that now I have moved with a good and happy certainty into the level of inter-personal reflection, bringing my study into the lives of others - an important change in and of itself for any endevour. And, no doubt it is my aim for “The Book of Gardens” to contribute to a broader, cultural, contribution…. All steps along the path. 

I'll leave you with a selection, #24 Return - enjoy! And may you find time for a little wonder & relaxation today(!)

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