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(!)

{ from: The Book of Gardens }

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