Sharing with a friend, the despair of my previous post, she asked me if I had consulted the I Ching.
I confessed that had not occurred to me. Silly me. When it gets this bad, the I Ching is a valuable place to turn.
So now I have.
As I first write this, I am working on what has happened in draft form, with an eye to sharing it, but also prepared that it will never see the light of day. What I know, at this stage, is that I need to do the work I am about to do. I also know that my life is profoundly connected to the life of my Quaker community and that I may share some of my work with them, as an offering.
(If you, dear reader, don’t know the I Ching, I have explained something about it, and about its place in my life here. This links you to one of the “pages” that are listed the right side of the home page, a page that is named “The I Ching.” It’s a long piece, a story of its own, and you probably want to continue reading here before following that link. Still, I am writing with the assumption that readers here know at least as much about the I Ching as I have shared previously.)
As I explain on “The I Ching” page, the work begins with formulating a question for the I Ching. My post “Sinned?” of eight days ago is a cry of anguish rather than a question, so my first step was to formulate a question for the I Ching that did justice to my emotional state. Two days ago, late in the day, tired and discouraged, I wrote in my journal:
“The ‘Sinned?’ entry on the Gaia Voices website still applies today. I am paralyzed with fear, afraid to know something within me that…
Dear I Ching, I have just spent a day of numbness… I feel miserable.
What can I say to you?
I feel like I am running away–actively avoiding. I am not dead. Most of the time I do not feel miserable, but when I turn my hand to my ‘work,’ clerking, my neurosis is there, preventing. I can fight it, painfully and unsuccessfully, or drink, or run away in other ways.
I believe that much is at work below awareness, ‘within’ me and ‘without.’ I believe that at some level I am keeping the faith, by at least staying aware of my situation at some points during the day.
And perhaps there is nothing to do but wait. Perhaps I am suffering and working as efficiently as I can.
Dear I Ching, I do not feel it is ‘wrong’ that I come back to this miserable place day after day, if I must. I am even willing to go through the drama of falling down as clerk, if that is the best alternative. Still, I feel there is a chi-jam here that could be loosened, if I had the wit and the will. Can you offer any guidance?”
My six throws of the coins yielded three solid lines and three broken lines, in this pattern:
_ _ .
I had thrown hexagram number 17, “Following.” (The dots to the right of lines 3 and 5 represent “changing lines.” More on that later.)
Following is greatly developmental: it is beneficial
if correct; then there is no fault.
Following means going along. As for the qualities of the hexagram, above is lake, joyous,
and below is thunder, active,
it means self and others in accord, others rejoicing when one acts, acting to the delight of others–therefore it is called following.
The hexagram represents seeking feeling through essence
true yang will not come unless there is a way to summon and absorb it. The way to summon and absorb it is the path of following.
(In the book, the text that followed was so dense that I made myself a little chart:
feeling, the other
the essence, the self)
In this hexagram, thunder and lake join: Thunder, associated with the east, represents the essence, the self; lake, associated with the west, represents feeling, the other. In the beginning of life, essence and feeling are one. The primordial true yang is originally in oneself, but when it mixes with acquired conditioning it is lost outside, is no longer one’s own but belongs to other. If you want to get back to the origin and return to the fundamental, you have to steal it back from the other.
Hmm… Looking at this from an outward point of view I hear it saying I must steal my essence back from the other, the crowd, with it’s expectations of who I am, or ought to be, which I have accepted as my own. If I am to act in harmony with the Tao, with Gaia, the larger wholeness, I must violate the status quo. And from an inward point of view I hear the I Ching saying, “you say you are feeling miserable, but those feelings are not of your essence. You are right to stay here day after day in this miserable place, disappointing yourself with your self-demeaning avoidances. You are following the Tao, imperfectly, but more perfectly than you have in the past.”
Following as a path is going along with what is desired, gradually introducing guidance. Going along with desire means the self follows the other and gets the other’s favor, inducing the other to come follow the self. Other and self following each other, essence seeks feeling, feeling returns to essence, and that which had been lost is restored to oneself. This is great development by way of the path of following.
In my life, as I have spoken about it often here, I would equate what the I Ching calls ‘desire’ with what I have been calling ‘my needy-greedy.’ (I have issues around lust, around mis-use of alcohol and of eating beyond satiation.) Especially since approaching ‘mychrist’ about a year ago, I have been more tolerant of my desires. I have been more willing to follow them, to allow them, to try to make friends with them, rather than just getting into big fights with them, or indulging in them unconsciously. My fears at what I’m approaching encourage me to run away into unconscious expressions of my needy-greedy. I have yielded to them, but as moderately as possible, and I have tried to stay aware of, to watch, my flights.
However … a small slip produces a tremendous miss. Therefore, for the great development of the path of following, correctness is most beneficial. Correct means right — following rightly, the self sensing rightly, the other responding rightly; when self and other are both right, even artificial feeling transforms into true feeling, and even artificial essence changes into true essence.
I think in the Christian tradition we would call this transforming of the artificial to the true an “act of grace,” not something we can will or accomplish out of our own powers. But we can try, striving and hoping that, while our efforts seem patently inadequate, a satisfactory outcome may still be obtained.
Essence loves receptivity and rectitude in feeling, feeling loves compassion and benevolence in essence; strength and flexibility one energy, essence and feeling joined, we return to pristine purity. Wholly integrated with natural principle, the golden elixir crystallizes, tranquil and unperturbed yet sensitive and effective, sensitive and effective yet tranquil and undisturbed. Those who are faulty at the outset wind up impeccable in the end. Try to understand when following is right or wrong, good or bad.
It’s important to go slow, with the words of the I Ching. I first saw this particular text two days ago, and have returned to it several times. And only now am I appreciating the depth these words can offer me. If following needs to be done rightly, if our creaturely self and our eternal self–our feeling and our essence–are to follow each other into a wholeness, what does our essence need from our creaturely aspect?
Receptivity – an openness to what we did not know.
Receptivity on the part of feeling would mean, an openness on the part of our feeling –acculturated– parts to the apparently alien presence of our Tao-self.
Rectitude – a lack of reactivity on feeling‘s part, even when things appear alarming, a slowness to respond, and a preference for small, careful responses, rather than large ones.
And what must essence offer to feeling, for feeling to be willing to let essence come closer?
Compassion – essence (an expression of the transcendent Tao) needs to feel and project a sense of ‘feeling-with’ feeling. My needy-greedy is not separate, ‘bad;’ even if my creaturely aspect does things the self (essence) would not, self feels compassion in the presence of feeling; the heart of essence goes out to feeling in love.
Benevolence – a befriending, a caring for, an offering of one’s resources to. If feeling is to accept being followed by essence without freaking, and in turn is willing to follow essence, essence must not only feel compassion, essence must actively care for feeling, must express benevolence.
And when essence and feeling are joined, the wholeness, the Tao-self, exhibits “strength and flexibility [in] one energy.”
(Suddenly, I’m trying to see the above section through your eyes. It may not seem as sublime to you as it does to me. If not, what I can say is that you are having an opportunity to watch me converse with the I Ching. I was feeling pretty desperate. I tossed coins and consulted a book of timeless wisdom, and it responded to my situation in ways that steadied me in my struggle and lifted my eyes to a higher goal than my former miserable preoccupation. While the above section may not speak to you in the way that it does to me, at least I want to stand as witness: there is an invisible world; we can find guidance in it; there are opportunities beyond our mundane comprehension, near at hand.)
The above work was done between 9 AM and 2 PM on October 29. Reading it the next morning, I feel comfortable having it go out, as written. There is more to do, and I imagine I’ll turn to that now, but no need to wait to send this out. It’s already longer than enough.