Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Ching and the New Year

Happy New Year to all of us! and I hope this year will be full of whatever good stuff we're hoping for. HP and I are happy to have survived the last one, and looking forward to more time together. Quiet New Year's Eve, since HP fell asleep even before I'd got the fire stoked up and burning merrily, so I sat by it, reading E.F.Benson, and eating cheese and crackers with a nice little glass of wine. Both of us safe and well, what more could you ask?

The thing that's missing for me at the moment is a spiritual practice, since the labyrinth, which I get to occasionally, is under several feet of snow and will be for some time. So I've reverted to throwing the I Ching.

I found a nice unused notebook, one of my libe booksale acquisitions, and I'm throwing each day, recording the throw, and studying the results in my I Ching book. I did a practice throw yesterday, and came out with the very first hexagram of the lot, what are the odds.

But today's throw yielded number 52, kan

and the text from the guide tells me:

When one's resting is like that of the back, and he loses all consciousness of self, when he walks in his courtyard, and does not see any of the persons in it, there will be no error.

It goes on to analyze each line of the hexagram which I won't bother you with, but it's amazingly good to think about, the hexagram meaning being very much like yoga in the sense of relaxation of parts of the body while the mind is very alert.

Next I'll think on this a while and see what application and advice it might contain, because it changes as you think about it. The I Ching is the Book of Changes, and is endlessly interesting to think about. It certainly rings true to me to fail to notice people when I'm walking and thinking.

I took one piece of advice already: it's about simplicity and directness of action, so I tore apart the book, which I've had, and struggled with, for years and years, originally published in the mid 1880s and very verbose, badly organized, and really hard to find what you need to study.

So I got brave and I just took out the bits that reminded me how to actually do it and how to translate the three coins into the hexagrams, and then where to find the interpretation. The rest of it is no doubt of interest to people deep into the Chinese language and the history of philosophy, but not exactly to my immediate needs.

And in any case, shoving all the extra thoughts, and random walks, and footnotes in before actually getting to the hexagrams is somewhat like the practice of computer system writers who compose a two hundred page manual on their system, how to adapt and fit it to your needs, and get to page 57 before telling you where the on switch is.

First time I ever broke up a book, which is some sort of first, I guess. But this one was getting between me and my practice, so I guess I had a special leading to tear it out of the way. Slashing through the briars with my trusty metaphorical Chinese fighting sword.

Anyway, I plan on doing this daily for a month, not unlike the year I cut out my newspaper horoscope every day for a month, and made notes the next day on how much of it, if any, corresponded to my life that day! that was great fun, and constituted a short term journal. But the I Ching is a bit more serious.

Except that when I do the throwing and setting up of my page for the day, I'm cracking up laughing because I feel exactly like a character in E.F.Benson. I can just see Lucia instantly starting to lecture everyone, cribbing from the section of the book I discarded, and Georgie getting all excited and waving his bibelots about in search of a nice little notebook, with an embroidered cover, and Diva wondering if it's about gambling and if so can she afford to throw, and Miss Mapp saying, oh, I've been doing that for YEARS....and the Wyses instructing Figgis not to admit anyone to the house while the Daily Throwing is happening..

Comic relief insists on breaking in. There's an order of religious in the Catholic church one of whose first requirements of the initiated is: First be Joyful! that would suit me just fine.


  1. Oh be Joyful! Should be the 11th commandment, if not before.

    I haven't learned much about the I Ching but have a book somewhere.

    As for tearing up a book - my first one was Goedl, Escher and Bach - I took a chapter to work each week. The book is now tied up with a browny-rose coloured seam tape!

    Happy New Year, dear.

  2. Yes, Lucia would take charge. And she'd come up with a robe or gown just for I Ching meetings. Perhaps while she pondered her number she would get that faraway look in her eyes that she gets after the "Moonlight Sonata."

  3. Indeed, be joyful and be peaceful.

    A serene new year's wish for you and HP and HS and for all your other readers here.

  4. Thank heaven for comic relief. I couldn't get through a day without it sprinkled on the hot stuff!!

    I felt your pain at dismembering a book. I've yet to master that level of mindful purpose!

    I loved the image of your peaceful New Year ... blessings to you and yours in the coming year, dear friend!


Thanks so much for commenting. I read all comments with care and much pleasure!