Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Ching, Book of Changes

Many things come into our lives. We react to the ones that resonate with us. Long ago, perhaps 40 years ago, the I Ching came into my hands. Someone who did not resonate with it gave it my husband and I. He did not resonate with it either and at first I barely paid attention to it. Then I began to read and understand how it has been used, to understand it's ancient origins and the Confucian explications [one of a many]. I found Richard Wilhelm's translation graceful and full of common sense metaphors that indeed resonated profoundly. I did not feel a need for a predictive vehicle, but I wanted a wisdom book that was free of gods and worship. A book about how to live in harmony with the seasons and with society. The I Ching is such a book. I have often disliked the paternalistic references to "marrying maidens" and "concubines." But 7th century China was a very different society.

For many years I threw coins once a week and kept notes about what hexagrams I received and whether or not they had any synchronicity with what was going on in my life, in a specific way. I was convinced within ten years that, although often I felt a resonance with specific advice on a specific day, the coins fall in a truly random way -- although, to tell the truth, at times I felt I had a psychokinetic ability to throw hexagrams I especially liked. Interesting as this was, I felt, above all else, that the I Ching's {Confucius' philosophy specifically] is the wisdom that I wished to internalize and use as a guide for how to live. Only in the last few years have I stopped my weekly readings. Today, as always, I threw the coins to ask about the attitude with which to approach the coming year. In a few words the advice was to persevere. That is not earth shaking or life changing; it is the good sense with which I live.

Confucius is said to have worn out the book boards seven times in studying the I Ching. For a long time Chinese books were not pages bound together but pages kept between boards, and all wrapped in silk. I have worn the cover of my Wilhelm edition nearly separate at the spine. Of all the compendiums of advice for how to live, I would recommend the I Ching, not as a book to read through, but as a book to return to again and again, at random via coins or any other method, imbibing the philosophy of right action. Whenever I feel centered it is because I have learned a view of human life and society from the I Ching.

4 comments:

Kass said...

Great advice. Perhaps I'll return to it too.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Ahh -- you have given me the impetuous to try again. I, like your friend and husband, have had difficulty getting into the book. Perhaps it's my impatience. I am going to pick it up again only this time with patience and perhaps a little more understanding thanks to your post. -- barbara

June Calender said...

Yes, Kass and Barbara, I admit I'm a little bit of a missionary at heart and love bringing things that are meaningful to me to others. But I know not everything is everyone else's cup of tea.

standing on my head said...

i, too, have used the i ching on and off for, whoa, 40 years! and i too have left it alone for quite a while.
thank you for this reminder.