(Posting this late, but I feel compelled to share this insight as we wrap up April 2020)
Everyone is looking for balance within their lives, whether its related to a career, family matters, friendships, romance, emotions, or getting the bath water to be just right and not scalding or lukewarm. When we are able to find a method, a philosophy, a new way of being that propels our chance to reach a harmonious vibration in any one of these aspects of life, our senses become curious.
Mine did, about a year or two ago. Around that time, I felt called to use the I Ching (also known as The Book of Change) for divination. The ancient pages of this book were bound together over 2,500 years ago in China, birthing an untapped source of wisdom and knowledge. Even today, this somewhat cryptic text and its hexagram-centered imagery is still widely used as an oracle for guidance as well as meditation. This comes as no surprise because after all, the I Ching is the most printed work in the world after the Bible.
The Book of Change reminds us that the one constant throughout life is change. To accept this is to accept the knowledge that cycles were meant to be broken so that new ones may take their place with the same purpose.
As a fellow seeker, I have much to learn. When I am called, I answer, but first I make sure to listen. So to continue my growth with Taoism and the I Ching, every month I will draw insight from the Book of Change as a form of spiritual practice/exercise. Here, in this space of words and hexagrams, we will be reminded of what we should keep in mind going forward and what to further meditate on. If you will join me on this journey, here is what we can look out for in April 2020:
How this works — The hexagram will be pulled like tarot — each page turned blindly until one speaks or coins tossed to create a hexagram. For the first method, we will only focus on the yin and yang given focus through this method, but you are welcomed to further explore the entire hexagram’s influence. These insights are meant to remind us that alignment comes only after awareness and active change is both accepted and sought.
51 Thunder, Shock [Upper Trigram: Thunder ||| Lower Trigram: Thunder]
The Arousing, Thunder
Other names: The Arousing, The Symbol of Startling Movement, Shake, The Beginning of Movement, Shocking, The Thunderclap, Motion Sudden Change, Surprise!
“The necessity to keep tranquil in the midst of upheaval.” — D.F. Hook
For this hexagram, we will be focusing on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th positions.
3 YIN: Shaken and faint, if you are stirred to action there is no fault.
Because yin in a yang position is not correct, this represents those who are not correctly managing everyday life in ordinary times. They cannot be at ease even when things are normal, so when there is a stir or a shakeup, they are faint with fear.
However, if because of being shaken and frightened they can act, leaving what is wrong and taking to what is right, then they can be faultless.
If people in this position go onward, they will come to the fourth position…This is correct. Because movement toward right is considered good, those in this third position will be faultless if they go on. If one handles shakeup and fear incorrectly, obviously one will make mistakes.
COMMENTS: These are not ordinary times we are currently living in (quarantine times to be exact). We have been thrusted into a new state of fear and uncertainty; a position that tests the selves we have grown comfortable with. Were you already struggling to find a balance in life before the pandemic with work, family, friends, love, purpose, and self-related routines and acceptance? If we could not sustain balance in our lives before now, there isn’t a loss of hope in finding it, even during all of this upheaval. It is in the way you respond to being shaken that defines if you can leave behind that which no longer serves you and pull in that which brings you prosperity, clarity, and groundedness. Take this standstill as time to set your life in order and examine yourself. Balance is within reach, you just have to remember how to redistribute the weight of matters that pull you only left and not right. At the moment, we are not only stuck or stagnant physically; in many other ways, our lives have come to one of the biggest halts we have ever come to experience. From finances to careers, to separating from loved ones and having to end or hold off on important projects or relationships. During times of shock, our minds and our ambitions can become easily lost in the mix of things. Sometimes we completely mute ourselves and let fate take its course. Little do we know, internal movement aka reflection executed into viable external action changes that fate and our lack of adjusting simply holds us back. Keep in mind, shock brings success if you let it flow through you right before releasing its surge with strategic intention.
4 YANG: Thunder bogged down.
The fourth yang, in a time of stirring movement, is not balanced and not correct. Being in a weak position, it loses the path of firm strength. Those in this fourth position, without the virtues of correct balance, fall in between two yins and cannot act vigorously on their own. Therefore the text says that thunder gets “bogged down”.
With aberrant yang sandwiched in between double yin, above and below, how could it be possible to avoid getting bogged down? Here, to get “bogged down” implies going past the point of no return. When shaken and frightened, people like this will not be able to control themselves, and when they want to stir into action they cannot arouse themselves. The way of thunder is lost — how can there be glorious success anymore?
COMMENTS: Unbalanced, but seeking. You are stuck between two broken roads, unsure which path will lead you in the right direction. If you could trap lightning in a bottle, you’d still see it. If you trap thunder in a bottle, you can no longer hear it. Losing your way will make you question your worth, your purpose, and your future. But understand that it takes falling to remind yourself that we were not born standing. If you are not being pulled or pushed by a force that causes you to act, then you remain unmoving. Still, under your current circumstances in April, internal control must be regained in order to combat external consequences.
5 YIN: Thunder goes and comes. Think of avoiding loss, and you will have something.
Though the fifth yin has yin in a yang place and is so out of place and not correct, nevertheless since weakness is in a position of strength and is also centered, therefore it has the quality of balance. As long as balance is not lost, one is still on the right track. Therefore centered balance is considered valuable.
In many hexagrams, even if the second and fifth lines are out of place, they are still esteemed for centered balance, whereas even if the third and fourth lines are in place they may be faulted for imbalance. Balance is always given greater weight than correctness. This is because if you are balanced you will not deviate from the right way, but even if you are right you are not necessarily balanced.
There is no principle in the world greater than balance, and this can be seen in the second and fifth yins. As far as the movement of the fifth goes upward, being weak it cannot stay at the peak of movement; if it comes downward it runs into the unyielding. So going and coming are both dangerous.
In the position of leadership one is the director of movement; to adapt to conditions requires balance. Therefore one should think of avoiding the loss of what one has. In this case, what one has is the virtue of balance — if one does not lose balance, even if there is danger one will not run into trouble.
Thinking of avoiding loss means figuring out how not to lose centered balance. The reason this fifth line is in danger is because it is not strong yang and it has no helpers. If one who is strong and positive has helpers becomes the director of movement, then it is possible to succeed. When going and coming are both dangerous, it is very difficult — all one can hope to do is avoid losing balance. Then one can keep control of oneself. If movement or action is directed by the weak, it surely cannot succeed.
COMMENTS: You may think the position you have been put in has weakened you in many ways. That the repeated shocks life has thrown at you are without resolution or remedy. But little do you know, you are in a position where balance is bestowed. You are in the center of movement, so whenever you feel still, calculate your next move. Take care of yourself to stay in this center; spare yourself the fate of being tossed around by circumstance. What has been lost is lost, but to adapt to current conditions you have to allow yourself the space to find balance. Not all has been lost, and you still have so much work left to be done.
Final Thoughts: Thunder wakes us up from comfort, and its lightning illuminates the right path to travel in the dark with a fleeting, bright light. It warns us of upcoming changes and awakens us from a prolonged slumber. What will come of us depends on our response to this change.
Thank you for journeying with me fellow seeker. I will see you in May so we can return to a new meditative space. Until then, stay seeking.
(The explanations of each yin and yang are derived from the I Ching (The Book of Change) by Cheng Yi, translated by Thomas Cleary. My hope for these monthly meditations is to use the I Ching as a form of divination in order to understand its offered layers of insight and interpretation.)