60: Limits and Connections
General Meaning: Limits are necessary to give purpose and direction to life. Swimming in a sea of boundless opportunity would eventually lead to exhaustion and drowning. Winging it alone in a sky of boundless opportunity would lead to being lost. In human affairs, the making of choices, and alliances, implies limitation, for in choosing one path another must be abandoned.
One key to a successful life is to select your limits consciously and carefully — to be discriminating in the setting of personal boundaries and knowing when to join in formation. Thrift, for example, often precedes prosperity; just as the letting go of selfish interests leads to greater personal reward. Only by consciously accepting useful limits can one’s energy be channeled to good purpose, and lead to lasting accomplishments.
Point yourself toward a middle way between discipline and freedom of spirit. Limits will come of their own accord; but to be able to consciously select your own affiliations in life — that’s knowing how to fly! At the same time, don’t go overboard with discipline. Even self-correction must be limited, so that in attempting to bring order and direction into your life you do not choke off vital sources of enthusiasm and spontaneity.
Similarly, in groups and partnerships, agreed upon rules or regulations should strike a balance between being too strict and too soft. If too strict, they build frustration and ultimately become destructive. If too lenient, sloppiness becomes acceptable, and positive energy is dissipated. The best path is one that allows for the fulfillment of individual potential, while supporting self-discipline and focus.
General Meaning: Increase and decrease are part of the natural cycle of life. As spiritual author long ago put it, ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.’ Like a reservoir that is being used to irrigate the fields, learning to accept a decrease in position or material possessions is part of preparing for increase in the future.
We may live in materialistic times, but there is no disgrace in material decrease, particularly if it represents an investment in future gain — even if that gain be in the form of one’s education or the development of personal character. Likewise, the inner strength that comes from bearing loss can be balanced by a corresponding increase in inner strength and insight — as in the expression ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ When letting go of attachment and personal demands leads to a greater simplicity in daily life, good fortune often comes calling.
In nature, the lake evaporates to form the clouds that drop the rain that nurtures the surrounding forest. As the forest grows thick, more rain is captured for the lake. Similarly, an ‘evaporation’ or decrease in one area of your life, may give rise to an eventual increase in another. A loss of responsibility at work can mean more free time; more free time may generate more career options. A period of decrease is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it can free the spirit and fill the soul.
Be mindful of the lesson of young lovers: even with a minimum of possessions, feelings of the heart can bring an unsurpassed richness to life. The smallest of actions, if sincere, have value. So remain confident, for a time of decrease may actually bode good fortune, especially if you remain open to that possibility.
Let go of frustration, resistance and regret over whatever may be going down at this time. Accept the cycle, and remember what goes down must come up.
General Meaning: Fellowship. When communal bonds unite people, great success is possible. But such bonds can develop only when personal interests are subordinated to goals that serve the greater good of all. The broader the basis for action, the greater the benefits that can be achieved. And conversely, the greater the potential good, the more powerful the support behind it. A spirit of cooperation steadies the boat, but it helps to have a beautiful island to row towards.
Learn to respect the strength in diversity, for a community’s true power lies not in its numbers, but in the diverse skills and resources of its members. Just as the stoutest walls are reinforced with many different materials, so the strongest groups allow differences to co-exist inside the whole.
With a unified group solidly behind you, even difficult enterprises can be attempted without great risk
55: Great Abundance
General Meaning: A time of abundance comes into full flower when the powers of leadership and teamwork are at their peak. The situation is like that of the sun at midday — a high noon of clarity, insight and progress. Such peak periods can be brief. Whether this refers to a national cycle, a business boom or a period of abundance, it is important to bale your hay while the sun is shining.
During a period of abundance, it benefits one to show benevolence, to share the fruit of one’s good fortune. Think of good deeds now as a hedge against times of scarcity in the future. This reading bodes well for expansion in love, the raising of children and the nurturing of a healthy family or any close-knit group.
General Meaning: A community or extended family that works is one where healthy interdependence is appreciated and supported. Good direction is essential, but strong kinship is dependent upon every member of the community. Trust, shared responsibilities and good communication are essential. Each member must be encouraged to find his or her appropriate expression, and contribution.
The functional family is a team that symbolizes the ideal of human interdependence, and has long provided a firm foundation for society. The healthy family is a microcosm of society and the native soil in which ethical values take root and grow. Fertilize this soil, and the whole of society benefits.
The power that bonds a tribe is the yin or feminine principle — gentleness and receptivity. Relationships are improved through cultivation of these. Learn to accept both advice and aid from others, and be willing to assume an appropriate role in any group that supports good relating. A good team player is always valuable to others. Increase your value!
63: After Completion
General Meaning: It is a fine irony that after completion of some project or great enterprise, there is still much left to do. Completion is merely a pause in the cycle of creation and decay, a momentary still point for the swinging pendulum of life. Though completion does imply a period of restful pause — one that usually has been well earned — it is not an actual end, but rather a uniquely harmonious flat spot in the constancy of change and movement.
The image of After Completion is that of a kettle of water boiling over a fire. When the forces are balanced, the water boils properly; but if the pot is too full, it may boil over and put out the fire; or, if the fire is too hot, it may evaporate all the water. In the equilibrium that follows the completion of something significant, the current dynamics must be watched carefully to assure that a proper balance is maintained.
After Completion is the time for fine-tuning, for refinements and embellishments of what has already been accomplished.
Even if we are enjoying a rewarding situation right now, the laws of the natural world dictate that influence and success will eventually decline. So, don’t let current good fortunes prompt careless or relaxed attitudes. A successful endeavor or partnership needs to be carefully tended and maintained. What is incomplete should be finished, and brought to fruition without delay.
Take satisfaction upon completion, but do not dwell on it. To do so could bring a halt to your influence and capability.
22: Grace and Beauty
General Meaning: A splashy sunset bathes the mountains in a soft radiance; the light of a full moon dances on the surface of a rippling river. Grace and beauty adorn the natural world. Grace is not an all-powerful force, nor is it the essential or fundamental thing. By itself, it is form without content. Grace is moonlight on water, not the sunlight at noon. Yet grace brings artistic expression into the world, and enhances the quality of our lives.
In the arts, grace arises out of adherence to form: the dancer becoming the form of the dance, the musician giving life to the form of a musical score, the painter becoming one with the brush and canvas. In human affairs, grace is also aligned with form — with mastery of aesthetic and cultural patterns honed by time and honored by tradition. Through appreciation of graceful customs in human relationships we apprehend the pure beauty of the ideal, of life raised above the mere struggle for survival.
Possession of grace, like the bearing of a beautiful gift to a wedding, can add stature to those in humble positions. Take care to lend grace and dignity even to small happenings, while giving the weight of deep and careful consideration to matters of greater consequence. Though it should not be confused with true substance, an artistic flair can take one far in this world.
General Meaning: Following brings supreme success. You may not be able to change the direction of the wind, but by frequently adjusting your sails, you can arrive at your destination.
Those who would acquire a following must speak the language of their followers. Those who would be loved must become the envisioned lover of their beloved. Those who would prosper must bend with natural forces and the pressures of society. In matters of principle, stand firm; in matters of style and taste, swim with the current.
In all human affairs, change is constant. In order to stay fresh, old ideas and patterns must continually be discarded in favor of new ones. Only by being adaptable to the demands of the time can the highest good emerge. Only by adjusting to changing circumstances can you prosper. Remain flexible, and you will gain the confidence of those around you. Bend and you shall not break.
General Meaning: One hears thunder unexpectedly! First comes fear, then a sharpening of one’s vision. Recall a close brush with danger — a falling branch, an automobile accident barely avoided, an escape from a potentially violent confrontation. Such incidents arouse every nerve fiber in your body in a brief wave of terror, but soon, once the danger has passed, give way to a heightened awareness of the world. The same process also occurs with other types of shock — the loss of a job, the sudden departure of a loved one, business failure and so on.
The lasting impact of a major shock can either be stimulating or debilitating, depending upon one’s strength of character. The critical factor is the ability to shake off fear, thereby transforming anxiety into a laser-sharp perception of the world around you.
When overtaken by crisis, the wise search their hearts for inner strengths in order to face their life with courage. This often means daring to take an unexpected path — to bounce back quickly and self-confidently after failures, to have faith in the eternal when confronted with death.
We tend to think of shock only in the context of unpleasant events. We can also be jarred, however, by the sudden release of tension that comes with unexpected joy or success. To keep your bearings in the aftershock of either trauma or victory, it is essential that your inner compass be aligned with ‘true north’, that magnetic force which guides you toward fulfillment of both your deepest desire, and your highest destiny.
General Meaning: Substantial progress and increasing prosperity is pointed to. In whatever forms it takes, periods of increase are exhilarating, as long as you go with the flow while it lasts and keep the interests of others in mind. Like white water on a river, periods of increase are often of short duration; it furthers one, therefore, to shoot the rapids now, while the opportunity is there.
A good sense of direction in times of opportunity involves commitment to the needs of one’s cohorts and dependents. Only by realizing that to lead is really to serve, can an effective leader contribute to a lasting increase in prosperity for all. In times of general increase, those who contribute most directly to the common good will also receive the greatest rewards.
When opportunities for increase arise, supreme good fortune comes to those who act swiftly and boldly, while avoiding the trap of letting their actions be only self-serving. If you aspire to a position of prominence, the most enduring strategy is to work to raise the tide of your entire pond, rather than to try to swim upstream on your own.
When the times favor prosperity, and when leadership is in the hands of the broad-minded, supreme good fortune results.
3: Difficulty at the Beginning
General Meaning: Difficulty at the beginning. The birth of anything new – including any new venture or relationship — is an entry into the realm of the unknown. Strange new feelings can seem to be rushing upon you, and confusion can easily take over. But even chaos is full of potential if you harness it properly. Don’t rush things. Do not let events overwhelm you. Stay calm and persevering, but do take the first step. And get whatever help you can.
Challenges lie ahead. Now is a time to gather your strength and find courage. Like a newborn fawn, the opportunity for rapid development is real, but only by being determined can the fawn rise to its feet and survive to grow to full stature. Keep going despite difficulties and you will manifest the success you desire. One primary challenge is maintaining personal clarity. Avoid lunging at seemingly perfect solutions; wait until a good practical course of action becomes clear. Do not start a new venture before thinking it through. A careless step in the beginning can easily cause events to spin out of control later. Enlist the aid of experienced people.
General Meaning: Nourishment refers to more than a healthy diet. It is the care-giving function. Eating properly implies care for oneself; providing healthy meals in the home is a sign of caring for the family. The writer of a great book or composer of an inspiring piece of music also provides nourishment, by caring deeply about the quality of his or her work and offering it to the world.
We can know others by observing what they choose to nourish in their lives. Do they properly feed and develop their bodies? Do they cultivate their spirits, their intellects, their moral values? Do they nourish and care for those around them? If so, to whom do they devote their energies? The most successful people are temperate in eating and drinking, thinking and dreaming. They strengthen the world by nurturing everyone’s higher nature.
Pay heed to your thoughts and impulses, ignoring those that undermine a healthy and persevering attitude. A wise person is temperate in the consumption of food and drink, because to be otherwise only leads to discomfort; the fact that temporary pleasure may precede the discomfort does not influence the person of mature character. In the same way, be discriminating in your words and actions, lest a desire for temporary advantage lead you to cause pain for yourself or others. Enrich your character and you will naturally nourish everyone around you.
29: Dangerous Depths
General Meaning: Exposure to passing dangers brings good fortune to those who move beyond them. Like boaters passing through white-water rapids, when you are faced with serious challenges, you must remain alert, take all available precautions, and above all, keep going forward so as to remove yourself from harm’s way. Once the danger has passed, good fortune.
The positive aspect of challenges is that they offer an excellent chance to cleanse the senses and strengthen the spirit. Surviving crises brings tremendous reinvigoration, and sharpens the eye and mind for future challenges.
It is reckless to court danger, but critical to inner development not to shrink from it either. Those who respond to challenges most effectively are those who are able to establish an inner bubble of calm in the midst of the action. A calm center keeps one rooted in the moment, alert and focused. Courage at such times springs from focused attention, from a willingness to penetrate the moment of danger to its very core, so as to shape it and transform the situation.
36: Darkening of the Light
General Meaning: When light becomes dim, it may be wise to become invisible. The image is of fresh darkness, the period after the sun has gone down or the fire has gone out. There is still much activity left over from the light of day, while movements in the outer world become more dangerous. Even the smallest sound, the faintest glow of light, can attract unwanted attention.
When the darkness of stupidity reigns, it is best that your own brilliance stay ‘hidden under a bushel basket.’ That is, your thoughts and efforts should be quiet and self-contained, and protected, as much as possible, from disruptive influences.
Whatever you do, don’t let yourself be swept along on the current of conventional wisdom when dangerous uncertainties exist. Try not to become too depressed or anxious; this period will pass. Just endure it for now and inwardly preserve your self-confidence, while outwardly remaining cooperative and flexible. The time to assert yourself will come. Avoid looking too far ahead if you have not yet achieved your goals. That only feeds regret and longing, which can eat away at your inner resources.
Be cautious and reserved. Control yourself. Do not needlessly awaken dormant forces of opposition. During dark, unsettled periods, it is best to step gingerly around the sleeping dogs.
General Meaning: Innocence flows from a natural harmlessness, openness and pure intentions, unsullied by ulterior motives. The state of innocence has less to do with age than attitude; innocence springs from a heart that remains open to joy and wonder. Innocence, when guided by a firm faith in what is right, brings supreme success. Naiveté unanchored by an ability to discern right from wrong, on the other hand, brings misfortune.
The hallmark of innocence is a willingness to treat others with compassion and respect in a natural way. Those who possess a pure heart are best guided by their instincts and intuition. Thinking too much makes it difficult to hear the guidance of the heart, the suggestions of a clear intuition. Stay simple and be wary of cleverness.