48: The Well
General Meaning: Throughout various cultures and political systems of the world, the well has served as a universal symbol for that which sustains life and provides a constant, inexhaustible source of life-giving nourishment for mankind.
Like the well, human nature is the same around the world. The passage of time does not change its essential dimensions, nor take anything away. Still, just as a well can be deepened to produce clearer, cleaner water, so can we enrich our lives by delving deeply within — into our natural selves, or souls.
Beware of shallow thinking. Like a little learning, it can be dangerous. The image of the well suggests that along with depth comes clarity. Be patient, and penetrate both your problems and your own nature to the core. If you do not lower your bucket to the depths, you’re very likely to come up empty. When greater depth is desired, a lessening of speed is often required.
39: Temporary Obstacles
General Meaning: Have temporary obstacles been blocking your way? In the course of trying to reach a goal or to fulfill a personal ambition, obstructions inevitably present themselves. This is not always a bad thing. Obstacles, difficulties and even setbacks that are eventually overcome often turn into assets. Without irritating grains of sand, oysters would never make pearls.
The obstacles pointed to here are not permanent, yet they are in the way. As when a large boulder falls in the road, the best course of action is usually to go around it, rather than to try to move it out of the way. Temporary obstacles must be seen for what they are — temporary — and should not be allowed to take on too much significance.
A positive aspect of even the most difficult obstacle is that it may cause a person to turn inward, and gain greater depth and character. While the ignorant bemoan their fate and seek to blame their problems on others, the wise seek the cause of the problem within themselves. Through this type of introspection, obstacles become a means for personal growth and self-discovery.
Without air resistance, no plane would ever fly.
If you are facing temporary obstacles, try not to be overly concerned. Obstacles are a part of achieving every goal and furthering every undertaking. Setbacks and reverses can affect morale, but keeping up your self-confidence in the face of challenges is part of a successful solution to many of life’s problems. Obstacles of short duration are best handled with a yielding attitude. Go around the rock, don’t put your shoulder to it.
38: Diverging Interests
General Meaning: An image of estrangement is indicated here. One example used in ancient Chinese texts is how when brothers and sisters marry, they grow apart, since their allegiances now lie with new family groups. Though they will remain close enough to successfully deal with problems and share minor interests, they will be unable to undertake anything big together. Simply put, when people grow apart — even for the most natural of reasons — their points of view, values and interests start to diverge.
Diverging interests bring opposition into the world of human affairs. And when differences morph into alienation and enmity, no good results. But when opposition takes the form of healthy competition, or when contrasting energies or positions are seen as part of the natural order of things, good fortune is still possible.
Even when diverging energies make a situation seem stagnant or futile, there are always creative possibilities inherent in polarities. One is reminded of the yin-yang interplay that is fundamental to the creation of life itself. But when opposition arises from issues of principle, you must hold to your integrity and individuality. And avoid becoming involved with vulgar or base people who do not share your values. With both people and companies, one measure of stature is the quality of the competition.
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.
19: Approach of Spring
General Meaning: It is as if spring is approaching. Good times ahead feel inevitable; there is vitality in the air. This is a most auspicious time. Like a snake emerging from hibernation, negative forces are barely stirring and can be effectively controlled. This is a time of hopeful progress, and must be used to best advantage. When approaching good fortune, paying attention to what is happening now earns great dividends. All in all, a clear road lies ahead.
Take some action now, for at some point this ripe opportunity for advancement will be reversed. No spring lasts forever. It’s wise to stay alert and note the changing seasons and the energy they call for.
Spring is the season of new relationships. In the bounty of good times, new bonds form effortlessly. Relationships born in spring can serve well to warm the following autumn and winter.
30: Clinging Like Fire
General Meaning: Flames cling to their source of fuel in order to keep the fire burning. Likewise, in the human world, emotional attachment results from everything that radiates light or warmth is dependent upon something else. Through these dependencies we can see that all things are related, each thing to the other. Awareness of your own dependency on others is the key that unlocks the door to your true place in the world. No woman is an island.
Fire is also a symbol of liberation — sending out crackling molecules that fly away from home. Paradoxically, by clinging to what is balanced and true, we gain inner freedom.
Given perseverance on your part, this hexagram indicates success. In spite of challenges, cling to what is luminous in yourself, in others, and in life itself, never forsaking your belief in what is right. When events seem foreboding, or people seem oppressive, remember the good that has been and is yet to be. Holding to this idea is to cling to the power of the light and love within you.
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.
21: Cutting Through
General Meaning: The situation calls for confronting a knotty conflict and cutting through it. Somehow, the way to harmony and unity is blocked or frustrated — perhaps by a tangle of misunderstandings or outright deceit. Like Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot, assert yourself now and you will meet with good fortune. Don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit. The ability to take corrective measures when they are needed is an essential trait of true leadership.
But those who bring discipline to bear must, above all, be honest — with others, and with themselves. Honesty is the hallmark of the strong and self-confident. The successful person masters the art of honesty much as a swordsman masters fencing. When lies, delusions and game playing are getting in the way of teamwork, a swift sword of honest action, perhaps even correction, must be wielded to protect one’s integrity and values. Decisiveness with integrity brings good fortune.
Though your actions be vigorous, they must not be hasty, severe or arbitrary. Be sure to carefully consider all the circumstances. In the case of a serious disruption of relations, you must forgive, but not forget to give a person a chance to make reparations for his mistakes. If some penalty or punishment is necessary, make certain that it fits the crime. When boundaries have become slack and useless, only through the institution of clear and swift correction can their effectiveness be restored.
In situations where serious issues of justice are at stake, keep careful records and do not hesitate to go public with the truth.
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.
General Meaning: The attraction is strong, but the relationship is not destined to last. So, be careful — the magnetism of polarized forces may not be what it seems. An apparently harmless, but potentially dangerous, energy has attracted attention to itself and is pulling on a stronger one. The ancient image is of a bold but immature girl who uses her charms to gain influence with a stable, powerful man. The man dallies with her, thinking that it can do him no harm. Ha, famous last thoughts! When power shifts into the hands of those unprepared for it, harm comes to all parties.
Still, you need not fear meetings with those whose positions are widely different from your own, as long as you can remain free of ulterior motives.
Be especially wary of temptations that arise because of your connections to important people. Generally, it is best to combat such temptations by snipping them in the bud before they can flower. Just as soon as a dangerous liaison presents itself is the time to take note and speak up. On the other hand, there are times when the meeting of the yielding and the strong turn out to be opportunities for truly positive and constructive relationships. The difference between careless connection and a relationship of depth lies in the motives of the heart. How sincere are you?
28: Excessive Pressure
General Meaning: Something is out of balance. This hexagram points to some pressure that is threatening stability and needs correcting. But if a dam is about to burst, moving out of the way is the first priority.
When a person in a sagging mine shaft feels the earth begin to tremble, it is time for quick, instinctive action and nimble footwork. At a time like this, only extraordinary measures will work. When the roof is collapsing, run first, choose your destination later.
Extraordinary times bring out the best and worst in people. Natural disasters bring with them stories of great heroism — but also looting and rioting. When the pressure is on, powerful moments present opportunities to make positive gains. Everything is in a state of flux. One can either move towards positive change and improvement or towards stagnation.
This may be the moment you’ve been waiting for. Although a current challenge may seem to be more than you can handle, remember that a flood reaches its high-water mark for only a few brief moments, and then begins to subside. Action must be taken now to ensure opportunities for success later on. You will never discover the true extent of your own abilities until you, at least once in your life, dive into a crisis with complete abandon, dedicating every ounce of your energy, every fiber of your being, to the cause at hand.
Dare to win.