35: Easy Progress
General Meaning: The general situation is one of easy, natural progress. That which had been weak is now steadily rising up, and by gaining a prominent position, becomes a stronger force. The image is the light of the rising sun, which at first appears dimly through the mists. But this relatively weak light later radiates with powerful clarity once the sun has reached a high position in the sky.
Progress is made when those in subordinate positions create harmony with those above, and in so doing create a natural means for their collective talents and abilities to blossom. It is by recognizing and riding with the natural course of events — by hitching our wagon to the rising sun, as it were — that we advance our position and earn respect.
Goodness in human nature is like the dim but beautiful early morning light. It can easily be obscured — by greed, hatred and other forms of self-absorption — just as the morning light can be swallowed by fog. Be reminded that progress is achieved most effortlessly when right action is taken without concern for immediate reward, and when the path of the weaker elements aligns with the strong.
General Meaning: Personal resolution points to a breakthrough, but decisive action is required. As long as you diligently hold your ground and ward off negative tendencies and influences, the good will prevail.
The persistence of negativity, which is that which opposes the good, is a constant in human affairs. Just when it is thought to have been eradicated, up it will pop again, sprouting through some crack in the pavement of civilized society. Evil need not take dramatic or extravagant forms, such as those exhibited in Nazi Germany. Garden-variety lies and deceit are much more common and persistent, but should be rooted out just as diligently. One must be determined to not accidentally feed negativity — either in one’s social or professional life, or in one’s own soul. In either case, definite rules must be followed for the struggle to succeed.
The first rule: do not compromise with evil. Destructive or exploitive actions must be identified openly for what they are, and discredited. The second: one cannot successfully resist negativity on its own terms. New, positive alternatives that lead away from the source of the problem are generally more successful, and appropriate than trying to counter negativity with raw power. The third rule: the means used to counter negativity must be consistent with the end to be achieved. One cannot stop the spreading of lies by spreading more of them.
34: Great Vigor
General Meaning: Congratulations! There is strength and vigor in this situation — like a ram who has knocked down a fence to free himself from captivity. This points to a time when a powerful force comes into its own and achieves influence.
When a leader finally comes into power, his or her personal strength usually has peaked. Great strength is required in climbing to the mountaintop, but once at the summit, the support of others is needed to maintain that lofty position. A shift in attitude becomes necessary. Raw strength must be tempered by wisdom; to maintain power, a strong leader must learn to give it away, to share it with others. Only then will his or her position be secure, for she will not only be the possessor of power, but the source of it as well.
If you find yourself in a high or strong position, it is especially important to act responsibly and react with care. Your personal power must not be allowed to degenerate into raw force that rides roughshod over everything in its path. A strong sense of responsibility to the collective good of all is the key to the successful exercise of strength. By following what we intuitively know to be for the greater good, we avoid reckless abuses of power that in the end undermine the source of our strength. Arrogance always contains the seeds of its own undoing.
26: Containment of Potential
General Meaning: This hexagram points to the containment of great power that increases as it is wisely stewarded. Like a river that has been dammed, or a boiling pot with a lid on, holding and containing power produces enormous energy. During normal times, daily ritual and habit help keep life ordered and serene; but in times of great opportunity, great fortitude is required. Focused attention is what will be required to channel this great potential and achieve supreme success.
In a current situation you have considerable reserves of energy and support to draw upon. This is the right time to channel creativity by collecting and organizing good ideas and plans. In this way, even large or extremely challenging undertakings can be successful.
A hidden source of power for the great is the study of the past. The lives of wise and successful men and women are like buried treasures of wisdom. Great good fortune comes to those who unearth these valuable treasures by applying the lessons of the ages to current events
10: Treading Carefully
General Meaning: People of ability find their way and make progress even in difficult circumstances. Consider your steps carefully when you are surrounded by changing forces. Weak and strong forces (or people) can co-exist when the weaker element does not impose upon the stronger, when the weaker maintains good humor and avoids taking bold action. When treading among sleeping tigers — or slippery stones — step gingerly and don’t stumble.
In the company of strong, brash people, rushing wildly ahead brings misfortune. Now is not a good time for taking the initiative; rather, try getting by with a little grace and good humor. In the court of a powerful king, the jester often has more power than the prince.
A joy that is shared is symbolized by a group of friends playing, or a carefree young girl singing to herself while engaged in her work. Happiness is rising within, and spreading out into the world.
Joy arises through gentle means, but springs from a solid inner base. The power of pure joy should not be underestimated. The enjoyment of learning and discovery, for example, has let to great innovation and much material progress. Accordingly, that which brings the most joy into the world — love — is the source of life itself.
If happiness is supported by personal stability, it will eventually wear down the stiffest barrier and win over the hardest heart. True joy is a beacon in the world, and though it is indeed rare, its presence is an indication of great good fortune, both now and in the future. How could it be otherwise?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.