No, this is not going to be the post where I explain how Yi answers questions – ask me again after a few more lifetimes – but one where I ponder in a meandering way about how these conversations we have with the Change Book actually result in personal change.
Sometimes, of course, they don’t. And sometimes the answer is obvious: we ask about options a and b, and like the look of option a better, and choose that. But also, sometimes, a reading sets off a whole snowballing process of change in perceptions and behaviour that plays out in some quite unexpected, startling, unquantifiable ways.
So for instance… I noticed I wasn’t working more than 5 hours in a day and this wasn’t enough to get everything done (delicate understatement here), and so I asked,
I need to work more hours in a day. Any tips on how to get from here to there?
Answer – 11.1 changing to 46. (Yes, when I wrote about 11.1 it was because I’m seeing it happening!)
I got the idea of changing one thing, any thing, one thing at a time, and the idea of opening up inner communication. I could tell I was creating a little bit of momentum, but I was still pretty frustrated with what I was actually doing each day and how easily I get distracted; I wondered how to reach the ideal of 11, how to be more like the prince of its Image.
So I tugged at another clump of thatchgrass, I asked for “Advice on how to restore flow and ease in my work, so I achieve the big things,” and received 63.3 changing to 3.
I could certainly recognise myself in the reading. Hexagram 63, being ‘already across’ the river and in danger of just sitting on the bank forgetting where I was going… that would be the post-book-publication let-down. Hexagram 3 is my primary hexagram for the year, and also pretty recognisable as where I actually am: very small indeed and barely beginning (to have a business, to be a diviner, to scratch the surface of what Yi has to offer).
The line that connects these two sticks a very precise ‘you are here’ pin in the map: it’s the point where I start seeing everything I’ve achieved so far, the rivers crossed and ‘kingdom’ established, as a tiny little garrison camp (see the conclusion of this article of Harmen’s) in a very big landscape.
I can also recognise the Demon Country. After thinking for just a little while about what might live there, I realised I’ve been distracting myself when faced with things I didn’t want to do since the age of about 6.
Then came a lot of thinking, writing and connecting of dots that probably only makes sense in my own head. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I realised I wanted to orient my life around a completely different kind of ‘goal’: not future targets, but present experiences. Then I realised that I’d finally got to grips with the apparent paradox of hexagram 3: how is it possible to be full of creative energy, growing vigorously, and yet without a ‘direction to go’?
And somehow, in the weeks following that reading, I find myself approximately twice as energetic and five times as focussed, and with a completely new idea of what even makes sense as a ‘goal’. It’s not some miraculously perfect overnight transformation, of course – it comes with the usual lapses into forgetfulness. (Yi does mention that it takes a while to deal with Demon Country!) I’m still thoroughly nervous about the newness of it all, still apprehensive about ‘endings, chaos’ and the path petering out, but change is happening in places that had rusted altogether solid.
It’s obvious to me that this happened because of the reading and wouldn’t have happened without it. And yet it’s extraordinarily hard to see quite what the reading did. I was already thinking about this, talking about it, asking for help… so why were the results of talking with Yi so different? Why did the thinking suddenly become productive and other people’s help suddenly become helpful? Talking with the Book of Change has meant change… and on the one hand that’s exquisitely obvious and needs no comment, and on the other hand… what really happened?
I suppose I could say it’s just a product of taking a reading seriously, and hence taking time to think and write about it. But that’s about necessary conditions for the thing to happen, not about what the thing is.
Here is a brilliant article about that thing by Eric Klein, entitled ‘What slows down change (and how to accelerate it)‘. I could happily quote half the article, but I’ll limit myself to just this bit:
“Deeper shifts rarely come from a list of tips or an instant technique.
Deeper shifts come through deepening awareness.
What I mean by deeper is really simply sustained awareness.
Just spend more time paying attention to what is true, rather than seeking ways to fix the problem. Become a deeper, sustained, student of your own habits of mind/speech/body.
The more you truly see what you’re doing – the more clearly you’ll realize “what to do differently”.
New perceptions, new actions, new choices emerge as awareness infuses fully into your mind and body. You don’t need to think of a new strategy – rather deepen your awareness of the ways in which your mind/body react habitually.
When unconscious habits are infused with awareness, they naturally transform.
Awareness is the secret to accelerating change.”
That’s how talking with Change creates change: through the awareness that comes of recognition.
It seems to happen in a few ways. For me there was the gradual process of thinking back through my life and seeing how the ‘Demon Country’ had been there for as long as I could remember. There’s the way that seeing this new picture of the distraction-habit gives me a way of relating to the distraction-habit without identifying with it. (Because trying to get a good look at something I identify with is pretty much like looking everywhere trying to find the glasses I’m wearing.)
Multiple moving lines can also be a way of doing this, of hearing your various inner voices distinctly: your intuitions say one thing, your desire for relationship says something else, your sense of competence has a whole other idea, and so on. When you’re given this portrait to look at, you no longer have to identify with any one of them.
There’s also the ‘aha’ moment, when suddenly all the lights come on. When I was looking at my 63.3 reading, getting stuck into the awkward and uncomfortable part of the interpretation around the moving line, I got distracted. Surprise. Suddenly some link in my email was far more interesting and I had to follow it right away.
Presently, I came back to the reading, and saw the fan yao looking at me:
‘Pursuing a stag with no forester,
Simply entering into the centre of the forest.
A noble one reads the subtle signs and sets this aside.
Going on: shame.’