Hilary Barrett, I Ching

Hexagram 19 and ancestors

I’ve just had some experiences with hexagram 19 I’d like to share. To give you a bit of context, the long version of the story is in a thread in Reading Circle, but the short version is that we’ve just been through a few wholly nightmarish days with my mother-in-law admitted to hospital. (She’s home now, doing better, and due for an outpatient appointment next week.)

When she first became ill, last month, I asked Yi… well, I wish I could say I asked for advice first, but in fact I started out by asking for a prognosis for her. I received Hexagram 8 unchanging, and got the strong feeling this was no prognosis, but was referring me back to my ‘source of oracle-consulting’: why had I asked? And how about starting over from there? So I did, and asked for my own role or place in all this as it unfolds.

I received Hexagram 19, Nearing, with no changing lines. I needed to step up, to watch over my family – to be the one with the overview, the carer.

‘Above the lake is earth. Nearing.
A noble one teaches and reflects untiringly,
Accepts and protects the ordinary people without limit.’

This does make sense to me – not so much because not a blood relative, as she feels like a mother to me anyway, but because I’ve ‘been here before’: my mother spent a long time going in and out of hospital.

So I’m to be Nearing: always oriented towards the others, moving towards them, being aware of the whole situation. Being emotionally present and as available as the water that wells up under the earth. Not, for instance, shutting down or running the other way, as I might easily have been inclined to do…

And here I must pause for an aside about 19 in general, before I tell you about the ancestors who Neared.

‘Nearing.
Creating success from the source, constancy bears fruit.
Arrival at the eighth month means a pitfall.’

(I know… this is not the same translation as in my book. After a lot of research yesterday, I think I got the translation wrong – it simply can’t mean ‘reaching an end in’. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to change the interpretation so much.)

The old character for ‘arrival’ shows an arrow that has struck the ground. It’s arrived: it isn’t nearing any more. Nearing means yuan heng li zhen, success from the source, harvest in constancy: a huge positive potential tending towards realisation. Nearing is a state of potential, of tension; if I arrive at the 8th month, harvest time, and set out to reap results, I lose that potential. When the arrow lands, the energy of the bowstring has been discharged and lost, and the movement of its ‘Nearing’ flight has ended. Or in more pragmatic terms, if I scythe through the grain stalks, they won’t be growing any more.

So if 19 happens when you need results, you’re out of luck. And if in a 19 time you let your overview collapse down to a focus on results, you’re sunk. Probably the results will be bad, but in any case something much larger will be lost – and in several readings in my journal, that was empathy and relationship.

For me in the hospital there were no ‘results’ to be had – no way of influencing outcomes, nothing to get hold of – so I just kept on Nearing. I carried the hexagram with me (and sometimes I think Yi provides unchanging readings just so they’re ‘portable’ in this way) day after day.

But Hexagram 19 is also interpreted as the Nearing of a benevolent ancestor. I remembered this as we were driving down to the hospital one morning, and began thinking of ancestors whose help I could use. My father, certainly – a very patient, very calm man. And my mother, with her powers of organisation and ‘getting it done’ – and the very moment I thought of calling on her, I could hear her asking, ‘What can I do?’

That’s exactly what she would say, and so from there I became more involved in the idea. By the time we arrived at the hospital, I was joined by parents, grandparents, many wise and indomitable old friends from the Willows (a day centre for the elderly where I was lucky enough to volunteer for a decade), a powerfully shrewd and determined friend of my mother’s, and even a couple of dogs. An unstoppable, inexhaustible force! I drew on them throughout the day, and always had enough.

Next day I found an initial reluctance in myself to do the same again, as if that would be asking a bit much. Fortunately a couple of Willows people who were never slow to laugh at my absurdities pointed out that this was nonsense, and my crowd of ancestors and I went into the hospital together. Some of them brought strengths well-suited to eliciting a helpful response from the medical staff. Some of them brought endless reserves of patience for caring. Some brought experience of showing some nasty diseases who was boss.

I want to be clear that in my experience this was not just a matter of imagination and memory; I wasn’t just letting myself be inspired by these people’s example. I do that a lot – but this was different: they were there. At one especially fraught point I started to wonder what my father would have said – only to realise, in a moment of extraordinary clarity, that it was exactly, word for word, what I (he) had just been saying. He was already Nearing.

It’s said that Hexagram 19 can mean you are the one who nears, or that some benevolent power is nearing you. On the face of it, that seems unsatisfactory: yes, but which does it mean? Are you nearing or neared? It turns out that it really does mean both at once, and for the past few days for me it could not have been otherwise. I could not possibly have been the one Nearing for so long if my ancestors hadn’t also drawn near. The resource really is as inexhaustible as the lake within the earth.

With thanks to Mum and Dad, Grannie and Grandad, Daphne, Kitty, Rhoda, Dorothy, Vi, Joan, Candy, Meg…

7 Responses to “Hexagram 19 and ancestors”

  1. Arabella Says:

    This is a beautiful story Hilary, and very timely for me. Thanks so much for publishing your thoughts on Hexagram 19 today! Love.

  2. Hilary Says:

    Timeliness is always good – :) . Thanks.

  3. rosada Says:

    Dear Hilary,
    Best wishes to you and the family.
    I have experienced hexagram 18 as making a connection with the ancestors on the other side and then 19 as then having them with you here.
    15. A man’s lives his life.
    16. Afterwards a celebration, a funeral service where the soul is connected with the ancestors.
    17. The living then sleep in order to ..
    18. Dream of those who died, the ancestors, connect with them, tell them what needs fixing.
    19. Awake and go forth knowing the ancestors are with you putting everything right.

  4. Hilary Says:

    Nice perspective, thank you. I will certainly see ancestors’ presence in 19 in future. I think 18 can do more than just dream of ancestors: it encounters angry ghosts and dark energies and through attention turns them into ancestors.

  5. Ien Nivens Says:

    Thanks for bringing your experience “near” to us in this very thoughtful way. I particularly enjoy the way #8 often gently encourages us to reframe a question or to look at a situation from a different perspective and ask again, the way it teaches us to be more patient with ourselves by “modelling” patience with us, so to speak.

    Anyway, thank you for modelling your process in front of the world. Much needed.

  6. Sherryl Wilkins Says:

    Hilary, thank you for this deeper look at 19. As I’ve been busy ‘overseeing’ those in my care, your interpretation widens the aperture to a much larger image of overseeing, reaching both backward and forward through the cycles of life.

  7. iams girl Says:

    Thank-you, Hilary, makes tears well up your affirming unbreakable bonds of love so beautifully.

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