Hilary Barrett, I Ching

‘Enliven’ email course

December 15th, 2014

wrapped giftThe blog has gone quiet lately, and is likely to remain quiet until I finish up the ‘Enliven’ email course.

This is an eclectic mix of ideas for bringing your relationship with guidance to life (hence the title!) through keeping a journal. That includes dreams and synchronicities as well as Yi. The idea is to open more completely, engage more fully, understand more deeply, and live a richer, more multi-dimensional life as a result.

OK… this might all be somewhat beyond the scope of an email course, but I can at least offer a range of ideas and practical suggestions to try. So far I’ve written emails about…

  • simplicity
  • how to remember dreams
  • how to incubate dreams and synchronicities (the two go together – synchronicities are really just waking life events acting like dream symbols)
  • suggested templates for recording dreams and Yijing readings
  • tips for getting ‘unstuck’ with Yijing readings

Between now and Christmas I hope to add messages on interpreting dreams, exploring connections between all kinds of entry, turning your journal into the best Yijing book (and ‘dream dictionary’) you could ever own, and the transformative potential of keeping a journal. (Also to write Christmas cards, plan food, find somewhere I can take my brother for an outing, and so on…)

‘Enliven’ was originally intended for people who have just downloaded the Resonance Journal free trial, and so I do talk about its features. However, everything in the course is entirely usable if you prefer to keep your journal some other way (or if you are still waiting hopefully for a Mac version). It is also free, and available here, and I hope you’ll sign up for it. Think of it as a small gift for the season :)

Download the Resonance Journal!

December 1st, 2014

Here it is –


Please download and enjoy – the 30 day trial should give you plenty of time to explore. It includes…

  • my Language of Change Yijing glossary (not yet available anywhere else)
  • quick ways to enter a reading you’ve cast yourself, as well as a ‘three coin’ cast within the software
  • comprehensive search features
  • a simple tagging system that allows you to trace connections between dreams, synchronicities and readings
  • full Yijing translations with commentary from LiSe Heyboer and myself

Have fun with it!

The eventual price for the Resonance Journal will be £30, but we’re starting at an early supporters’ special price of £20 which will be available until the next significant upgrade, probably in March 2015.

After all, this is just the first version – there are plenty of upgrades and improvements planned for next year and beyond. To show gratitude to the people who support this project from its beginning, we’d like to charge you less and offer you lifetime upgrades to the core software for free :) . (Economics dictate that we’ll have to stop offering lifetime free upgrades for future purchasers at some time next year.)


  • you already own Justin’s I Ching Journal software
  • you are a Change Circle member
  • you’re signed up for journal software updates

…then watch your inbox for a discount coupon.


resonating strings

The first 7 reasons to keep a journal

November 30th, 2014

(Note… of course this post is here now because the Resonance Journal is coming tomorrow. Other means of keeping a journal are also available!)

At the beginning of my last Resonance Journal video, I mentioned a couple of (embarrassingly obvious) reasons why it’s good to be able to remember readings. I thought I could enlarge on that a bit for a blog post, with reasons to keep a journal of all the guidance that comes your way, not just the Yijing readings.

Reason 1. you get to learn more about Yi

A record of your experience with hexagrams and lines is simply the best way to learn what they mean to you, personally. As you build up personal associations with a hexagram, you get an inner sense of the shape of the thing that can’t be found in any book.

Having said that… there is a danger here in relying too much on those readings that really stand out in your memory. The readings that stay with you will tend to be the powerfully emotionally resonant ones: that’s just the way the memory works. If you rely just on these for your idea of the hexagram, you’ll probably end up with a biased impression, usually one that’s too extreme.

The first thing I remember about hexagram 23 is how it described (and helped me to process) a bereavement; it takes a journal search to remind me of the times it described a tooth extraction and a change in how I organised my to-do list. This is important, because 23 isn’t about bereavement; it’s about the ‘stripping away’ of whatever is no longer viable. If I can draw on the specifics of a whole variety of readings, I get a better overview and I’m less likely to leap to conclusions.

Reason 2: you can draw on your experience to help other people

This is a frequent questions at the forums: ‘Does anyone else have experience with this line?’ It’s also the whole point of the WikiWing: technology makes it possible now to build a commentary of the community’s shared experience. It’s hugely valuable. Sometimes all the new querent needs is to hear your story of your encounter with the line – the fresh perspective, ‘from the outside looking in’, opens the whole thing up for them.

Reason 3: you learn from experience

Another embarrassingly obvious one. Divination and dreams and awareness of guidance in all its forms makes a difference. Life informed by this kind of awareness is meant to be different from life without it. If I get the message, I can act on it and make changes. Or I can misunderstand ( /wilfully ignore) the message and make mistakes, or understand the message but learn only later that the purpose of these changes is not what I imagined it was… but at all events, I’ll be awake and changing – more like a living thing, less like a cog. But none of this is going to be possible unless I have the reading/ dream/ synchronicity in mind when I need it.

Reason 4: you learn from dreams

A while ago I started reading (/devouring) Robert Moss’s wonderful books on dreams. I couldn’t help noticing that he mentions a lot of very clear, detailed prophetic dreams of his. I found this odd – not to mention aggravating – as I’d never had a single one. But then again, I wasn’t remembering many dreams – so I began to write them down and pay attention. Not long afterwards, we were visiting my mother-in-law when she mentioned she’d lost a ring. We started lifting all the furniture and searching underneath, to no avail. Then I remembered a dream about finding good things in a hidden pocket, reached into the ‘pocket’ down the side of her chair cushion, and found the ring. The dream had taken me straight to it. Aha!

Of course there are whole books, and plenty of them, about what you can learn from dreams. All I know is that I don’t learn much from them if I don’t remember them, and I only remember them if I pay them at least enough attention to write them down.

Reason 5: it’s an opportunity to grow your relationship with Yi

Those powerful personal associations with particular hexagrams and lines that I mentioned under reason #1 – it’s important not to mistake them for ‘what the hexagram is about’, but at the same time… they can become part of what the hexagram is about, for you. Hexagram 2, for me, is not only what it says on the page, it’s also – because of a specific reading – my mother’s ‘superpower’ for lending her strength to a task and getting it done. In some of my readings with Hexagram 2, this is going to be part of the conversation. It’s not a meaning the hexagram will ever hold for anyone else; it only belongs in a private journal.

That journal space is also where I can build up a sense of how Yi develops themes and unfolds messages over time for me: what it means when a primary hexagram becomes relating, or vice versa; how readings shift to point out particular kinds of inner or outer change. These things can feed into readings for others in the end – though only after a whole lot of personal exploration.

Reason 6: it allows everything to speak

Your readings can be about your dreams; the bird you encounter today could be talking to you about a reading. Pay attention to all these things together, and the whole is decidedly more than the sum of its parts. Especially, I find it brings readings to life. There’s no more ‘Oh, I know what that one means’ nonsense. Interactions between dreams and readings and synchronicities keep the conversation alive and the meaning open-ended.

Reason 7: Writing your story does you good

This is true of any kind of journalling, with or without any kind of divination. Journalling is good for mental health and emotional resilience. It’s a place to work things through, to vent without worrying what people will think of you – a safe, judgement-free zone. It’s also a way to develop self-understanding, especially through pattern recognition – which brings us back to Yi, surely the world’s original and best instrument for pattern recognition.

Reason 8: …?

Recurring hexagrams

November 12th, 2014

reload symbolI’d been planning on writing a devastatingly insightful post about some rarefied, recondite connection you can find between readings with the Resonance Journal. Maybe the karmic significance of a repeated nuclear hexagram emerging as primary when you ask a Big Question – something deep and meaningful like that. Only when I actually started looking through my own journal, there was something much simpler calling for my attention: nine readings, on largely unrelated topics, all with the primary hexagram 38. What’s that about?

I think anyone who’s spent a few years with Yi has had this experience: there’s a hexagram, or sometimes a line, that sticks. No matter what you ask about, it keeps coming up. It reaches the point where you cast the first couple of lines of the hexagram and are already saying, ‘Not that one again…’

So what does this mean?

Sometimes, when you take a long look, it becomes clear that the readings with the same answer do all share a theme, even though they’re about parts of life that belong in quite different ‘boxes’.

An example from a few years ago: readings about both work and volunteering came up repeatedly with Hexagram 12. It was obvious the two situations had nothing in common: six days a week spent at home toiling over a computer keyboard; one day spent at a day centre for the elderly, mostly stacking/unstacking the dishwasher and making the tea. The 12-ness of the voluntary role was evident: I wasn’t happy with the situation (rules took precedence over people at every turn), but there was nothing I could do about it. But it wasn’t until I developed some insight into that situation in the light of the reading that I started to see the similarities with how I was running my own work. (As I said, that was some years ago – I made changes!)

So the ‘not this again’ reading can be a gift. ‘Look!’ it says, ‘See how this situation in your life is an image for that one?’ And if – as with my little volunteering role – one situation is relatively simple and clear, then it almost becomes like a ‘reading’ itself, a parable offering you a way to understand a larger story.

But there are also times when the readings don’t share a theme. My nine 38-readings? Two about the Flow of Change project, clearly related; three about purchase decisions, one about a productivity system, and one sort-of connected to that, I suppose, about asking someone to become an accountability partner. And two readings cast as examples with no question in mind when trying to reproduce a bug in the journal software so I could describe it accurately for Justin to fix.

Not only are most of these not remotely important questions, some of them were barely questions at all – the software-testing readings, and one or two ‘What if…?’ questions about things I didn’t really intend to do (like buying a more expensive phone). This recurring hexagram seems to be about something other than the things I was asking about.

It’s not unlike the experience of seeing the same number everywhere – every time you look at the clock it’s 11 minutes past, your car mileage ends in 1111, your reservation is for seat 11… that kind of thing. I always think those just mean ‘Hello.’ They’re reminders that synchronicity happens, the cosmos resonates, your world is ready to talk with you – here it is, where are you? Could recurring readings mean much the same – a simple ‘Hello’?

Perhaps. But then again, this is Yi; it has a wider vocabulary.

Here’s what I’ve found. When I start looking at these not-very-important, not-very-related readings, searching for a connection, it takes me out beyond my original questions. Those questions were answered: I had good advice when I needed it about keeping this somewhat dodgy old computer (not a robber, a marital ally!), about changing how I looked at my work, and so on. Answering questions is something Yi does. Only it also goes beyond the questions and invites me (if I’m even half-awake) to follow along.

It’s not that I’m about to see some life-changing connection between software debugging and to-do lists. But I have spent some time mulling over ‘outsider’ status, the perspectives it opens up, the emotional triggers it activates and so on. Just the act of reviewing the readings together gets me to pay attention to something outside the ‘boxes’ of the original questions.

Yi described this process with Hexagram 13 – experiencing harmony out in the wilds, beyond the walls that circumscribe my routine daily concerns. Life-as-to-do-list turns into a series of minor battles: fix the bug on that web page, solve this customer’s Paypal problems, catch up with those emails, move onto the next thing. And Yi – even if I rarely ask about more than the next thingtodo – says, OK, put the weapons away for a moment, come up this hill and take a look around…

The distance of line 6

October 18th, 2014


Image © Freeteo
Image © Freeteo

I’ve taken to thinking just about the position of a changing line, as a starting point for looking at its imagery and connections – and it’s surprising how often this provides the key to a reading.

Line 6, for instance. We’ve passed line 5 – the culmination, the place of the ruler, the adult in her or his prime, autonomous and choosing. What can come next?

Well… retirement comes next. Line 6 is often said to be ‘outside’ the situation – like grandpa sitting in the corner, or the sage on the mountaintop, while life moves past them. You can compare line 1, the small child’s line, and how children are outside and unaware of most adult concerns. Grandpa sits in one corner and the children play in another: he understands what’s going on in a way the children don’t, but they’re equally uninvolved.

Except that, of course, the real world is not remotely like that. I think line 6 is better described as having an overview or being at a distance. Incidentally, the retired people I know tend to be utterly involved, with a degree of unreserved commitment inaccessible to those who are busy making a living.

‘No business with kings and lords,
Honouring what is highest is your business.’

Line 6 as the line of distance? This is not the single principle that’s going to make all line 6s clear – we wouldn’t need 64 of them if it were – but I’m finding it does help.

The thing is, ‘distance’ can work out in many different ways. It can mean someone with an overview, who’s therefore more in touch with the whole reality of the hexagram-situation. Or it can mean being detached and ungrounded.

Hexagram 60, for example. This one needs human involvement, because human experience (whether the measures taste bitter or sweet) is the only way of getting to something that works. Line 6 tries to persist in ‘bitter measures’, which I’ve known to be a kind of abstract moral principle, unconnected to any human reality. 21.6 is a bit like that, too – putting on the cangue, blocking your ears, shutting out the real world. (Sometimes because – zhi 51 – it’s just too much.)

Or take 8.6 –

‘Seeking union without a head.

How can you seek union if you’re not personally involved, with your own feelings and natural affinities to guide you?

Or 55.6 –

‘At Feng, in his hut,
Screening off his home,
Peeping through his door.
In solitude, without people,
For three years sees no-one.

I think of this one as the imaginary scenario: what if Wu, instead of taking up the mandate, had stayed in his hut to do the strictly-correct thing and observe the full ritual period of mourning? 55 calls for the king to be at the centre taking the decisions, but what if he distanced himself and shut the door?

That’s an interesting one, because Wu would have been distancing himself from the needs of the time, while at the same time indulging his own emotions. That’s another way line 6’s distance can go wrong. In human terms it looks like almost the opposite problem – overweening principle out of touch with humanity, or all-too-human emotional intensity out of touch with reality. But the basic dynamic is the same – it’s still an issue of distance from reality.

This problem starts at 1.6:

‘Overweening dragon has regrets.’

Harmen Mesker had an interesting article about this a few years ago, describing it as the ‘Chinese Icarus’ - not arrogant, simply flying too high:

“If you do not know your limits, or do not accept them, you will have unavoidable misfortune. Not from arrogance, but from recklessness. It’s often the kind people, and not the arrogant people, who have to learn their lessons like this.”

There are several other line 6s whose emotional commitment seems to go too far – away from any place you could be effective. Like immersing yourself too completely in 57, 63 or 64 – utterly absorbed in researching or imagining. Or the pure animal drive of 34.6, the charging ram – certainly not interested in understanding the whole picture, only in getting to the other side of the hedge. (Though sometimes that pure unthinking drive to get through or take control is what the situation calls for, at least for now – think of 35.6 or 44.6.)

The most powerful example of a line 6 where desires go beyond effectiveness would be in hexagram 24:

‘Confused return, pitfall. There is calamity and blunder.
Using this to mobilise the armies: in the end there is great defeat.
For your state’s leader, disaster.
For ten years, incapable of marching out.’

The time for recapturing and returning has passed; this is an immovable truth. Not to accept this means unmitigated disaster.

Other examples – 56.6 (desires out of control becoming self-destructive), and even 42.6:

‘Absolutely no increase in this,
Maybe someone strikes this one.
The heart’s foundation is not lasting,

That’s frequently interpreted as simple selfishness, but I don’t think that’s necessarily right, just as 1.6 isn’t necessarily arrogant in the sense of being self-absorbed. At the extreme of 42, this one doesn’t want ‘more for me!’ – just ‘more!’ – growth, increase and flourishing. But without a grounding in human relationships, there can be neither receiving nor giving.

That’s quite a catalogue of disastrous ways to be distanced from reality, or completely divorced from it. But sometimes line 6’s distance translates instead into overview – a complete understanding that makes action particularly effective. Think of 15 –

‘The call of integrity.
Fruitful to use this to mobilise the army,
And bring order to city and state.’

– we can be sure that someone with Integrity will be fully in touch with the whole reality. With Clarity, too –

‘The king uses this to march out,
There are honours.
He executes the chief – the captives are not so ugly.
Not a mistake.’

The king ‘uses this': he can engage the full power of this particular moment, grasp the whole picture, prioritise. The prince of 40.6 (another one ‘using’ the moment) is similar.

On another level altogether, though, it’s worth noticing that 24.6 is not just about the extreme, disastrous divorce of human ambition from the real nature of the time. The one who speaks the line is looking far into the future – great defeat ‘in the end’, ‘for ten years, incapable of marching out’ – and so this line is also about long term perspective.

Line 6 often is. Think of 12.6 or 36.6 – or 6.6, or 38.6, or 56.6… – how they tell you about before and after. First it’s like this, then it’s like that. There’s the immediate human emotion (‘I got the leather belt!’ ‘That looks suspicious, bows at the ready!’), and then there’s also knowledge of how this pans out. Or there are line 6s for pausing and taking stock, as in 9, 49 or 51. And look how nuanced the comment is for the horn-charge of 35.6:

‘Advancing with your horns.
Holding fast, use this to subjugate the city.
Danger, good fortune, not a mistake.
Constancy: shame.’

This will be dangerous, but it’s a lucky course of action applied for this specific purpose, it’s not wrong, unless you make it a guiding principle, and then it’s shameful. The line takes a step or two back from the immediate objective, the excitement of charging and winning, and observes that the moral of the story is not what you might think in the heat of the moment.

That shift of perspective is one of the most striking and baffling things about line 6s. These two, for instance:

‘Exceeding in wading the river, head underwater.
No mistake.’

‘Bitter measures: constancy, pitfall.
Regrets vanish.’

I’ve written about 28.6 (and the Lorelei) before. Someone goes under the waves; someone attempts the impossible, constancy to the bitter measures that do not allow constancy. Of course this means absolute misfortune for them. ‘No mistake’, ‘regrets vanish’ – these come from some other perspective, out at a distance from the experience. Maybe if line 5 is the ruler, line 6 could be the story-teller.

When Yi is neutral

September 30th, 2014

A couple of months ago I wrote about ‘Essentials for Yijing readings‘ and included that old favourite hobby horse of mine: the commentary is not the answer, along with some examples of commentary – Wilhelm’s, Karcher’s and mine – that was decidedly not what the oracle said.

All three examples I came up with were from lines where Yi’s original words were strictly neutral – no value judgements at all: 9.3, 17.2 and 28.5.

‘A cart losing its wheel spokes.
Husband and wife avert their eyes.’

‘Bound to the small child,
Letting the mature man go.’

‘Withered willow sprouts flowers,
Venerable woman gets an upright husband.
No blame, no praise’

It seems especially hard to talk about these lines without adding our own value judgements, even without noticing we’re doing it.

‘Withered willow sprouts flowers,
Venerable woman gets an upright husband.
No blame, no praise’

Yi clearly and specifically says no blame, no praise – that this is not a situation that can be judged. And yet it’s fantastically difficult for us not to judge. The older woman is not going to have children – so this renewal and rejuvenation isn’t productive, and unproductive things are bad. We even make unfavourable comparison between the withered willow’s flowers and the shoots of line 2: this may perhaps not be doing any harm, but it isn’t going anywhere; flowers may be nice, but they’re not productive. Which is, of course, not true – but in any case, who decided productivity was an absolute standard?

Or take 17.2  –

‘Bound to the small child,
Letting the mature man go.’

‘A mistake’ says Karcher; ‘throws himself away on unworthy friends’ says Wilhelm. Maturity and respectability, they assume, are always Good Things. And, naturally, they usually are; this is the same ‘mature man’ who brings good fortune and no mistake to the Army, in the oracle of Hexagram 7. But the line doesn’t say ‘misfortune’ or ‘shame’ or ‘constancy means regrets’ – it only describes holding to the child and letting the mature person go.

I recently saw this line describe a situation where ‘letting the mature man go’ was unquestionably the right course of action: the established confidence of an elder was not required; spontaneity and the ability to learn were.  This is probably an unusual application – maybe next time I see the line, I’ll need to change tack and cling to the mature one. The thing is – I don’t know which way will be right, and the line doesn’t say.

And back to 9.3 –

‘A cart losing its wheel spokes.
Husband and wife avert their eyes.’

Maybe I’m the only one who turned this into a sign of ‘total collapse’ – and that would be because I set a high value on clear and open communication, so its absence seems to me to be obviously a Bad Thing. Only… again… the line doesn’t say so; it doesn’t say ‘pitfall’ or ‘shame’ or even ‘constancy, regrets’. It just describes a situation where connection is lost and progress cannot be made (because the wheel without spokes won’t turn).

Here are two (originally public) readings from my logs of experiences with this line:

He has started a new company, asked for someone’s business, and is awaiting their decision. How to act until they decide?

She’s in a long distance relationship, and he’s asked her to move in with him, leaving her family and job behind to become dependent on him. She only wants to take such a big step if it’s likely to lead to marriage, but doesn’t want to ask him his intentions. Would moving in with him lead to a proposal?

You can see the basic dynamics of the line in both these situations. There is a great weight of emotion and need – for new business, for relationship security – and it’s not being communicated. We might think that in the first case it’s better not communicated (‘I really need you to decide, I have bank loans to repay!’ – true and sincere but unlikely to help matters…), while in the second, communication is vital before she even thinks about acting. But the line doesn’t say either of those things.

And that, I think, is part of what it means to get into conversation with Yi and respond to a reading: finding our own emotional-moral-intuitive response to the images it offers. Jumping to the commentary can mean missing that moment of connection altogether.

Anyway… when my publisher kindly gave me permission to include my translation/commentary in the journal software, I leapt at the opportunity to make a few changes. The commentary on Hexagram 9, line 3 now reads,

“Things come apart. The spokes are such a small component of the cart, yet when they’re lost it comes to a halt. Husband and wife avoid one another’s gaze: where you would expect communication and rapport, there is an inner disconnection.

There is more strain than the spokes can hold; there may be more truth, more emotional intensity, than the structures for communication can sustain. Sometimes it’s wise to break the connection and let the wheels stop turning.”

I hope that’s better…

© Depositphotos.com/urban_light

photo © Depositphotos.com/urban_light

Living Connection

September 8th, 2014

Thinking about why we’re creating the journal software,  I found myself writing a sort of personal creed. Here it is –

Living Connection

Nothing definitive – of course – but heartfelt. If you like it, please share it freely.