Some years ago, my Mom became interested in combining her interest in decorating with the Chinese practice of Feng Shui, whose practitioners believe that the way rooms are situated in a home, the elements you bring into those rooms, or even where a home sits on a street and which direction it faces all contribute to how good or bad the energy inside the home is. She learned to practice Feng Shui from a Native American woman named Laurelyn, who also incorporated elements of her own and several other cultural traditions into her practice. After a couple of years under her tutelage, my Mom became a certified Feng Shui consultant and worked with homeowners in the Denver area, where my parents lived at the time.
I brought all of this up because during her time studying with Laurelyn, my Mom was also introduced to a number of other Eastern spiritual practices, some of which she calls upon from time to time when she is looking for guidance or a different outlook on a current situation. Today I asked her to share one of those with me. I'd always heard about it and was curious.
Today's New Activity: Consulting the I Ching
The I Ching or Book of Changes is a very old Chinese text; some maintain (I just read) that its origins rest in the yin and yang elements of the practice of Taoism, while others believe it is an ethical practice set in Confucianist principles. And while all three books my Mom had on it were careful to state that it wasn't, in fact, an oracle or fortune telling tool, it has been traditionally used to help people get perspective on a particular question or concern.
Despite the fact that it is a weighty text (here is the version my Mom had--a 1950 publication from Princeton University Press):
the actual consultation is a pretty simple process. You take three coins
These are Chinese coins, but really you could use any objects that had discernible "heads" and "tails." You toss the coins six times, each time recording the corresponding line represented, until a hexagram is formed. For example, this toss is a head and two tails, represented by an unbroken line. After completing the hexagram, you consult the I Ching, which gives you perspective on the current situation, then you draw a second hexagram in which certain lines you first drew are switched to their opposites, forming a different hexagram. For example:
It sounds kind of confusing but it's actually really simple. Ok, *in theory* it's really simple. I ran into a problem because I didn't see in the book I was looking at that the line above with an "x" through it should have actually been broken. The first time we read the message it didn't really make sense at all. I was not liking the I Ching or what it had to tell me about my question. I didn't voice this, but in my mind I was a little disappointed. Then we went to make the second hexagram and my Mom realized I'd recorded the first one wrong, which lead to our reading a completely different hexagram message. The correct one was just about as opposite as it could have been, and it was much more to my liking. Very interesting that one line could make that much difference.
The I Ching text itself is a little intimidating, but we were reading from each of two companion texts which sort of summed up and translated the messages into more easily digestible bits.
I especially liked the second one, which was very well written and almost poetic at times. One paragraph struck me particularly, and not even necessarily in reference to the question I had in mind...just as a life lesson in general:
In a very real sense the progress of the world depends upon your progress as an individual now. Concentrate, then, on examining and correcting your thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Improve yourself into the kind of person you would follow wholeheartedly and without hesitation. Learn to accept the natural progress that occurs when you act in harmony with proper principles, and seek no progress at the expense of those principles.I think that's just good sound advice, no matter where you are in your life or what is on your mind at present to cause you concern.
I've never put a lot of stock in thing like horoscopes or tarot cards or other tools that claim to be able to tell you something about your life's circumstances or present situation, or especially about your future. I remember when I was a Christian, there was a practice of opening the Bible to any page when you are seeking an answer and then reading a passage. The idea was that the passage you choose would have the answer for you in that moment. Though I never found that to be *easily* true (meaning could be found in a passage, yes, but it was rarely ever obvious meaning, and it usually involved a good deal of stretching and interpretation), I wouldn't count the practice out entirely.
I think that tools such as the I Ching can be good in that some people just take things better coming from what's seen as a source of authority. Although whatever I take away from the messages I read today is very much a result of how I chose to interpret the words, I may just be more open to it coming from a centuries-old practice than if it'd come from, say, Dr. Phil. I think the same is true of any oracle-like practice, whether it be searching for answers in the Bible or any other religious text, or consulting the stars, a psychic, or, indeed the I Ching.
Many thanks to my Mom for the fascination experience and for the perspective, which, perhaps not-so-oddly enough, was just exactly what I think I needed to hear today.