"The Challenge of the Heart"-Love, Sex and Intimacy in Changing Times,
edited by John Wellwood (Shambhala 1985)
who works with the I Ching, whether for purposes of self-development or for the most mundane- seeming things, is being
taught "the way of the Sage,"' for no matter what our concern, to achieve progress requires a realignment in our attitude
to the cosmic point of view This realignment moves us toward understanding the higher realities. Ultimately we are working
on our spiritual nature.
we are already involved in defective relationships, these become the means by which we learn the "way of the Sage " In correcting
them we learn the true power of modesty as a shield and sword. Modesty alone arouses the Creative Power. Through modesty,
that is, through doing nothing at all, we achieve everything.
using the I Ching for guidance in difficult situations over a period of years, we come to understand not only how modesty
brings about our defense and furtherance, but how it also acts as a tool for rectifying our relationships.
in the I Ching has several meanings. First, it is the humility of knowing we need help from the Sage, and asking for
it. Second, it is will-power as reticence, restraining our clamoring inferiors. Third, it is patience, holding firm when the
pressures of the moment are intense, and when yielding to them in the slightest degree would cause us to lose our path. Fourth,
it is conscientiousness, reflecting to see if we have overlooked any evil in ourselves, and keeping on guard against the entrance
of any doubt. This conscientiousness amounts to an unflagging awareness so that one is not deceived by self-flattery or false
enthusiasm brought on by the pressure to find "solutions." Fifth, modesty is enduring firmly through perseverance. Sixth,
it is the will to accept things as they come, ever seeking clarity through acceptance and docility; for one realizes that
clarity gives one the strength to see things through to completion. Finally, modesty is expressed as devotion to the path
of the good for its own sake, for one sees clearly that staying on the path is the goal, and that everything good comes out
of that. For a long time we must be content to wait and work without expectation. Then support comes. We need to realize that
it can come only when we prove reliable--devoted to being led. Much of the work of self-development is to correct our relationship
with the Sage by allowing ourselves to be led.
to Meet" (Hexagram 44) describes a correct relationship as one in which two people come to meet each other halfway. Halfway
means that both are open and receptive to each other. Coming to meet halfway also must be mutually voluntary, based on the
principle of spontaneous attraction described in "The Marrying Maiden" (54) as the "essential principle of relatedness." We
must maintain reserve in our relationships until the coming to meet is mutual. Maintaining reserve is the correct action (or
non action). Coming to meet halfway is possible only between people who are mutually honest and sincere in their way of life. It is the great joy of such relationships that they are full of
mutual trust and sensitivity.
We understand "coming to meet"
better if we compare it to a contract made between two people. If one is indolent in performing his part, or has mental reservations
about what he is willing to do, the contract may fail. Although such a person may have entered the contract without any immediate
objections, his attitude may contain objections which arise only at the time his obligations are to be performed. Such a person
may secretly feet that contracts are not to be taken seriously, or, on seeing how difficult it is to fulfill his part, he
may hedge on doing it because of some idea that all contracts are subject to fitting into his concept of what is reasonable."
In any case, it is impossible to come to meet such a person halfway, and the I Ching repeatedly advises us that it
is better for us to go on our way alone and to wait until the fundamentals of unity are firmly established before we commit
ourselves to other people. When we cater to another person's ego because it is uncomfortable to go on our way alone, we choose
the high road of comfort rather than the low road of modesty and loneliness. Withdrawal from the high road is the action often
counseled by the I Ching.
If a person is treating us
presumptuously, and if we remind him of this, he may correct his habits for a few days, but gradually revert to the same pattern
of neglect. This he does from egotistical indolence-some- thing in his point of view makes him feel he has the right to be
indifferent. Likewise, we must withdraw from the indolent person, "cutting our inner strings" of attachment to him, and no
longer look at his wrongdoings with our inner eye. This enables the person to see what he is doing in the mirror created by
the void. By dispersing any alienation we may feel, we also lend strength to his superior self. Momentarily, his ego is overcome.
We need to realize that this change is short-lived, but it is an essential beginning. The change does not last because it
is only founded on his response to feeling the void. It becomes a permanent change when he sees clearly that unity with others
depends upon his devoting himself to correcting his mistakes. Only then can we abandon a more formal way of relating to him.
The sense of loss, loneliness,
or poverty of self a person feels on our withdrawing from him is what, in "Biting Through" (21), is called "punishment." The
punishment works only if it is applied in the way described in the lines of this hexagram. These lines make clear that on
encountering the ego of another person, we must consistently and immediately withdraw, neither contending with him nor trying
to force progress by leverage. We withdraw, accepting his state of mind, letting him go. We must take care not to withdraw
with any other attitude than that required to maintain inner serenity, and to keep from giving up on him. If we withdraw with
feelings of alienation, or of self-righteousness, our ego is involved as the punisher. The ego, as the third line of this
hexagram says, "lacks the power and authority" to punish. The culprits not only do not submit, but "by taking up the problem
the punisher arouses poisonous hatred against himself." One person's ego may not punish another person's ego.
When a person returns to the
path of responding correctly, we likewise go to meet him halfway, rather than tell him he is doing things correctly. In this
way he comes to relating correctly from his own need to relate correctly and we do not force it on him. Our consistency and
discipline in feeling out each moment and responding to it does the work. It is unnecessary to watch a person's behavior to
see if he is becoming worse or better; we need only be in tune with ourselves. Our inner voice warns us precisely when to
withdraw and when to relate. We need only listen within.
It is an important I Ching
principle to work with a situation only so long as the other person is receptive and open, and to retreat the instant
this receptivity wanes. When we understand that this represents a natural cycle of influence, we learn to "let go" when the
moment of influence passes, and not to press our views. This gives other people the space they need to move away from us and
return of their own accord. The Sage relates to us in precisely this manner, and the hexagram comments that the Sage is never
sad, in view of our coming and going, but is always like the sun at . In the same way we must avoid egotistical enthusiasm when we think we are making progress,
or discouragement when the dark period ensues.
Throughout the cycle we learn to remain detached, holding steadily to the light within us and within others. The instant we
strive to influence, we "push upward blindly." If we insist on accomplishing the goal at all costs, our inner light is darkened
and our will to see things through is damaged.
strength of a person's ego corresponds to the amount of attention it can attract. On the most simple level this recognition
is by eye-to-eye contact; on the more basic inner level we strengthen other people's egos by watching them with our inner
eye. If we are annoyed with someone, we are watching him with our inner eye. Only when we withdraw both our eye-to-eye contact
and our inner gaze do we deprive his ego of its power. An I Ching line says, "We cannot lead those whom we follow."
By following others with our inner eye we do not walk our own path but attend to theirs. This gratifies their ego. It is as
if we are attached to them by hidden underground cables, which must be cut. It is as if we are acting as a lifeguard who is
watching to save them from themselves. As long as they recognize that someone is going to save them, they carelessly begin
to swim with the sharks. They do this not only because they feel a false sense of security, but because it guarantees that
we pay attention to them. As long as we play the role of lifeguard, the others we care about will not save themselves; for
their own good it is necessary to withdraw, cut our inner strings and leave matters up to them; this is also to cease doubting
withdrawal is an action of perseverance that has its own reward, but only when it is modest perseverance, not an attempt to
impress others by getting them to notice our withdrawal. In many situations the problem is resolved, not through any external
action that arises spontaneously on our part, but by simply "letting it happen," through letting go of the problem. Our "action"
is to "let go"
practicing disengagement from negative images and their offspring emotions, we train ourselves not to brand adverse situations
as "bad." By not deciding the situation is "unfavorable," we remain open to learning something from it, and allow the hidden
force to resolve the difficulties in a favorable way. From the I Ching point of view, adversity provides the opportunity
for inner growth and development as we overcome the doubts, anxieties anti judgments that block our access to the Creative
Power. It is also its view that all evil, either in us or in other people, arises from doubts and misunderstandings. Doubting
that we, in and of ourselves, are sufficiently equipped to succeed in life, we develop a false self-image, or ego. Doubting
that we have help from the Creative, we fear what life has to offer, therefore build defenses against the unknown. All these
doubts and misunderstandings are at the root of how people relate incorrectly to each other.
the foregoing examples we have seen that action tends to be expressed in terms of applying limits to our thoughts and actions.
Accepting such self-imposed limits is the message of "Limitation" (60). One necessary limitation we must place on ourselves
is that of restraining ourselves, through self-discipline, from expecting quick results. Our inferiors impatiently measure
the other person's behavior to see if we are having an effect. The I Ching explains that we must learn to work with
time as the vehicle of the Creative Force. Working with time, adapting to the fact that slow progress is the only progress
that endures is part of the process of non-action. We need to withdraw from impatience and "flow," as with water that only
runs downhill. We need to prohibit our inferiors from "watching the team horse," and from putting images of gloom and doom
before our inner eye. Sometimes doing these things requires what can only be called "galling limitation," and "sublime perseverance,"
but it is only by such means that we can gain superiority over our recalcitrant inferiors. We also find that during such times
we can overcome the assaults of our inferiors if we mount a resolute determination to withstand them. It is important to remember
that they are but paper dragons and they do not have the invincible power they make us think they have. It is also important
to remember that when we cling steadfastly to our path, we also get help from the Creative, but even more readily if we remember
to ask for help.
our inner nature in the ways described develops the power of inner truth. The hexagram "Revolution" (49) stresses that what
we ask of people must "correspond with a higher truth and not spring from
arbitrary or petty motives." What we think of as justice may not be so from the cosmic point of view. We may have imagined,
for example, that a person who has been unfair with us ought to go through a series of steps to re-establish their credibility
and good will. In effect, we are saying that we require them to meet conditions of our specifications; otherwise the injustice
cannot be erased. Such demands are the work of our self-righteous pride and ego. The way in which a person returns to the
path is not properly our business; furthermore, when they have returned, we must meet them halfway. We also need to avoid
using the moment to gain the recognition that we were "right."
The action described thus far
- that of non-action, of keeping our inner attitude correct, works through the power of inner truth. Inner truth has to mount
to great strength before it can break through obdurate situations. It mounts in strength in direct proportion to our inner
perseverance to hold to the correct path, and it acts on the principle of gentle penetration described in "The Gentle" ("The
Penetrating," Wind) (57). Just as roots penetrate rocks and break them apart, perseverance in the correct attitude breaks
through closed minds.
A second type of action arises
spontaneously out of a correct attitude. This action manifests as a response to what is happening. Although we realize we
are acting, we do so with such detachment that the action happens through us, rather than by us. We are conduits for what
arises in the hidden world. Sometimes this action is very forceful and abrupt, and takes us completely by surprise. It had
the correct effect and was appropriate, and we could not have planned it. Sometimes the action taken is a very quiet, calming
action, but again, we are detached. Such moments do not come often, but usually happen in difficult situations, in which the
help of the Creative is greatly needed,
Such spontaneous action can
only occur when we are in a receptive and open state of mind. It may take place after we have been misunderstood and challenged
by other people's inferiors, and have strictly held to our limits. Suddenly we say or do the correct thing. Steadfastness
has aroused the Creative Power to act through us. The state of mind in which such action can take place is that of emptiness.
We have mentally disengaged from any intentions or plans, any feelings of urgency or alienation, of wanting to do or dreading
to do anything about the situation at hand. We have also become free of any discouraging feelings of helplessness, and have
allowed ourselves to rely on the cosmos to let things work out as they will. In arriving at this "empty place," the place
of no thought, or what in Zen is called "no mind," we are in tune with the Creative.
Inner correctness also activates
what the I Ching calls “the helpers” -- those hidden and often suppressed great and good elements in other
people that, once aroused, provide the necessary inner assent to accomplish needed changes. The lines in the I Ching that
call for “seeing the great man” and “holding to the great man” mean that we need to hold to the possibility
of these elements in others, even though the most unpleasant elements are visible. If it is impossible to conceive of the
great man in others, it is sufficient to disengage from our negative feelings about them: to be neutral in attitude is to
automatically remain open to their potential goodness.
Similar to this spontaneous
action is a slow-building action that steadily mounts in intensity to a denouement that just happens by itself. Complex, unseen
movements are taking place. During this time the external situation seems to demand our taking some action, but we don't know
what action. As "Preponderance of the Small" (62) tells us, it is necessary to wait in the "ambiguous spot," doing nothing.
Doing nothing and waiting is the correct attitude results in a build-up of inner power. The taming and holding onto this power
is the subject of "The Taming Power of the Great" (26), which speaks of daily self-renewal through keeping still as the only
means of remaining at the peak of our inner powers. In "taming" this power by resisting the urge to act, we experience a sense
of discomfort. Waiting in the ambiguous spot is galling to our inferiors who point to the "threatening dangers of non action."
The rush of desire to do something, pictured as a bull's horns and a rhinoceros's tusk, may be controlled through seeing with clarity that it is not yet time to
act. Finally, with our being hardly aware of it, the inner power has its effect and the obstacles are overcome. When this
happens we get the top line, which says, "He attains the way of heaven, success." Through waiting and controlling our energy,
inner power grew and the victory was won. It was as if the root inside the boulder swelled and split the boulder apart. At
this final moment those who were hostile or unreceptive change and become open to us. This change is dramatic and inexplicable,
outside the boundaries of any logical process.
in the ambiguous spot involves risks and dangers, which must be overcome if we are to succeed. This sort of patience described
in the I Ching is a unique focusing of will to hold to what is good in our- selves, in other people, and in the life
process, so that the inferior man, wherever he exists, is overthrown. First we retreat from any inferior impulses we have;
then we disengage our attention from the other person, leaving it truly up to him to do or not do the right thing. This kind
of humble acceptance, in which we "cling to the power of truth," arouses the Creative Power. We do not need to like the person,
or to believe in him, or to believe in our own power. Quite the opposite: truly, we are powerless. Without going from the
extreme of disbelief to the extreme of belief, we simply relinquish, or sacrifice, our disbelief. In sacrificing it, we return
to the empty place, the neutral place, the place of the Creative. In so doing we retain our inner dignity and we preserve
his; by recognizing and accepting our own powerlessness we give him the space to find himself. This space acts as a kind of
cosmic mirror in which the other person perceives and apprehends his inferior man. In this manner we make it possible for
another person's superior man to regain control.
build-up of inner power depends upon the self-limitation described. Inner power is maintained through daily self-renewal-letting
go of everything and keeping still every day. At the same time, it is impossible to free ourselves from entrenched habits
of mind all at once. We need to forgive ourselves for not always living up to our standards, and for frequently failing. It
is unreasonable to expect too much, too soon, therefore the I Ching says we must put “limitation, even upon limitation”.
1 "The Sage" refers to the unnamed universal teacher whose wisdom is expressed
I Ching. This term
could also be understood here as referring to our own native intelligence or place of inner wisdom.
2 The Creative Power is the subject of the first hexagram of
the I Ching, and is
associated with the light,
regenerative, centrifugal power of yang. This creative power of the universe is activated by its opposite, the dark, womb-like,
cohesive power of yin. Being receptive to the needs of the moment allows the creative power of the universe to act through
3 The inferiors" is a term referring to lesser elements in our
character, which often
clamor to take
over and guide our acts. They often want short-term, immediate results, and lack the patience to persevere through difficult
times. These are the parts of us that operate out of fear and distrust, having little faith in the creative power of die universe.
4 The "great man" or "superior man" in the I Ching is
a term referring to our innate
operates in accord with the Creative.