Pandemic Practice and the I Ching

OK, so it’s now late October 2021, yes, 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic is waning, sort of, depending on where you are, if it’s not Russia or Ukraine. I’m where I’ve been since March 2020, aboard Santorini, 10 miles up the ‘mighty’ Fraser River in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver BC. A year and a half has evaporated. I’ve spent a winter aboard instead of in Asia, I’ve made a serious 45 day solo cruise to the incredible Desolation Sound wilderness 100 miles up the coast. And I have kept up my practice. It’s not been easy. No daoist friends nearby. No retreats, inspiration had to come from “inner friends”. I’ve renewed my work with I Ching.

In Feb 2021, I received a Chinese New Year email from an old friend, fellow Daoist and author Aisha Sieburth. She included this illustration of a circular arrangement of the Hexagrams based on the solar (365 day) calendar.

Juan Li’s Yearly Arrangement

So I started looking into the arrangement a bit. Since the illustration did not include the hexagrams themselves, I recreated it in (my favorite creative software) Rhino 3D modelling software.

My rendering of Juan Li’s Arrangement showing Hexagrams and Structure.

I added the hexagrams in a new ring around the outside. The structure immediately becomes apparent. I rotated the arrangement to show the Solar New Year at the top, this is the time of maximum Yin and so the year ends about December 21 with Hexagram 2.

The inner Trigram is Earth at the Winter Solstice, and at the Solstice the first line of Earth changes to Yang. In the illustration I also added arrows between the Hexagrams to illustrate which line or lines change. A similar pattern exists at the Summer Solstice where the first line of Heaven changes from Yang to Yin. Otherwise throughout the year each Hexagram changes to the next in the sequence in a very regular pattern

The Inner Trigrams proceed in the order shown by the Trigram Names in the Eight-Fold flower in the centre. Thunder as the Inner Trigram reigns for the first Eight periods. Five or six days are ascribed to each Hexagram. I have assumed one day for each line starting at the bottom, dividing the influence appropriately for a 5 day Hexagram.

The Outer Trigram changes follow a regular pattern. There are pairs, where the succeeding Hexagram is created when the top line of the preceding Hexagram changes. Like Dec. 27 to Dec. 28, the top line of 24 changes to make Hexagram 27.

Then the top two lines of the second Hexagram of the pair (Hexagram 27 in this case) both change to form the first of the next pair. So Hexagram 27 changes to Hexagram 3.

A Hexagram goes through it’s lines, one per day, then culminates when the top line changes, becoming the result of that top line. Then that Hexagram ‘grows old’, and culminates for the last two days, resulting whatever the two top lines changing yields.

OK, that’s interesting. What makes up the order of the Inner Trigrams? Heh, it’s the Pre-Heaven arrangement. Rotating the illustration to place Heaven at the top, as it is in the Pre-Heaven Bagua, would place the Summer Solstice squarely at the top. Fine, the Inner Trigram represents the inner aspects of the change, so these core changes operate in the Heavenly Order. This is the order of the pairs of relationships opposite one another, Heaven (Father) facing Earth (Mother), elder, middle and younger siblings all facing their opposite.

So what does ‘working with’ something like this arrangement mean. My continuing interest, after 50 years studying the Yi, is primarily about the inner order of the Hexagrams. By studying a systematic arrangement these inner relationships may become more clear. Sometimes this is obvious, other times downright mysterious. It’s probably this latter aspect that keeps my interest. And since you cycle through all the lines of every Change, you see all the good days and all the bad ones. The Yi Ching definitely contains both.

As I write this, we have just ended the period October 17 – 21, associated in this arrangement with Hexagram 53, Gradual Progress. Here, the Tree (Wind) on the Mountain represents gradual growth over time, overcoming the perils of the seasons, penetrating ever further, going on, persevering and in the 6th line, certainly one of the most auspicious in all the 384 lines of the I Ching, practice reaches it’s culmination and the embryo is complete. All through Gradual Progress.

However (a big one), when the top line of 53 changes, suddenly you are in 39, Obstruction. Abyss ahead, insurmountable mountain behind. Stopping in danger, going does not further, returning benefits. So is there a connection here?

Certainly after the completion that transpires at the end of 53, there is nowhere further to go in that direction, something new has to begin and it’s bringing it’s problems with it. In terms of the year, one could say the season is truly and completely ‘complete’. We are headed quickly and definitively into the yin. Mountain implies stillness is the way to deal with any obstruction.

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