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I Ching

I Ching
Riki Sarah Dennis
California Institute of Integral Studies
12 Summer TSD 6251 Divination and Intuition: Tools for Transformation
Linda Jean Shepherd, PhD
August 7, 2012

I Ching

Abstract
This paper is a short treatment of the I Ching (or Yijing, depending on the source of the
transliteration). In it I posit and answer three personally meaningful questions using the I
Ching, resulting in experiences and reflections likely to be dear to me for some time to
come. This includes the first time I was ever able to touch upon Horticultural Spirituality
without being overly self-conscious.

I Ching

As a part of this course, I have been asked to work with the I Ching. I am but a
novice, yet my first steps in this divinatory dance have been meaningful. In my work with
the I Ching, I found myself recalling a saying from my time at Naropa University: Notice
what you notice. I noticed myself asking questions that were addressing various neuroses
that I labor under, all of which seem intertwined with the illusion of control.
Reading instructions regarding the I Ching (or Yijing, depending on the source of
the transliteration) didnt result in my gaining a clear understanding. Fortunately, I am
tenacious, and todays internet is rich with I Ching resources including the videos that
prove so valuable to visual learners like me. Although some practitioners use yarrow
(Achillea sp.) coins are also used, and far easier for many (myself included) to obtain.
One builds up hexagrams (symbols in the I Ching) beginning at the bottom. The
hexagrams consist of six lines. Three coins are thrown for each line. Eighteen throws per
hexagram and (based on the advice of a friend) two hexagrams per reading. My brief
experience suggests that the questions one asks are less important than how one asks
them. I have a lot of preconceptions. Left to my own devices, I ask biased questions of
the kind that fail to reach past existing assumptions. One of the gifts gleaned from the I
Ching, and my dear cohort, is the impetus to set aside my preconceptions and my
tendency towards self-reprobation when asking questions.
One of my questions, Will I complete my dissertation? was better stated by a
cohort member: What's involved with finishing my dissertation? (Lambruschini, July
27, 2012, retrieved from:

I Ching

http://ciis.gjhost.com/ciisr/swebsock/0011095/0710936/CC50/main/viewitem.cml?
4192+5+1359+31806+0+0+1+x#here).
My answers were Hexagrams Nine and Forty-two, Hsiao chu and I
(respectively). Hsiao chu, the Taming Power of the Small lauds the virtues of the
inner strength coupled with outer gentleness (Wilhelm, R. and Baynes, C., p40). I is
symbolic of increase but of a counterintuitive increase of a (seemingly) lower position
via the efforts of the higher (Wilhelm, R. and Baynes, C., p162).. My take relates to the
Taoist readings from my youth, indicating that true leaders serve, that Whoever dares
not to be the first in the world can become the leader of the world (Tzu/Mitchell,
p110).
My second question serves to remind me that my coming year of dissertation
construction is not the only part of my life promising flux. My job has taken a toll on me.
The results from spending a little over six years working in an often meaningless (I
inflate the costs of patrons musical experiences) job, in a cubicle illuminated by
fluorescent lighting, earning minimum wage: What operations are needed in order to
land a meaningful job? My current gig isnt all bad. It does offer ample time for writing.
However, I dont believe in what we do as a company, and I incessantly scramble to
continue living indoors when my rent comes due. Although I realize completing my
education in no way guarantees employment, questions regarding a pending vocation feel
particularly poignant as I face the horizons of a debt-laden graduation in an appalling
economy. Add in the previous decade before my job, which is blank on a resume (unless I

I Ching

wish to list prostitute), and I am facing an explanatory hurdle in my job search. I


couldnt be much more nervous about my professional prospects.
My answer to this question was ominous: Hexagram 24, Fu, and Hexagram 44,
Kou. Fu denotes that:
after a time of decay comes the turning point There is movement, but it is
not brought about by force. The upper trigram Kun is characterized by devotion;
thus the movement is natural, arising spontaneously the transformation of the
old becomes easy Societies of people sharing the same views are formed
(Wilhelm, R. and Baynes, C., p97).
The next hexagram in the reading, Kou, suggests I have learned well how to bear
the opinions held by many (presumably including at least some future employers and
students):
Such persons are reproached for being proud and distant, but since active
duties no longer hold them to the world, this does not greatly matter. They know how to
bear the dislike of the masses with composure (Wilhelm, R. and Baynes, C., p173).
My third question, relating to gardening, proved the most meaningful that I have
had the courage to ask for some time. For many years I worked in the field of
Horticulture (pun intended). My initial post-secondary (pre-gender-transition)
education/degree was in Environmental Horticulture. After transition, after years of
employment in very fine places, I was unable to find job in the garden in the conservative
part of Southern California where I lived. I found other employment (in the so-called

I Ching

oldest profession), but often lulled myself to sleep remembering my time in the garden.
A debilitating assault seemed to seal my exclusion from what so far was the happiest
undertaking I ever experienced. Today, my happiest dreams revisit the large estates,
parks, nurseries, and botanical gardens I once worked. Years later, inspired by a friends
response to some online kvetching I did about my job, I find myself consulting the I
Ching with this question: What attitude should I take in honoring Horticulture as an
Educator? My answers were Hexagrams twenty-three, Po, and sixty, Chieh.
Po, or splitting apart, seems to indicate that there is a need for educators in this
milieu. Based on the effects of global warming documented by organizations such as the
United Nations (United Nations, p 4) it does appear that one species (Homo sapiens) has
had a profound negative effect upon the environment all species depend upon for
sustenance. The situation is grim, reflecting the passage describing the hexagram:
inferior, dark forces overcome what is superior and strong, not by direct
means, but by undermining it gradually and imperceptibly, so that it finally
collapses The mountain rests on the earth. When it is steep and narrow, lacking
a broad base, it must topple over The situation bodes disaster When
misfortune has spent itself, better times return (Wilhelm, R. and Baynes, C.,
pp93-96).
As the full effect of our negative impact on the globe becomes apparent, humanity
will go through a rough patch. If we are to emerge from this, the hexagram gives me
reason to suspect that there will be a place for those expert Horticulturists who can guide
others towards their level of mastery. How can I do this while burdened with prodigious

I Ching

student loans? There is even a nod to the debts held by the Capitalist banks I hold in
disdain:
An individual finds himself in an evil environment to which he is committed
by external ties. But he has an inner relationship with a superior man, and through
this he attains the stability to free himself from the way of the inferior people
around him. This brings him into opposition to them of course, but that is not
wrong (Wilhelm, R. and Baynes, C., p95).
Despite the patriarchal, male-centric, language in Wilhelm and Baynes
translation, Chieh makes me hopeful that I can lead a class based on virtue, rather than
following the patriarchal hierarchies modeled so well during my days at State Colleges:
Only a man who is honored, and who possesses the necessary spiritual power
for the task, can establish measure and mean for holding the world within bounds
(Wilhelm, R. and Baynes, C., p694).
I am not so arrogant as to think myself some sort of guru but, thanks to my time at
Naropa University, I do have an ever-growing spiritual maturity, and a recognized
working mastery of Contemplative Education. Add in expertise gained at the community
college level, Californias Polytechnical University in San Luis Obispo, and years of
work in gardens and I find myself confident that I am up to the task of bringing the
Horticultural and Spiritual together in the classroom.
Per my time at Naropa, noticing what I noticed was rewarding. The I Ching
prompts introspection. Parts of myself I fear exploring seem to come forward of their

I Ching

own accord (albeit at the invitation of falling coins). Even as a novice practitioner, the
utility of this practice in my life is undeniable. I am certain the I Ching will remain a part
of my life for the rest of my days.

I Ching

References
Berkers, E. (2012). Eclectic energies. Retrieved July 26, 2012 from:
http://www.eclecticenergies.com/iching/consultation.php?lns=967888
Tribes (2008). 64 hexagrams. Retrieved July 26, 2012 from:
http://tribes.tribe.net/e_ching/photos/38d65aef-e28d-4385-a128-fadaf2b69667
Tzu, L., and Mitchel, S. (Translator) (1998). Tao te ching. New York: Harper-Collins.
United Nations Climate Change Secretariat (2012).CAS/AWs. Bangkok: Thailand: United
Nations.
Wilhelm, H. and Baynes, C. (1997). The I ching: Or book of changes. Princeton, New
Jersey: Princeton University Press.