One way to use the I Ching is to ask it a question and look at the hexagram you produce from your coin throw and the related texts for the answer to it. The trick is to make your question as specific as possible. The more ambiguous it is, the more ambiguous the response. “Should I take the new job I’ve just been offered?” will produce a far clearer answer than “should I look for a new job” — not least because the number of variables involved in considering the latter are infinitely more than in pondering the former.
I personally prefer not to ask the I Ching direct questions, but rather to use my daily consultation as a mirror for reflecting what is happening in the world around me and in my head. By making me more aware of the emotions and preconceptions that are clouding my thoughts, this approach enables me to contemplate my current situation with greater clarity and thus generate answers to questions that I haven’t even articulated yet.
Over the last few weeks, for example, I have been extremely busy with a new marketing strategy for work, but even though I believed I had set the right direction I couldn’t find it in me to trigger the implementation of it. Until, that is, this morning when I threw hexagram 31 in my consultation and everything clicked for me.
Featuring a lake on top of a mountain, hexagram 31 (咸/xián) signifies resonance — which I instinctively took to mean that I had hit the right note with my proposed approach and I was thus ready to start rolling it out. My two changing lines, lines 2 and 6, cautioned me to be stay patient and calm, but that did nothing to dampen my resolve. Many years of experience have shown that it’s all too easy to get overexcited by bright and shiny new objects in the marketing world.
The transformation of hexagram 31 into hexagram 44 provided an additional note of caution with its warning of a potentially difficult encounter (姤/gòu) looming ahead of me. Sobering news, indeed, but again not enough deter me from moving ahead with my plans. After all, by its very nature, implementing a new strategy always involves a degree of risk (otherwise it wouldn’t be worth doing). The key is to be aware of the potential pitfalls and make sure you are ready to manage any that may occur.
But just to make sure all my bases are covered, I’ll be setting my antennae on full alert when I meet with the press next week at Embedded World!