Today is an unfortunate day should you ask the “I Ching’ about your present situation, and the ‘I Ching” answers with Hexagram #18, Ku or Gu, Decay, Perversion, Corruption, Pestilence. The upper trigram is Kên KEEPING STILL, MOUNTAIN and the lower one, Sun THE GENTLE, WIND

The Chinese character Ku or Gu represents a bowl in whose contents worms are breeding. This means decay. IT is come about because the gentle indifference in the lower trigram has come together with the rigid inertia of the upper, and the result is stagnation. So, definitely not a qualities any of us want to acquire. Also, since this implies guilt, the causes that brought about the condition of stagnation and decay, namely indifference and inertia, must be removed. Thus, the hexagram not only embodies what has been decayed, but demands that one “works on what has been decayed,” in other words “Self-Improvement.”



Yesterday, we looked at Hexagram #16 Yu, Contentment or Enthusiasm. As the saying goes, where there is Enthusiasn, there is certain to be Following, which is today’s hexagram, #17, Sui, Following. While Following, per se, is not a virtue, it can require certain qualities that are virtuous like Yielding. Yield to that path that fate has set out before you. Be guided by the way things are moving. Realize that all these events that you are going through are not disjointed or incongruous but are firmly connected. Have the restraint not to fight it and the courage to go with it. In other words, Follow the path wherever it may lead. But what is it that is guiding you?

To that, we must look to the Image of Sui for the answer. Sui is complosed of Zhen, thunder at the base and Dui, the Lake or Joy above. Here it is the thunder in the middle of the lake that serves as the image–thunder in its winter rest, not thunder in motion. The idea of following in the sense of adaptation to the demands of the time grows out of this image. Thunder in the middle of the lake indicates times of darkness and rest. Similarly, a superior man, after being tirelessly active all day, allows himself rest and recuperation at night. No situation can become favorable until one is able to adapt to it and does not wear himself out with mistaken resistance.

Good advice, no doubt, for all of us. Good luck with your practice.


As we saw earlier with Hexagram #10, Lu, Treading, where the soft treads on the hard but avoids retaliation due to an attituide of “cheerfulness,” and this cheerfulness led to Hexagram #11 T’ai, Peace. So, to yesterday’s Hexagram #15, Ch’ien or Qian, Modesty, brings about today’s hexagram, #16, Yu, Contentment.

With Zhen, Quake or Thunder, above, and K’un, the Receptive, Earth, below, Yu symbolizes when action occurs out of compliance. Heaven and Earth act only out of compliance. Thus, the sun and moon never err, and the seasons never vary. The Sage acts only out of compliance. To prepare and gather what is needed to live fully within your means and yet be capable of modesty means that one must be content.

So, prepare and gather those qualities needed to extend your practice and rest in contentment.


Today we look at one quality that hopefully all internal artists can aquire and one of the most important, so much so that it is stressed in all the major works of Daoism including the Dao De Ching and the Zhuangzi. This is Hexagram #15 Ch’ien or Qian, Modesty. It is made up of the trigrams Kên, Keeping Still, Mountain, below and K’un, the Receptive, Earth, above. Ken, the Mountain, dispenses the blessings of heaven, the clouds and rain that gather round its summit, and thereafter shines forth radiant with heavenly light. This shows what modesty is and how it functions in those who are great and strong. Lowliness, on the other hand, is a quality of K’un, the Earth: this is the very reason that it appears in this hexagram as exalted, by being placed above the mountain. As the Dao De Ching has stated: the Dao of Heaven is to make the full empty and to fill or bring increase to that which is modest. The Dao of the Earth is to transform what is full and to make what is modest flow and spread.

As stated in the Judgement to Ch’ien: MODESTY creates success; The superior person carries things through (without boasting of what one has achieved). Need I say more? Good luck with your training, and no matter how much you accomplish, don’t get full of yourself.


Today we have another inverted hexagram, the reverse of the preceding one. It’s Hexagram #14, DaYou (Great Holdings/Great Possessions). With Li, Fire/Flame on top and Ch’ien, Heaven below, it is the inverse of #13, Tongren, Fellowship. DaYou is even more auspicious than Tongren. Why is that?

In Tongren, the ruler of the entire hexagram is the Yin line in the weak second position, the middle of the lower trigram, Li. However, in DaYou, the Yin line, which remains the ruler of the hexagram, is in a position of strength now that its trigram Li is on top. Thus, Great Holdings/Possessions is expressed by the way its ruler, the Yin line in the fifth place, obtains this noble position by its yielding nature and abiding in the Mean (commonality) and enjoys greatness as those above and those below all respond to it.

The Virtues of Great Holdings as expressed by the Yin line in the fifth place include hardness and strength but also civility and enlightenment or, as I mentioned yesterday, clarity based on discernment of the Mean. It is by resonating with Heaven’s Will that one achieves timely action, and this is how fundamental prevalence comes about. As the Virtues of Great Holdings work in response to Heaven’s will, one’s actions are timely and correct. One’s hardness and internal strength allow one to stay free of impediments while one’s civility and clarity keep one free of wrongdoing. Since one’s actions are also timely, they will not be in conflict with Nature.

So, work on trying to acquire the Virtues of DaYou by combining your practice with calm abiding throughout the day. Best of luck to you.


Today we look at a positive trait, Fellowship, which is Hexagram # 13, Tongren. The hexagram consists of Qian, the Creative, Heaven, Yang in the upper trigram and Li, Fire or Flame and sometimes referred to as Radiance. So, it is Heaven over Fire, which has the flames of the fire burning up to heaven. Thus, in the same way, the weak Yin line in the second position reaches up to the strong Yang line in the fifth position, the middle of the upper trigram, Heaven. Thanks to its achievements of the Mean, the weak Yin line finds itself in resonance with the ruler of the upper trigram, the strong Yang in the fifth line. Such a situation is referred to as Fellowship.

Exercising strength through the practice of civility and enlightenment, the Second Yin and the Fifth Yang each respond to the other with their adherence to the Mean. Here the “Mean” refers to commonality while “enlightenment” does not refer to Nirvana but rather to clarity that is derived through the discernment of that commonality you have with other persons despite differences in status and social position. The exercising of strength should not be done with external force but instead with the internal qualities of civility and discernment.

In this hexagram, the lower weak Yin line and its opposite the higher strong Yang line respond to each other not out of dissent or conflict but out of adherence to that commonality they have as the rulers or central figures of their respective trigrams. So, the traits for us to aquire are civility and discernment. By finding places of agreement where common goals can be shared, we can develop a bond of common understanding and thus build Fellowship with an individual or within a group.


Moving along to Hexagram #12, Pi/ Standstill (Stagnation). This is certainly not a quality an Internal Artist or Cultivator would want to aquire. In fact, it is the complete opposite. Speaking of opposistes, Pi is the very opposite of Hexagram 11, T’ai, Peace which had K’un the Receptive, Earth, above and Ch’ien, the Creative, Heaven below. But in Pi, Ch’ien is above and K’un is below. So, what is the problem with that? Plenty.

In his commentary, Richard Wilhelm points out that “Heaven is above, drawing farther and farther away, while the earth below sinks farther into the depths. The creative powers are not in relation. It is a time of standstill and decline.”

Heaven and earth are not on the same page. Their communication is way off and that has everything in a stagnant state of numbness. Again, Wilhem comments: “What is above has no relation to what is below, and on earth confusion and disorder prevail. The dark power is within, the light power is without. Weakness is within, harshness without. Within are the inferior, and without are the superior. The way of inferior people is in ascent; the way of superior people is on the decline.”

But even in the midst of all this stagnantion and meanness, there is a much needed quality that arises – Restraint. Wilhelm goes on to explain: “But superior people do not allow themselves to be turned from their principles. If the possibility of exerting influence is closed to them, they nevertheless remain faithful to their principles and withdraw into seclusion.”

From the image of Pi, Stagnation or Standstill, we get the idea of Heaven and Earth being unable to unite and drawing further away from each other. Then the I Ching tells us if we want to be superior, we must fall back on our principles, our inner values and act with restraint.

“Thus the superior man falls back upon his inner worth
In order to escape the difficulties.
He does not permit himself to be honored with revenue.”

Wilhem adds: “When, owing to the influence of inferior men, mutual mistrust prevails in public life, fruitful activity is rendered impossible, because the fundaments are wrong. Therefore the superior man knows what he must do under such circumstances; he does not allow himself to be tempted by dazzling offers to take part in public activities. This would only expose him to danger, since he cannot assent to the meanness of the others. He therefore hides his worth and withdraws into seclusion.”

From this reading, we learn there are three things that must be done to avoid stagnation. First, always keep your inner principles in mind and never compromise them. Secondly, try your best to avoid people with inferior morals and values. Finally, restrain from accepting money and other favors that would compromise your principles.


Before moving on I would like to go over the last two qualities from Hexagram 11, T’ai/Peace and Hexagram 10, Lu/Treading. As I mentioned yesterday, Lu, Treading, carries the quality of “Cheerfulness,” and that, in turn, leads to the quality of Peace or Calm Abiding that we have in the internal Arts. I cannot emphasize enough how important both of these qualities are. If you can remain cheerful in the face of failure, mistakes and blunders, and other negative situations, not only will you attract the spirit of heaven as we said yesterday but also the hearts of other people. No one likes a sour puss or a cry baby. While some may empathize with this person, they certainly don’t want to remain around them for too long. All that sobbing and complaining gets old very quickly. But a cheerful person not only attracts good spirits from the Heavenly realm but good-hearted people as well. People want to be around a cheerful person, who feels so blessed just to be alive and appreciative of everything that life has to offer, even if some of it is negative. So, even if they do accidentally tread on the tiger’s tail, they know it may growl somewhat but it certainly won’t take a bite out of them.

This attitude, as we said yesterday, leads to a “Peaceful” inner nature, which is most important for advancing within the cultivation arts. In fact, you cannot advance at all if you are not at peace with yourself and comfortable with who you are and your situation in life. While cheerfulness is not the only route to a peaceful inner nature, it is perhaps the smoothest and most direct one. It may not guarantee bliss or nirvana, but being at peace with yourself, your circumstances and your environment and the world all around you makes each step along the road so much easier and fruitful.


Next up is Hexagram #11 T’ai (Peace) above K’UN THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH and below CH’IEN THE CREATIVE, HEAVEN. Here, the Receptive, which moves downward, stands above; the Creative, which moves upward, is below. Hence their influences meet and are in harmony, so that all living things bloom and prosper.

This hexagram denotes a time in nature when heaven seems to be on earth. Heaven has placed itself beneath the earth, and so their powers unite in deep harmony. Then peace and blessing descend upon all living things. In the world of man it is a time of social harmony; those in high places show favor to the lowly, and the lowly and inferior put an end to all feuds. Inside, at the center, in the key position, is the light principle; the dark principle is outside. Thus the light has a powerful influence, while the dark is submissive. In this way each receives its due. When the good elements of society occupy a central position and are in control, the evil elements come under their influence and change for the better. When the spirit of heaven rules in man, his animal nature also comes under its influence and takes its appropriate place.

So, you can see how our last quality “cheerfulness,” implicit in #10, Lu, Treading, has led to T’ai, Peace. Cheerfulness naturally elevates one’s spirit by attracting the light with its powerful influence, which, in turn, diminishes the dark. One’s “cheerfulness” attracts the spirit of heaven, which reins in your animal nature and your peaceful inner nature will prevail.


Hexagram #10, Lu, Treading. Although “Treading” is the name of the Hexagram, that is not the quality we are after. Instead, the real quality is implicit in the design and nature of its two trigrams – Qian (Heaven) above and Dui (Lake, sometimes translated as Joyous, Cheerful) below. Here, the treading is a matter of the soft (yin) treading on the hard (yang). It is because Dui responds to Qian with Cheerfulness that even if one treads on a tiger’s tail, one will not be bitten.

The third Yin line is the master of this Hexagram, Lu. Here it walks with a Yin’s softness and treads on the hardness of the Second Yang, and this is to tread on danger. That it treads on the Tiger’s tail and yet is not bitten is due to the way Dui responds to Qian with cheerfulness. And that is the quality that we want to consider acquiring. Being cheerful even when you make a mistake and accidently tread on the tail of fate. It will not turn around and bite you. Your very own cheerfulness will ease the sting of your mistakes.


Hexagram #9 Xiao Xu is often translated as Small Accumulating, Lesser Domestication (Garnering), Taming Power of the Small. Here it could mean the force of the small that restrains, impedes or tame. The Image of Xiao Xu is that of the Wind crossing the Skies. Though merely empty air, the wind can restrain the clouds and make them grow dense. That in itself will not bring rain. Without a solid body, the wind does not produce great or lasting effects. So also an individual, in times when one can produce no great effect in the outer world, one can do nothing except refine the expression of one’s nature in small ways. Or, as Wang Bi, an ancient commentator on the I Ching, had put it: one can seek out “the accumulation of resources that lead to prosperity.”

Just as we saw yesterday in Hexagram 8, Pi, Grouping or Gathering, Xiao Xu doesn’t have a specific personality trait to acquire but allows us to examine our nature and search for inner qualities that will lead to prosperity. In our case, prosperity doesn’t refer to a wealth of money or external possession but rather internal possessions and resources. Best wishes for a successful cultivation.


Hexagram #8, Pi or Bi, Holding Together, Grouping, Gathering is the inverse of the previous hexagram, Shih, the Army. In Pi, K’an Water is the upper trigram and K’un, Earth, is the lower trigram. Thus, instead of being ground water, the water becomes river and streams flowing upon the Earth to join together in the ocean. Then, just as streams flow into rivers and rivers flow into the oceans, so, too, humans gather in various groups of like-minded people be they political, religious, or social groupings. How does grouping effect your personality and allow you to be successful in your practice?

Grouping, itself, is not necessarily a personality trait. However, psychologists look at things like introverted and extroverted. If one is extroverted, that person will have a personality that is attracted to being a part of a group, while an introvert will tend to shy away from groups, especially large ones usually do to insecurity and feelings of inadequacy. What is helpful about Hexagram #8 and grouping is the way you look at who you group yourself with. What kind of people are they? This will tell you a great deal about your personality, especially the subconscious part that lies beneath the surface. This is true of things as well. How do you categorize your ideas? According to your work? Your family? Your friends? How do you categorize the objects that you use everyday. Taking a long look at these various groupings that you have put together over the years will tell you a great deal about yourself and especially the latent part of your personality.


Some may think of Hexagram #7, Shih, the Army, as being too aggressive or forceful. We can see this by some of its other translations: soldiers, legions, martial artists, military forces, militants. But actually this is quite an auspicious hexagram on which to model our behavior and personality. Why is that?

Basically, there are two very important qualities an Army must have: discipline and organization. If we think of ourselves as generals in charge of our minds, bodies and lifestyles, these two qualities are essential for us to develop in order to have any kind of success, not only in the Internal Arts but in most of life’s endeavors. They are especially necessary when we are being attacked by outside influences: media, money matters, business and family demands. Think about it. Does a day ever go by when you are not besieged with a deluge of responsibilities? To wade through this flood of pressures and stress, one needs strict discipline and organization.

This is most interesting when you think of the Image of this hexagram. It is comprised of K’an, a muddy pool of water at the bottom, and K’un, the Earth at the top. Thus it symbolizes ground water stored up in the earth, which is very much symbolic of the situation I just described: worldly pressures and demands flooding our lives everyday.

A third quality also must emerge in our Inner General: obedience. An actual general of an army requires obedience as well as discipline in order to organize the troops. But in the case of our lives we cannot “force” this obedience upon bodies and minds. This is especially true of Daoism and the Daoist Internal Arts. Instead this is done by putting our hearts into those areas that our most important to us; eg., our practice, our diets, our mindfulness, and to warm our hearts with enthusiasm for them. This is how our inner discipline is built.

Hopefully, this has given you further insight into a dynamic and fruitful ways to enhance and strengthen your personality.


The next hexagram is one that we definitely do not want to acquire. Or, if we have it, we should definitely work on eliminating it or at lease reduce its effect. That would be Hexagram #6, Sung, Conflict. Some other translations are quarrelsome, argumentative, contentious. Conflict here is comprised of two negative qualities: a deep cunning and a fixed determination on reaching an outward goal.

Both of these go firmly against the Way of the Dao. Neither the Dao nor those who are aligned with it are at all cunning. instead, they are completely opposite in that they do not think or plan ways to achieve a goal but instead let their inner nature attune to whatever life brings. Secondly, they have no outward determination. Whatever determination they might harbor, you can rest assured that it is certainly not fixed, but always moving, constantly changing with the conditions.

Thus, it would lead to greater Internal Arts success if we can allow our bodies and minds to nullify these two qualities by watching for and studying their effects.


Next up is Hexagram #5 Xu, Waiting, Nourishment, Attending to What is needed, waiting for the right moment, Patience. That last one, Patience, is my own personal translation. However, Richard Wilhelm in his commentary on Hexagram 5 implies the idea of patience in waiting rather than giving in to the fight or flight reaction. Here’s what Wilhelm has to say…

“Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the goal. Such certainty alone gives that light which leads to success. This leads to the perseverance that brings good fortune and bestows power to cross the great water. One is faced with a danger that has to be overcome. Weakness and impatience can do nothing. Only a strong man can stand up to his fate, for his inner security enables him to endure to the end. This strength shows itself in uncompromising truthfulness [with himself]. It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any sort of self-deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized. This recognition must be followed by resolute and persevering action. For only the man who goes to meet his fate resolutely is equipped to deal with it adequately. Then he will be able to cross the great water–that is to say, he will be capable of making the necessary decision and of surmounting the danger.”

He goes on to comment on the Image of Xu – clouds mounting in the skies: “When clouds rise in the sky, it is a sign that it will rain. There is nothing to do but to wait until after the rain falls. It is the same in life when destiny is at work. We should not worry and seek to shape the future by interfering in things before the time is ripe. We should quietly fortify the body with food and drink and the mind with gladness and good cheer. Fate comes when it will, and thus we are ready.”

So, all in all, Xu, Waiting with Patience for the right moment and course of action, should be another trait you can enfold within your personality.


Today we look to Hexagram #4, Meng, Youthful Folly to see if we can find a personality trait that may be helpful to us. Some other terms used by translators and commentators of the I Ching for Meng are Juvenile Ignorance, Immaturity, Foolishness.

It is not at all unusual for youth to act foolishly out of confusion or immaturity. Young persons simply lack the wisdom that age and experience bring. However, once a person has gone beyond their teenage years and early twenties, foolishness and an ignorance of how life works is something one should want to shed and not develop. The psychological term, the Peter Pan complex, applies to that person who is now in their thirties and forties but have never actually grown up or matured. They keep making the same foolish mistakes over and over. Or, in some cases, they simply refuse to mature but want to retain the aura of youth as long as they can. So, unless they go into some form of entertainment like music or movies, most of their ventures are doomed to failure.


Today we look at Hexagram #3, Zhun or Chun. It’s title has been translated many ways: Birth Throes, Sprouting, Difficulty at the Beginning, Begin to Grow, Constancy. So, how does this fit in with the concept of chosing character traits that can eventually lead to success in the Internal Arts as well as integrating a personal sense of self within the higher levels of your practice.

The image most often associated with Zhun is that of a tree on a mountain. It shows what can transpire from constantly applying oneself. That huge tree began as tiny seed that turned into a sprout that had to constantly push against the hard, crusty soil at the top of a mountain before finally pushing through. This is an example of the difficulties at the beginning of almost any worthwhile endeavor. While it may look easy for some, we know it really isn’t. It requires that constancy of applying one’s talents and skills until one finally reaches a breakthrough and then carrying on from there. So, while there are many difficulties at the beginning, the costancy of continuous resolve despite setbacks can not only engender ultimate success but increase your sense of self-worth and confidence.

Hopefully, you can see how valuable a character trait Zhun is accomplishing whatever it is that you set out to do.

Tomorrow we will look at Hexagram #4 Meng, Youthful Folly. What do you think that is all about?


Yesterday we looked at Hexagram #1, the Creative. Today it’s Hexagram #2, Kun, The Receptive, the Earth.

Just like the Earth is receptive, welcoming sunlight and rain from Heaven, we can all afford to be a little more Receptive, and some of us perhaps a lot more receptive. When people are interacting with us, do we give them our full attention? Good listening skills are definitely a vital part of being receptive. Some other words that are synonymous include nourish, welcoming, open, yield, enfolding to name a few.

However, we should also look at one important antonym – reactive. When you hear or learn something disturbing, do you immediately react? Or can you be receptive to problems and situations that befall you, realizing they are just as much a part of life as pleasures and enjoyment? Can you put some space between the initial event and your immediate reaction? Receptivity rather than reactivity is a most valuable personality trait to acquire, especially for higher cultivation of the Internal Arts.

Good luck with your practice. Tomorrow we will look at Hexagram #3 Chun or Zhun, Sprouting.


Last week I attended an online Internal Arts workshop, where we looked at many aspects of orienting a sense of self into the higher levels of our practice. One of the essential qualities necessary for success in doing this is having the right personality traits. Your personal qualities can make a massive difference between success and failure. So, just what is a proper personality for advancing wthin the Internal Arts? What traits mark that personality which can attain the higher levels of cultivation?

I thought I would let the I Ching answer that question. So, what I will do is look at each hexagram individually to see which ones seem fitting to be woven into our personalities and which ones should be stricken if we unfortunately have acquired them. Then you can contemplate each quality as we go and see how that can be integrated or removed from our sense of self. Here goes then with the first one…

Hexagram #1 Chien, The Creative, Heaven. Obviously creativity is great personality trait to possess or acquire. No, it doesn’t mean you need to paint or sculpt a masterpiece or write a best-selling novel. Creativity can be about simple, everyday things that get your creative juices flowing. You can start with your environment and the space you dwell in by getting rid of the clutter in a particular part of the spece and finding something colorful or uplifting to put there instead. It could be something you made or something you might buy in a shop that feels just right for that space. You can also develop more creativity in the kitchen with the way you prepare your food. Try blending the colors of the various vegetables and fruits that you have at a meal. Try adding different spices or the way your prepare and serve a meal. You can paint a room in a different color, hang curtains, buy a throw rug. Try changing the clothes you wear or the way you comb your hair. There are so many little touches that will revive and strengthen your creativity. Go for a walk in a park or some other natural area and open the camera on your cell phone then start snapping. The many small ways you find of being creative will eventually make creativity a mainstay of your personality.

Tomorrow we will look at Hexagram #2, Kun, the Earth, the Receptive.


Attending Internal Arts Workshop – No Diary for a few days. Return 07/12.

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