Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mini-Universe: The I Ching

Whether you believe in divination or not is beside the point in dealing with ancient wisdom from such classic texts as the I Ching, the five thousand year old Chinese Book of Changes. The texts and tools of the Ancients are invaluable; the possibilities for self-evaluation, reflection, meditation, and discovery are endless. I myself was shocked to discover how spot on the oracle was this morning. Simply put, it’s a system of divination, but it isn’t just a fortune-teller. What it can reveal to you is much greater. It has been described in different ways throughout time, but what’s important is the content, so read it. It has profound spiritual value. The Chinese called it the “universe in miniature.” The I Ching is concerned with yin and yang, terms most Westerners are familiar with. Yin and yang are opposing elements, and when combined represent a unified whole. They emphasize the importance of balance in all things. Of all Chinese religious traditions, the concept of yin and yang is most closely connected with Taoism.

Following the instructions in the front of the book (The I Ching for Writers) I thought about my writing as I rubbed the pennies between my fingers. I tossed them onto the coffee table. Tails, tails, heads, a yang line. I drew an unbroken line then repeated the process five times. To read more about how to use the I Ching click here. I skimmed the sixty-four hexagrams of the I Ching for the one my coins produced.

The hexagram I cast is described by the Chinese symbol “Li” meaning fire. This symbol is pictured above in the old flag of the Empire of Vietnam (the flag for the Republic of Vietnam is the symbol for heaven, "Qián").

I feel a strong connection spiritually to fire. Astrologically speaking, I’m a fire sign. I was a given a totem once, the phoenix; the bird that rises from the ashes. I’m obsessed with candles (have too many to count). I once dabbled in pyromania.

The sixty-four hexagrams are derived from the eight trigrams of the I Ching, which represent the powers of nature. Taoism asserts that the meaning of life can be understood through observing nature.

I flipped skeptically to the section titled “Enlightenment” which described the meaning of the “Li” hexagram. This adaptation of the old Zhouyi (another name for the I Ching) interpreted the hexagram to contain the overall theme of enlightenment. It spoke of “the fire of knowing.” When I think of “the fire of knowing,” I see the faces of the enlightened, like Thich Nhat Hanh. They glow as if there is a fire burning inside them that shines right through their skin. Their eyes gleam. They know something that can’t be put into words.

Enlightenment for me, according to this oracle, will be attained through writing consistently, especially at the same time each day. Writing has been officially added to my list. The path to Nirvana is paved with many typos. That’s ok with me. Have you ever heard anyone comment on a bodhisattva’s grammar?


  1. there are so many paths, so i don't see why one of them couldn't be through writing (or grammar!). i guess li isn't moving into something???

    really lovely post, and isn't life surprising?

  2. Hi! Thanks for the visit and comment, I read some about your illnesses, I hope you are feeling better soon.

  3. Writing will eventually help us transform our inner fragments to compose into something more vast.
    gr8 post!

  4. Very interesting post! Keep writing, I'll keep reading!!! How are you feeling today???

  5. I'm glad writing made it onto your list. The I Ching sounds fascinating. What a process!

  6. I love Thich Nhat Hanh's gentle vibe. Are you feeling better?
    Eco Mama

  7. Madeleine,

    You have been quiet for a while now. I wanted to send you a quick note and let you know I am hoping you are feeling better.


  8. Hello Madeleine,

    I've been thinking about you and hope you are feeling better.

  9. I'm so sorry your not feelin' well, I sure hope ya'll be up to par soon.

    Have a good day enjoying the paths you choose!!!

  10. Hey girl,
    What happened to your blog updates? Its been more than a year. Stay fit and start updatin!