Saturday, June 20, 2015

The end is nigh -- Yay! (Principle/Hexagram 63, COMPLETION)



The end of doomsaying
The end of misery
The end of another winter
inside
the end of you:

the you of rusted
years spent to the
quick.

The end of flaming
pity for the self.

The end of believing
that you are a dead
tree in a naked
field

True, no birds
nest in your barren
branches. No crickets
sing at your feet.

Yet.

Listen close. Lay your ear
against the frozen
trunk. Can you hear
the sap
creaking?

When winter composes
its completion,
your ear will
sing. Your hands
will pulse
in time 
with sap's arousal,

and you will ring.

Promise.


Art: "Sap Rising" by Elsbeth Poulk-McLeod


It is the secret of the world that all things subsist, 
and do not die,
but only retire a little from sight,
and afterward return again.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

DESIRE! (Hexagram 44)




Desire to be generous ... to generate. Sounds a bit paradoxical, doesn't it? We usually equate desire with taking -- I want! I want! -- rather than giving or bestowing. Desire can extend, though. Desire reaches out. Desire opens us towards something before we grasp it. In that instant of extension ... we are open.

Generous desire beckons as it bestows.

"Desire turns us into idiots," writes Scott Spencer. Yes, it does. It can also turn us into sages. Said another way by Imam Al Ghazali,

Desires make slaves out of kings
and patience makes kings out of slaves.

"What do you want?" ~ What's it like for you to ponder that question? How might it be different if instead of asking, "What do I want?", you were to look into a mirror and ask the face there, "What do you want?" What arises in you ... and from where does it arise? Where does desire emerge from in your body?

The feeling of desire runs the gamut from greed to longing ... and to
 divine discontent. 

We itch for something ... our soul itches, and we usually just scratch it, quickly, impulsively. Scratching extends the itch, and sometimes deepens the itch into a wound. We so easily wrap ourselves around our wounds ... Some would say that we become addicted to them. We need to balm an itch, salve it, ease its distress ...

I think of mosquito or horsefly bites. Whoa, do they itch! We want to scratch and scratch the welts that arise. ENCOUNTER is one of the keywords that describe this Principle of DESIRE ... and we can't mistake an encounter between a predatory insect and our skin. The encounter is brief -- a piercing sting -- and off the insect goes to attack another. We're left bitten ... and we start to scratch.

Desire's like that. We're left bitten, and we start to scratch. Trouble begins to brew under the skin -- whether it's the body or the psyche -- and something that was here and gone has left its mark. The traditional elemental image for ENCOUNTER is Wind blowing under Heaven, "never staying long but always moving from one place to another" (trans. Jack Balkin). An element of instability enters the larger picture, bending it out of shape with a subtle power that lasts. As Stephen Karcher writes, one encounters "an ambivalent new possibility for change released by a decisive shift in position."



Temptation enters the picture here. The itch is the chaotic force that spurs us. "Temptation," writes Jack Balkin, "advances on us because -- whether we realize it or not -- we meet it halfway." We are tempted to either corrupt: to keep itching until we've wounded ourselves more than we have been wounded -- or to complete: to tend the itch, to salve it, soften it, ease the sensation of pain. Perhaps a bandage as a cushion against further injury. Itch or ease -- which will it be?

An itch is a sign of irritation ... and it's an invitation to tend, to bring mindful and quieting awareness to whatever's gone antsy.

Ants in your pants? Get 'em out!

Clear the way for true direction -- for desire that's more than an itch. If the surface of you feels bitten and in chaos ... it's a sign that your depths are calling for expression. Often, what we want right now is a scratchy shroud over what our soul longs for. A quick fix -- here and gone -- only heightens the antsiness, and soon we're off on the hunt for another fix. 

How do we transform a fix into a focus? By quieting the itch ... with awareness, a few deep breaths, and an eye that sees into the itch. What is really calling out? What is the deeper desire? Danielle LaPorte

Desire is the foundation of our will to live.

Desire calls for deepening into authentic feeling ... into the longing that we all share for belonging, deep engagement, rest, home. The longing that we all share for our own souls, for our deepest light to burst from the heart, from the seat of authentic feeling. What we desire in a moment is a quivering needle in our existential compass ... and what we truly long for is a steady hum pointing straight to our North Star ... to our true home in the realms of Relation, Location, and Vocation. 


("Riverwind's North Star")

Sometimes these realms are difficult to locate. In my own life, I've struggled to know what I want. Even to want at all has been overlaid with a sign that bars the way -- a sign that says, "Access Forbidden!" Some of us are conditioned to forbid our own desires, our own will. We're unmoored in the universe of our own lives. 

Yet the buoy and its light are within us. They're the heart. The soul. 

What do you really, really want?
Gaze into the mirror of your true face.
Ask the question.
Ask it again and again
until the light
from your soul
pierces through;
until your eyes become
those of the eagle.
Honed with absolute
precision, and burning
toward one target.
Not to kill, but to
envelop
with wings
that draw
your desire
and your heart
into one
radiant nest. 
Then:
tend.
Nourish. 
Groom the feathers
that will arc
into wings,
into flight,
into focus. 
Open those wings,
and dare the sky
to hold you
as you alight 
to meet
your destiny's
source. 


(Elspeth McLean, Sun Illuminating Eagle Spirit Medicine)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Loss into moss ... a poem (Hexagram 41 changing to 56)



Let go of a weight
a stone
a long-loved
ache
that needs 
to die.

Chances are
(change being
what it is)
that the ache
will wither
like moss:
gently. Its velvet
return will arrive
like a soft tide
with Spring
as you circle
back home
to this lush
bed of loss
to feather it
with a ringless
hand, and your
freshening tears.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

What is the I Ching?




"I Ching, therefore I am!" 

-- So reads the tagline to this blog. My longtime friend Yvonne coined the phrase, and it stuck with a giddy ring of truth. I've been studying the I Ching since 1981; its wisdom is woven into my bones.

The question, "What is the I Ching?" is one thread in the weave ... a question that I can't answer simply (I wonder if any of us can). Translated into English, I Ching -- or Yijing, a more modern transliteration of the Chinese -- means (The) Classic, Book of Change, The Book of Changes, The Changes of Chou (Chou being a tribal people of ancient China, c. 400 B.C.), Change Book, and (The) Classic of Changes. 

One word, one theme, keeps recurring ... Change. 

The fact of perpetual, unchanging Change is the unifier; it is the constancy of change that the Book addresses through 64 Principles most commonly known as Hexagrams, which are sequenced arrangements of lines, based in a basic binary understanding of existential laws that after 33 years of study, I still can't make much sense of.

However! ... One of the fundamental beauties of the I Ching is that its wisdom reveals itself through so many avenues of intelligence. Each reader, each student of the Book, will come to understand it in a completely unique way. My understanding leans to metaphor, psychology, intuition, poetry, and dialogue. Others' grasp of the oracle (an oracle being a source of wisdom) tend to the mathematical (Here's a site by digital/software artist Antonio Cortez -- Inspired by composer John Cage, he's created  a series of 3D hexagrams which, in his words, "capture the spirit, form, and meaning of the original hexagrams"), visually artistic (Cortez again ... and here I think of J.S. Bach, whose music reached a pinnacle of mathematical beauty and expression), historical, cultural, symbolic, and linguistic. There are as many understandings as there are people who delve into study. This is one of the gifts of the I Ching ... Its wisdom speaks through so many voices (as does the wisdom of the Bible and other holy books through their many translations).


(Art: a teaser-chart of Antonio Cortez's 3D I Ching creation)


With all this in mind, I'm going to jot some "first thoughts" that anchor me in meaning to this oracle that has been one of my constant companions through the changes of the last 33 years. Perhaps my thoughts will spark your own; I'd love to read your meanings and hunches about what the oracle is to you.

The I Ching is ... 

* a wise guide through the constant inevitability of change -- through every passage and possibility of human existence
* a conversation; a dialogue between a person and an oracle (oracle = source of wisdom)
* one of the voices of God ... of Existence, of Life, of our Source and Sustenance
* one of my primary modes of prayer
* a book that Carl Jung revered (he called it "both a supreme expression of spiritual authority and a philosopical enigma ... For lovers of self-knowledge, of wisdom -- if there be such -- it seems to be the right book.")
* a natural complement to the Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu and the works of Confucius
* a mirror of the moment
* an engagement between now ... and then
* one of China's most ancient and revered guides to ethical living, as sacred to people of the Orient as the Bible is to people of Judeo-Christian heritage
* the sanest book on my shelf
* a consistently benevolent, universal, sensical, and humane philosophy
* a practical and immediately applicable manual for living that addresses, with exquisite simplicity, the core questions we have always asked about existence and about the human condition
* an oasis in which to consider questions of relation (To whom do you belong?), location (Where do you belong?), and vocation (To what work/vocation do you belong?)
* sometimes, a scathing wit (and always a humane one) -- I've fallen over laughing several times. Once, in a fit of frustration, I asked the oracle, "What am I supposed to let go of!?" -- The response: Hexagram/Principle 59 -- Dispersion!  
* a soul-mirror of the present moment and of possibilities
* not a human voice, nor an inhuman one ... It is the voice of Wisdom
* not a predictor; not a "fortune teller." The Book offers a snapshot of a moment, its underlying dynamics, and possibilities for behavioural and existential movement; for engagement with what is into what might be ... a platform from which you can change your life in any moment
* a way to propel imagination and intuition into action
* a way to gather mindfulness and mercy into your situations and concerns; a way to hold, behold, and befriend what irks you ... into what might inspire you
* a way to understand how the natural Elements of existence interrelate and act upon all that is
* a distillation of witnessing, wondering, musing, grappling, testing, and apprehending
* a compendium of natural elements, processes, and laws (as Jack Balkin writes in his masterpiece, The Laws of Change, "What are the laws of change that govern human fortunes, and how can human beings understand these laws and learn to live in harmony with the changing world around them?") ... and a means whereby to understand them -- to the point that any person can!
* an engagement of human meaning and mastery with existential Mystery

What is the I Ching to you?


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Change Itself

Change alone is unchanging.
(Heraclitus)

We humans have a paradoxical relationship with change; we welcome it, dread it, fight it, deny it, egg it on, thumb our noses at it ... We tend to perceive and judge change as this Big Thing always outside ourselves; a Thing that sooner or later will pounce ... an X-factor, a wild card, a snarling tiger, the monster under our bed, the bogeyman, the enemy ... The Unknown.

I see change as something akin to gravity: it just is. Change is not a thing; it's a process ... it is simply Life, moving ... Change is the nature of Nature; the ever-shifting ground of being. Sometimes the shifts are subtle, as in Hexgrams 57 (THE GENTLE), 5 (PATIENCE), and 52 (KEEPING STILL). Sometimes we are broadsided, knocked off our feet, stunned by change -- Hexagrams 51 (SHOCK), 28 (EXCESS), and 29 (DANGER) all can indicate a condition of overwhelm and crisis. Sometimes we are called to be agents of change -- Hexagram 10, CONDUCT, invites us to consider how we will act, and Hexagram 32, PERSEVERANCE, advises us to relate and act with a certain trust in the constancy that underlies constant change.  

As I sit here right now, musing and typing, I become aware of so many tiny changes. My thoughts rove through possibilities as my brain composes. My bare feet paddle each other -- a long-time gesture of self-comfort and bodily awareness; I sense a gurgle of hunger in my belly, and a flush of heat sweeps over my skin -- today is a scorcher; my eyes shuttle between the hazy sky, the computer screen, and my teacup. I lick my lips, close and open my eyes while thinking, and I breathe. A fly skitters across the screen of my window; a songbird flashes across the sky on the screen's other side. My eyes blink. I breathe ... I breathe ... I breathe ...

Perhaps our fundamental pivot point of change is the breath. 
Every living being, in its manner of transpiration with Life's basic elements, 
is the changer, the changing, and the changed. 
All at once, all the time.
Can we live more at ease
with this truth?

Even a stone changes, though not to our naked, fleeting eye. Lichen filigrees its minute way across a stone's face ... A single grain of forest soil, borne by a breeze from its recent sojourn in a fallen log's crevice, skitters like a diminutive tumbleweed over the stone; a shaft of sunlight captures the whisking, before shadow and stillness mute earth into earth and another geologic chapter has been written in the long span of a stone's life.

Does a stone breathe? I don't know ... but it acts in perpetual exchange with the world around it. The perpetual exchange of elements with one another is the root of all change here on Earth. We, too, are elements in perpetual relation with all that exists ... whether we are aware of this constancy or not.

As we breathe, we change; every breath is a change. When we choose to be at home with this essential process, we become more at home with change itself; we no longer see it as the dreaded monster under the bed.

We act -- our most basic act is to breathe -- and we are acted upon. Always. Each of us is a change agent -- a catalyst -- just by being.



(Jody Uttal, "Breathe -- You Are Alive")

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mission Accomplished: Forgiveness (Principle 40, Liberation)




A serenity of cracked
granite, softened
to crumbles
sifted through fingers
extended beyond
all parting

All regrets
have died
to this strange
surprise of gravity
freed of gravitas


(Photo: "Dust" -- unknown artist)

Friday, January 31, 2014

What to do with the question?

We approach the oracle with a situation, a concern ... a question. The oracle advises. I got to thinking this morning, "What could be one or two words of advisement for each response that the oracle gives?" Here, intuitively, are the responses of each hexagram / principle:



(Photo by marekuliasz, via shutterstock) 

 1. Create it.
 2. Embody it.
 3. Grapple with it.
 4. Learn it.
 5. Abide it.
 6. Spar with it.
 7. Command it.
 8. Unite with it.
 9. Restrain it, lightly.
10. Conduct it.
11. Be at peace with it.
12. Let it sink.
13. Befriend it.
14. Reign over it.
15. Moderate it.
16. Dance with it.
17. Follow its example.
18. Heal it.
19. Aspire to it.
20. See its entirety.
21. Give it justice.
22. Beautify it.
23. Let it die.
24. Let it return.
25. Awe it.
26. Restrain it, mightily.
27. Nourish it.
28. Bear it.
29. Sink into it.
30. Fuel it.
31. Attract it.
32. Persist with it.
33. Retreat from it.
34. Empower it.
35. Progress it.
36. Dim it.
37. Embrace it.
38. Contrast it.
39. Surmount it.
40. Free it.
41. Release it.
42. Bestow it.
43. Resolve it.
44. Encounter it.
45. Gather it in.
46. Ascend it.
47. Endure it.
48. Ensoul it.
49. Change it.
50. Cook it.
51. Shock it.
52. Contemplate it.
53. Develop it.
54. Submit to it.
55. Bask in it.
56. Let it roam.
57. Gentle it.
58. Enjoy it.
59. Dissolve it.
60. Limit it.
61. Revere it.
62. Detail it.
63. Culminate it.
64. Question it. 
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