Saturday, March 6, 2010

I Ching - nourishing the superior

I have never, and I mean never, consulted the I Ching without it being spot on in its commentary on my problem and supplying me with extraordinarily simple but meaningful insight. So I consulted the I Ching again this week concerning certain persistent demons I wished to expunge.

Yes, I have demons. Do you think I apply effortlessly all the principles of philosophy I talk about here? Certainly not. Some of them I apply to some degree, for some length of time, with some success. Some things I have improved enormously; other things are stubbornly hard to overcome. But at least I am thinking about them. Sometimes.

So it came about this week that I asked the I Ching to shed some light on a difficult problem and as an answer it gave me hexagram 27. I / The Corners of the Mouth (Providing nourishment) changing with time into hexagram 5. Hsu / Waiting (Nourishment). That’s quite a lot of nourishment going on, you say. Or not. Or should be, as the case may be. Yes, it is.

Again, the I Ching absolutely hit the nail on the head without trying. From the Wilhelm/Baynes edition:

Perseverence brings good fortune.
Pay heed to the providing of nourishment
And to what a man seeks
To fill his own mouth with.

In bestowing care and nourishment, it is important that the right people should be taken care of and that we should attend to our own nourishment in the right way…. Mencius says about this:

If we wish to know whether anyone is superior or not, we need only observe what part of his being he regards as especially important. The body has superior and inferior, important and unimportant parts. We must not injure important parts for the sake of the unimportant, nor must we injure the superior parts for the sake of the inferior. He who cultivates the inferior parts of his nature is an inferior man. He who cultivates the superior parts of his nature is a superior man.

Here of course it is not merely about nourishing the body, though it means that as well, but about nourishing the mind and the soul. As we care about what we put into our mouths and into our bodies, so we must care about what we allow to enter our minds and our souls, because what enters there will decide whether we function well and grow and thrive or not. If we are not careful what we let in, perhaps we may even get sick.
I went on to look at hexagram 5. Waiting:

All beings have need of nourishment from above. But the gift of food comes in its own time, and for this one must wait…. 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….


Clouds rise up to heaven:
The image of WAITING.
Thus the superior man eats and drinks,
Is joyous and of good cheer.

When clouds rise in the sky, it is a sign that it will rain. There is nothing to do but wait until 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.

Here the message of the previous hexagram is reinforced: carefully nourish the body and the mind, the important and the superior parts. This is the way to cooperate fully and efficiently with the forces at work and takes away the worry and the stress and the striving. Let the Tao take the strain.
I personally also read into these lines the message ‘stop trying to get something you haven’t paid for yet’ or ‘stop trying to jump the line for the things you desire’. In other words, wait for them, prepare for them coming, be ready, and when they come they will be yours.

So, based on the timeless wisdom of the I Ching, I made a resolution about my problem. The thing with resolutions is if you make too many that you don’t keep, they lose their power. So this one I wrote down in the form of a covenant. This resolution is too important not to keep. Now I will view everything I do through the lens of ‘is this cultivating the important and superior parts of my nature, or the opposite?’

I hope you found this helpful. I encourage you to discover the power of the I Ching for yourself. It will be one of the most important steps you will ever take.

Photo by lapie


Thought Bubble said...

What a lovely read this is from the photograph to your covenant and final encouragement. Thank you.

I've read verses from the I Ching from time to time and have always found in them a certain kind of consolation, perhaps because of its timeless wisdom.

On this somewhat tender day when the sky has been wanting to let its tears fall, but has so far held off, I think it would be perfect to spend some time with the I Ching. I'm on my way...

Alex said...

Thank you for the feedback, glad to have you aboard.

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond