An I Ching Meditation today…
* The 33rd hexagram of the I Ching is called “retreat,” and it discusses the wisdom of knowing how and when to retreat.
* For many people retreat is about giving up, and giving up is about failure, and failure is undesirable, and so retreat isn’t an option.
* But the 33rd hexagram speaks to the wisdom of retreat. When we are overwhelmed by inferior forces, internally or externally, when we are fighting a losing battle, or when we need to retreat in order to gather ourselves before moving forward again, then retreating becomes the wisest possible path. People who only know how to move forward end up dragging others and themselves along through places and times of exhaustion.
* Advancement cannot last forever. In this day and age, the word “evolution,” has become the most celebrated idol on the altar of the religion of progress. Hexagram 33 is also about the delusion of historical thinking in general. If we stay caught up in the idea that we are so much more now than we were in the past, then we perpetuate the impression that our future can and should be better as well. To the extent that we stay fixed on history, progress, and evolution, we may fail to see the reality of life in the material realm, where retreat is just as inevitable as advance. For every story of advancement that we keep telling ourselves, we make it that much harder to naturally accept, learn from or immerse ourselves in times of retreat.
* Hexagram 33 asks us to consider the idea that the soul cannot become any better or worse. A retreat is often the exact action we should take in order to step back into the soul’s eternal nature. Retreating, we say to ourselves, “I am not this victory, and so I am not this defeat. I give up so I can find my way home again.”
* Retreat is sometimes also the call to engage with God again. Rather than trying to do everything on our own, rather than getting so entirely wrapped up in these worldly pursuits, sometimes (not all the time) it’s okay to say, “I can’t do this. What’s the point? I’m going to retreat and enter back into the only thing that matters, which is my love for God, and my love for others.”
* The 3rd line of hexagram 33 refers to a halted retreat due to people who will not leave you alone, or who will not respect your retreat. When we are attempting to retreat and people hold us up, it can kill the initiative of retreat, which needs a certain kind of haste and intentionality so that we do not stay wrapped up in whatever losing-battle we’re fighting. The advice of the line is to take up whoever is holding you back as servants of your retreat. The line also suggests that in the long run it likely won’t work to keep them as servants.
* When we’re trying to retreat and people hold us back, if we take a moment to shift our perspective, then we might see them as potentially offering something useful. However, the fact that they are standing in our way now could very well mean they will be in our way again later, and so whatever way in which we incorporate others into our retreat for the moment may not last in the long run. Being aware of this now is wise because it will help us determine the extent to which we should be getting enmeshsed with or involved with those holding us back.
* The second hexagram that arises after the 3rd line changes is hexagram 12, called “stagnation,” and this shows superior powers/qualities distancing themselves from inferior ones, which creates a stagnant situation that will eventually fester and break apart.
* Hexagram 12 within this sequence is telling us that separation is sometimes inevitable. However, it can be done through retreat rather than through head-on conflict. It can be done through defeat, or failure, a healthy giving up, or distancing, rather than by force and through muscle or the desire for victory.
During Mars/Uranus squares we often talk about “breakthroughs,” or “forcing change,” but this is a dying Mars who is badly debilitated, which is why the hexagram sequence this morning speaks to the intelligence of retreat, failure, and defeat. We sometimes associate our will and authority ONLY with what we can do, and not with what we cannot do, what we can refrain from, or how we might hold ourselves back. There is a spiritual victory in learning to stop thinking in terms of victory and defeat, even when we just “know” we’re in the right about something, or we just “know” our cause is a good cause…
Prayer: Remind us that when we admit defeat in this world of impermanence, we often quickly find ourselves back in the temple of your peace and love.