Today a meditation with the I Ching:
* The 2nd hexagram of the I Ching is the quintessential “yin” hexagram of the I Ching. Its meaning is in some ways as simple as its common name, “the receptive.” The basic meaning of the second hexagram refers to the need for greater receptivity, humility, gentleness, passivity, and openness to being led.
* Most of us, if we are honest, do not like being led. We prefer to lead, and we prefer to lead to the extent that we sometimes consider any and all forms of receptivity, humility, or openness to being led as the evidence of weakness. We struggle to ask for help. We struggle to take advice, even from our own intuition or conscience, and we resist or defy even the best authority figures in our lives if we can find even the tiniest fault or flaw.
* However, the ancient wisdom of the I Ching tells us that the most powerful position is frequently found in the position of one who is not leading overtly but rather by means of humility and receptivity. For example, let’s say that a child is being very demanding. It rarely works to assert your energy in direct opposition to their own; this creates an escalation and confrontation…a battle of the wills, which then reinforces the idea that might makes right. This kind of parenting will, in time, deepen the idea that one’s value is measured by one’s power and assertiveness. Most effective parents (I’ve been taking notes since becoming a Dad a few years ago!) will instead become deeply receptive to the child’s energy, and then gently diffuse the situation by not feeding into the intensity.
* Similarly, let’s say you work for a very powerful, moody and sometimes mean boss. Your boss is legitimately jerky, and yet you have to work for him or her because you have to pay the bills. Let’s say your boss says or does something in front of you and some coworkers that is hurtful or overly aggressive. If you don’t respond to your boss’ intensity with either a fiery response or an overly submissive response, but you simply remain open and “receptive,” allowing for an organic response to come forth from within you, then your response will have been ten times more powerful than the initial energy that was put out.
* The same is true in some forms of martial arts. If energy is coming at you really hard, with great force and wildness, it’s your ability to remain calm and to gently move and respond with the force coming at you that you may easily disarm your opponent.
* In many ways what this boils down to is the idea that many of the people in this world that appear to be projecting the strongest egos, the strongest “willpower,” and the most intensity, are actually controlled by forces that they do not see or understand.
* Real use of freedom, and the real use of will, are tantamount to understanding that action in this world is based on influence. You cannot separate the two. Action is informed by what influences action and influence is based upon complex webs of action. Most of the time we think of ourselves as free insofar as we are free to assert ourselves in a variety of directions. We are free to spend our time, energy, money, in a variety of ways, or we are free to consume things in a variety of ways, and so we think this is the definition of freedom. But without some understanding of the influences that create our actions, without some growing awareness of what informs our actions, be they small or big, gross or subtle, then our freedom is more like a wild, flying punch: uninformed, easily distracted, deflected or defeated. We may call this “free,” but in time every soul, through many reincarnations, begins to realize that it is actually a form of slavery.
* The fifth line of hexagram number 2 reads, “A yellow robe. Supreme good fortune.”
* This line’s teaching is interesting. Most commentators say the same thing, “Real dignity, and real virtue is not assertive, though it is constantly at work. It doesn’t seek attention, though it is never unnoticed. It doesn’t make demands, though in time it influences everything.”
* We are living in a moment where we have a lot to be angry about, we have a lot of injustice to be concerned with, and there are many battles being fought in the name of what many of us feel to be good, noble, and true, and yet we have to beware of the temptation to throw wild, flying punches in the name of goodness. We have to trust the power of the yin to make changes in its own way, in its own time, by its own unique form of strength, which comes from its unfathomable receptivity, gentleness, and humility.
* The ego stuck on its flying punch will always protest, “But I’m no weakling!” The deep yin says, “Anyone who can’t stop arguing about their personal need to not be weak is weak.” Humility is about finding a firm and gentle place, at once. Humility is open and free but also nothing more or less than simply what it is.
* Hexagram 2 this morning changes into hexagram 45, gathering. Hexagram 45 depicts the image of a great confluence of people, a great force being rallied, a cause, a mission, and a great togetherness.
* Simple message: receptivity and authentic humility, paired with intelligence, modesty, and kindness, gather forces together and create a braid of energy, a living unity of force, that cannot be easily taken apart.
* What, if not this very simple sequence of insights from the I Ching, have we learned throughout history about how powerful, compassionate and lasting social and personal changes are brought into being?
* Mars is opposite Venus, conjoined the nodes. An opportunity for real synthesis, real change, real unity, a real victory for real peace.
Prayer: Teach us to find strength in gentleness, assertiveness in humility, victory in every defeat, and the lasting belief that our real influence and our real freedom in this world stems from the cultivation of our most receptive awareness.