Here's a guide to beginning your conversation that you can mark your progress through.
If you do get stuck, though, I'm happy to help: I'm shen@returntotheway.org

step one: Are you in earnest?

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Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

John Anster's 1835 'very free interpretation' from Goethe's Faust

The first, all-important stage is to be earnest. Not humourless, that is ~ if you become friendly with the I Ching you may find it has a keen sense of humour itself on occasion ~ but sincere.

And then, to simply step in with a clear purpose.
As Paolo Coehlo put it,
When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.’

step two: choose your question

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You may want to shut your laptop or turn off your phone while you become still inside (a state sometimes more readily accessible through movement) and feel into what this question is.

The process of choosing your question can in itself be a valuable way to gain greater clarity: a good question can cut to the heart of the matter in an illuminating way.

This doesn't mean it has to be earth-shatteringly profound; to gain clarity on an apparently mundane issue which you nevertheless can't resolve can shift the energy in a liberating way.

A subtle change in wording can completely change the question: i.e. the response to
What would be the probable result of working with F on this project? might be very positive, whereas asking What would be the probable result of approaching F about working on this project now? could indicate that, for whatever reason, communication is blocked at this point.

Don’t make the question one which requires a yes/no answer. Instead, you can use wording such as ‘
what would be the probable result of…?’ or ‘what would the most beneficial approach to… be?’

Also ensure that you're just asking one question;
'What approach would be the best with S ~ A, B or C?' for example, is three questions in one. In an example like this, you could ask about the option which feels most right to you first. You may find the response clearly affirms your choice…or, faced with a more ambiguous answer, you can then ask about the alternatives.

Different people have different approaches: while some are very minimal and only divine occasionally, others may ask more frequently and/or have more of a 'counselling session' approach, asking several questions about one issue from different angles. You'll find your own approach which feels right…and this may well evolve as your relationship deepens.

step three: write it out clearly

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Just as you would if you had an audience with the Dalai Lama or other wise teacher and wanted to ensure you remembered all which had been shared, it helps immensely to record this interaction.

So get a pen and something to write on, preferably a notebook or journal rather than a scrap of paper.

Though traditional longhand is simplest and most direct for noting down your question and answer, if you prefer you can use a word/pages doc. or similar. This would mean you could easily find previous divinations.


step four:
ask your question

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When you feel ready, go to the divination page and its swirling circle of rings, each of which holds a potential response to you.

Moving your cursor in and out, will speed them up and slow them down; after getting the hang of this, focus on
your intent and choose a circle which feels right. When you ‘catch’ it, it’ll brighten and hold still if you hover over it, enabling you to click on it.

If using a mobile, you won't be able to see the individual circles ~ but tapping the globe as a whole will still choose a hexagram for you in the same way.

The page which opens is your response.

(If you don’t like the look of it, don’t try for a 'better' one: the only time you can ask exactly the same question of the I Ching a second time is if there’s been a significant time lapse between asking for the first time.)

hexagram, trigrams and name


The two trigrams which make up the hexagram are shown, e.g. 'water over heaven' or fire over earth'.Next is the name. I’ve adapted some of the traditional names to embody the energy as I feel it. This doesn't mean I think any of the original ones are wrong, just that another perspective can help you get a bigger picture.

image & quote


Underneath is the image. Some figurative pictures inspire you
to journey into their narrative space: these illustrations may
call you to feel them more as energies in your body.

There follows a four-line quote from Richard Wilhelm's
1920's interpretation, I Ching or Book of Changes
to give you a further flavour of your answer.


the lines


The next image shows your answer
as an arrangement of lines. Each six-line
combination is one of sixty-four possibilities,
and is known as a hexagram or gua.

Copy out the lines of your gua next to your question.

Each gua is made up of a union between two
arrangements of three lines, called trigrams
...or gua. Here are all eight of them so you
can see which two your gua is made of:

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For instance, you might have union, earth under water:

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clinging to clarity
, fire under fire:

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or enlightenment, heaven under earth.

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changing lines


Beneath your gua image, you'll see one of these:

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This shows you which of the of the six lines
has particular guidance for you: which part of its
story reflects yours most clearly. (If you get the message
'no lines are changing', your message just lies in the gua itself.)

More on changing lines coming soon

The image on the left is purely to show you where to mark your line,
as it can be easier to see a visual representation of how they travel
bottom-to-top ~ backwards by western standards.
The fact that it
shows all unbroken lines has no relevance to your answer.


If you leave or re-set the page you'll lose
this crucial detail. So if you do have a
changing line, mark it clearly on your gua.


reading about your reading

For a written explanation, you can click on the
pictograph on the left to go to a contemporary
version by LiSe, or on the calligraphy on the
right for Wilhelm’s classic interpretation.

Once you’ve read the description of the gua,
you can read about your 'changing line', if you
have one. This gives you very specific guidance,
like a ray of light illuminating an aspect of the picture.

If your gua is unchanging, this can indicate that
there are less issues involved ~ and that you’ve
now reached the end of this stage of your divination.

If you did have a changing line, though, after reading
about it you change it into its opposite, like this:

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If, for example, you had transformation, wood/wind under fire
with the fifth line changing, it would look like the left-
hand image when you drew it in your journal:

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Once the line changes, the gua becomes the right-
hand image of encounter, wood/wind under heaven.

To look up this second gua on returntotheway.org, just
scan through the Zhouyi sub-pages to first find its lower
gua, then its upper gua consort.

When you look up a second gua, you just read
the overall picture, not any of its changing lines.



© shenpen chökyi 2013