how to ask a question and get an answer

The Zhouyi is vast.
Historically, mathematically,
mythically, metaphysically, cosmically...
you name it. You could dive into any aspect of it
and only emerge, Rip-Van-Winkle-like, decades later.
(If you want to read more about it before you
begin,
here's a brief summary.)

But this complexity is underpinned by a graceful simplicity,
which you can experience when you receive a direct,
heart-to-heart answer to a question.

Doing this in the virtual realm can be just as
powerful as doing it the time-honoured way ~
if you treat it as such.

Here's a guide to beginning your conversation on
returntotheway.org. Don't be put off by the length
of the (clickable) contents page below; it's really
pretty easy, and many steps are self-evident.

(If you do get stuck, though, ask for help!)

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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


1: word your question

This first step to approaching the Zhouyi
with respect can also 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.

You may want to shut your laptop or turn off
your phone for a few minutes while you become
still inside and feel into what this question is.

Don’t make it a yes/no one.
Instead, you can use wording such as
‘what would be the probable result of______?’
or ‘what would the most beneficial approach to______ be?’

More on questions...and non-questions coming soon


2: write it out clearly

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 longhand is simplest for noting
down the symbolic lines your answer comes in,
if you’d prefer to use a word/pages doc. or similar,
you can always drag the symbol you receive onto this ~
which means you can print it out as a reminder if you choose.


3: ask your question

Ideally, enter a sacred space by slowing your breath, relaxing
your body and stilling your mind before you meet the Zhouyi.

When you feel ready, return 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 turn blue and hold still if
you hover over it, enabling you to click on it.


4: explore your answer

The page which opens shows the Zhouyi’s response to you.

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

name & number

First is the number. This interpretation is numbered differently
to many others, so to look up your answer somewhere else, use
the lines rather than this number to do so. Don't worry, though ~
further down are direct links to two interpretations to start you off.

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.

(Remember when you do that, though the gua numbers
are different, the gua themselves will always tally.)

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.

Since I use a structural way of ordering the
gua, they all appear in families of 'earth
within' and so on, so are easy to look up.

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


what next? coming soon!

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© shenpen chökyi 2013