I CHING READINGS with Bill Scheffel
I offer I Ching-intuitive readings for people in person, over the phone or through Skype. A reading begins with an initial conversation in which I listen to the issues in your life that form the basis of your question. From there, you "throw the coins" and I study the outcome in preparation for the full reading, typically done the following day. I help bring the symbolic images of the I Ching into the fabric of your question and life. Though the council I provide is founded on my experience with the I Ching, and intuitive guidance - the psychic or intangible dimension of life - it is very much a mutual conversation, a container we create together for insight to occur. Read more...
Please enter your name and e-mail address and select I Ching if you are interested in a reading and I will write back to you. Thank you for your interest.
What is the I Ching?
The I Ching is perhaps humanity's oldest book, with roots preceding the Chinese Xia Dynasty of 2200 - 1800 BCE. The I Ching consists of sixty-four hexagrams, symbolic images that mirror the various life-situations we find ourselves in, and offer guidance for making correct decisions.
Traditionally called an oracle, the I Ching is a way of opening our life-questions to a larger system. Jung called this system synchronicity, “the peculiar interdependence” between ourselves and the events around us." This is also the world of the unconscious, of dreams, of contemplation. It is the world of spirit, the world of the dralas. This larger world is potentially always available to us, ready to support our highest aspirations.
The I Ching is way of consulting this larger world, and our own heart, the very center of the crossroads of life decisions. Our heart, as a spiritual force, is "outside of time" - i.e., beyond our usual occupations of hope and fear. In consulting the I Ching we "receive" a given hexagram through a random method - typically tossing coins. In such a method we have no control over the outcome, only the courage to inquire. In this matrix of sincerity and surrender, synchronicity can speak and spirit can enter, voices that can resonate with the truth of our own heart, the ultimate place of guidance.
I Ching, the "Book of Change" is considered the oldest of the Chinese classics, and has throughout its history commanded unsurpassed prestige and popularity. It has been considered a book of fundamental principles by philosophers, politicians, mystics, alchemists, yogins, diviners, sorcerers, and more recently, scientists and mathematicians... Continuing interest in the I Ching is enhanced by the fact that it has never been universally regarded as the sole property of any particular religion, cult or school of thought. - Introduction to The Taoist I Ching, translated by Thomas Cleary.
I CHING: The Four Eternal Hexagrams
and the Shambala Path of the Warrior
Door, Karma Chilling. 1970. Photograph courtesy of Jack Niland.
I Ching: The Four Eternal Hexagrams and
the Shambhala Path of the Warrior
The I Ching, arguably humanity's oldest book, conveys a wisdom that requires no belief, is not part of any organized system or religion and comes to us as a kind of DNA of how we experience time and its events and ourselves as a unique matrix of energy.
Jack Niland, an early student of Chögyam Trungpa, relates the well-known tale of Chögyam Trungpa arriving in North America penniless with a teenage wife, but adds that he also arrived with a copy of the I Ching - and sometimes used it in Jack's presence to make certain decisions. Chögyam Trungpa told Niland - this being 1970 - that he “used the I Ching for everything” though only occasionally opened the book. “Read it, memorize it, then throw it away,” Trungpa suggested to Niland, “there are hexagrams everywhere if you can see them.”
These hexagrams that are everywhere are a way of divination that is said to have come from the mind of Fu Xi, one of China's earliest legendary rules. The emergence and spread of the I Ching occurred during or before the Xia Dynasty (ca. 270 to ca 1600 BCE) and was one of the first systems of Chinese thought that came into written form in the 13th Century BCE, making it arguably the world's oldest book and one that preceded the Buddha by nearly a millennia.
I discovered the I Ching in high school and went so far as to cut my own yarrow stalks, the traditional way of consulting the book and it's been part of my life for forty years; I've worn out several copies of the familiar Wilhelm-Baynes hard bound book with the yellow cover, but I have also studied and used other translations, including Thomas Cleary's translation of the work of the 18th Century Taoist adept Liu I-Ming, who wrote his commentary twenty years after the Declaration of Independence. Ah, if he and Thomas Jefferson could have met!
Cleary writes that Liu I-Ming was versed in Buddhism, Confucianism Taoism and was considered to be "One Who Has Realized the Fundamental." Liu I-Ming seems also to have been someone who lived within the ordinary, who lead must have lived a remarkably unpredictable and shape-shifting life, who "consciously adopted various roles in the world," including those of a "scholar, a merchant, a coolie, a recluse, a builder, and a teacher and writer."
From this remarkable set of trades Liu I-Ming wrote an I Ching commentary that is sublime it its reach yet viscerally accessible. Among Lui I-Ming’s most striking formulations is that there are four "timeless" hexagram, four qualities that apply in every situation we find ourselves in. I was astonished to realize that the way Lui I-Mind described these four principles was strikingly similar to the way Chögyam Trungpa first articulated the path of Shambhala Training, the program he designed to bring meditation and the principles of "warriorship" to an audience beyond Buddhism (indeed to any audience) and that I was a teacher in for thirty-four years.
The Four Eternal Hexagrams
Heaven or The Creative, hexagram #1, and Earth or the Receptive, Hexagram #2, are the two most essential aspects, the elemental yang and yin that the remaining sixty-two hexagrams are derived from. The sixty-four hexagrams express, in various particulars, the entire range of situations we find ourselves in, all of which are seen as situations of time, including, among others: sequence, the inexorable process of growth and decline; circularity, as in the return of the seasons; and the time for something, such as the time to bring forth a lawsuit, or refrain from one.
The Creative and the Receptive, yang and yin, of course, are "timeless," eternally expressing the fundamental aspects of the masculine and feminine energies that underlie the creative unfolding that we experience as life. Out of the almost unlimited ways one can talk about these primary symbols, the most immediate and useful is to know what they feel like.
Yang is strength, firmness, innate knowledge, primal unified energy - but above all firmness. It is the need to gather our strength and do something. Even getting up in the morning and bushing our teeth requires unifying our strength, much less undergoing chemotherapy or passing the bar exam. When yang is "correct" it is properly firm, such as when a mother or father firmly corrects a child who has misbehaved. Yang can become delinquent in a heartbeat, instead of correcting the child we lose it and yell at her, or worse. Becoming strident, arbitrary, reactive; using force and aggression - delinquent yang can so easily get carried away with itself. Yang is masculine, obviously, but should not be considered gendered - no human being occurs outside the mix of X and Y chromosomes.
Yin is receptivity, yielding, flexibility, stillness, innate capacity. Respect for the receptive, yielding and flexible aspects of ourselves - the feminine - is not high in modern society and these qualities are seldom held up as role models, nor often modeled in mass culture and media. Correct yin has so much to do with listening and being receptive as well as not "having a purpose" so we can actually receive our purpose. Like yang, delinquent yin overtakes us before we know it and is occurs when we become irresolute, vacillating and lose our autonomy. In fact, any sense of unconscious dependency is an expression of delinquent yin and in this way its obvious that all of us suffer from weakened yin, even the most "macho" in its dependency of holding the tough guy mask.
It's easy to see the disfunctionality of delinquent yang and yin, how they engage in a co-dependent embrace, expressed in our relationship with others, of course, but most fundamentally within ourselves. If we parse through the story lines and belief system that make up the narrative of our horizontal time, we can see the slings and arrows of delinquent yang and yin expressed in the alternations of confusion we all share in: quietism/impetuosity; weakness/aggression; dependency/self-assertion; vacillation/stubbornness. The I Ching reveals specific ways in which we can decrease delinquency and return to correctness. Here Liu I-Ming gives one example, which also the way yang and yin must always accompany each other (just as a speaker and listener accompany a conversation):
Yang arises from absence of cogitation and rumination. All kinds or ordinary activities that are wholesome or nourishing (gathering with friends, reading books, playing music, writing, etc: if you can harmonize spontaneously based on the natural essence, without seeking or desiring anything, there will be serenity and contentment) can give rise to yang. To collect oneself and be careful that the surge of conscious energy does not overflow into excitement, impetuosity, or concept, is referred to as nurturing yang by yin, where yin means calm and detachment.
The practice described above, as well as all other relative applications of the I Ching are based on restoring, as Liu I-Ming calls it, our "celestial nature" and decreasing our "acquired conditioning" and its hold on us.
The shining mind is the mind of Tao, the straying mind is the human mind. The mind of Tao is subtle and hard to see, the human mind is unstable and uneasy. The tendency to think of the conditioned mind as the true mind is mistaking the servant for the master. The duality between the conditioned conscious mind and the primal mind is unfixed, and so the “true” mind can be brought to the fore. When the mind runs off, one should gather it in; having gathered it in, then let it go. After action, seek rest, finding rest, one develops enlightenment.
In restoring our celestial nature, the challenge of recognizing its subtly is amplified by the instability of confusion and the need for discernment is high. From such a description the other two "timeless hexagrams" are implied, even obvious (though the I Ching so often reveals how we overlook the obvious)" #29 The Abysmal, and #30 The Clinging Fire, though Lui I-Ming's terminology is less abstract and more telling: Mastering Pitfalls and Seeking Clarity. In short, every situation we face in life presents a pitfall or challenge, either as an outright challenge or one that contains problematic seeds we might begin to indulge in or otherwise succumb to. Thus the need to Seek Clarity is constantly with us, dawning a "need" in every situation, with the situation itself made up of its' particular expression of yang and yin. In every experience of horizontal time there is the need to align with vertical time in order to progress on our path.
The Eternal Hexagrams and Shambhala Training
This system of four aspects corresponds to one of the most fundamental outline of the Shambhala teachings and was the way we initially presented Shambhala Training. That life is a process of living in the challenge and we have the ability to realize awake through cultivating gentleness and fearlessness, the qualities of the mother and father lineages; as a whole this is the path of the Shambhala warrior. Sitting meditation forms the basis of Shambhala Training, the immediate avenue of experiencing vertical time. As the mind settles a natural openness and tenderness arises, that of gentleness or mother lineage - or yin, the receptive, yielding earth. Fearlessness is expressed even in the willingness to sit, but also as natural sense of clarity that arises in the still openness and becomes the basis of correct action; obviously corresponding to firm, creative and unified energy of yang. This is more or less the way we described Shambhala Training on the first posters we put in cities such as Boston, San Francisco or Berkeley, circa 1977, and I'm struck in writing this thirty-four years later how apt and timeless the words on these posters were!
The essence of the path of Shambhala warriorship is based on discerning what to cultivate and what to refrain from and putting this discernment into practice. And practice, forms of personal discipline, are the only way to do this, to restore our connection to basic goodness or our celestial nature and decrease the habitual hold of our acquired conditioning. Vertical and horizontal time is a way of articulating this path and how to practice it, a metaphor of the way.