I Ching study

from the I Ching

Hexagram 6 in the I Ching deals with conflict, dispute and litigation. It has the trigram of Heaven above the trigram of Water. This shows air moving up and water flowing down with both trigrams representing unyielding strong energy.

When two strong forces oppose one another they do so to advance their position. This results in a stalemate as each tries to get their own way. On a personal level this reflects the conflict between mind and body and the battle over which one dominates. The fact they compete with each other at all is a conflict in itself. If they will not work in tandem then one is trusted more than the other.

We might try to convince others through our physical show of strength – exercise and attention to our appearance – leading with the body – or try to convince others with a mental show of strength – intellectual acumen and high achievement – leading with the mind. Each is used as a tool for the message we want to send out about our strength. This blinds us and before long we have become isolated from the flow.

To re-engage the two requires mediation. In Hexagram 6 the only line capable of this is the fifth line. It relies on impartiality governed by fairness. This may involve some behaviour modification to prevent going on a collision course that will involve loss.

In the month of July consider the theme of Hexagram 6 whenever you are starting new things. If you are trying to expand in a particular field then you need to be a bit conservative in your approach and consider what others need to receive out of the venture as well. When disputes arise, defer to the brief window of fairness that can stop a fight between two strong forces before things have gone too far.

Conflicts occur when our conduct is overly self-willed. When we become rigid and fixed, whether physical or mental, we enter a sometimes relentless pursuit to win.

Some conflicts are definitely unavoidable but winning is often short-lived if we have resorted to litigation to achieve it. It may bring emotional gratification but it will also undermine our opponent and our own respect. The attitude that wins with least fall-out for both parties is the principle of fairness; but it is difficult to achieve.

Opposing forces can help each other reach the truth. One side becomes a support for the other and vice-versa because compromise moves energy forward. On a personal level again this is the correct balance between the mind and body anyway.

A lingering dispute damages people and outcomes. If one side forces its position and the other appears to have retreated, it may be a temporary move - to mask an underhanded motive to try to get their own way as well. Be careful and be fair.


There is a trend at the moment – an enticing one - that calls to us each time we hear or read the words ‘life purpose’.

A life purpose movement of consciousness is taking place with mind trainers and life coaches helping people discover their true calling. The promise seems to be focused on helping people catch up with what they were ‘meant’ to be doing and to ease out of any dead ends. This can be positive when approached in a practical and mindful way but it can also be based around ideals that are unrealistic and grandiose.

When the urge to find new life purpose has become overwhelming we may start to panic under the pressure and doubt choices we have made. Did we follow the wrong career? Did we marry the right partner? Will we ever gain independence or be wealthy?

The I Ching suggests there are no mistakes, only energy responses, signposts that we have become sidetracked or that we are on course, reflected back to us through changes in our world or through blockages that indicate change is needed.

When we lose friends, money or direction it is common to feel the pressure to want to know what we did ‘wrong’. Instead of riding out the storm we tend to try to fix it and search for something to make our way easier or avoid the change that is taking place. We want things to return to how they were before and we wait for things to go ‘wrong’ before we look. When things are going well we don’t doubt our focus or life path. These patterns are part of the natural cycle of adjustment.

For some of us there are hidden ‘dreams’ that were buried in order to make way for other needs to be met. We are unable to act on every whim and interest that comes before us. If we did then our life would be overcome by desire and carelessness, corrupted by trying to satisfy our personal will. There are dreams we may have promised ourselves we would fulfil ‘one day’ but the passage of time and conditions take their toll.

If real life is in the present moment and spiritual in nature no matter what our job or pathway looks like, then we have not ‘missed the boat’ or spent our life in a wrong choice. There are no wrong choices, only lessons repeated as we resist learning. This is how it becomes possible to find an emotional pattern or habit running through an entire family.

Some lives may appear more exciting to our wandering eyes but lessons are the same for all people; it is a matter of whether we are willing to go through challenges. If we use an external monitor of fame and fortune as our map we will probably be disappointed with our achievements and start ‘the hunger’.

If we give power to another person’s notion of what is good for us then we may seek the ideal of another life purpose.

Is it the new life purpose that is actually calling us from our vivid buried dreams and desires, or is it the need to take back some element of control over our own choices and act from our own initiative that we are really missing?

In the ego world of self-aggrandizement and one-upmanship, where the focus is on becoming the best you can be, using all you have, getting all you ever dreamed of and never losing it, object consciousness prevails and the target is up ahead, out there, someplace in the future.

A true life is a simple life. If we build from that premise and keep returning to that as our central base, we will not lose our way. If you have been a victim of other people’s opinions, the challenge is not necessarily to escape to where they can no longer get at you, but to overcome that demon within yourself that has you faltering when they judge you.

We have no control over what other people say and do but we can control how we respond to it. Part of our life purpose needs to be in building these inner resources that can carry us through whatever challenges come our way. Then ‘life purpose’ becomes how you handle this moment and what follows.

When we consult the I Ching it is to receive help with motivation, timing, conditions, suitability and to detect any pretence or ‘false god’ that may be taking us down a pathway that is misleading. Flashes of inspiration enter when we leave a space for the greater knowledge to reach us.

When we trust ‘experts’ and put them on a pedestal to make decisions on our behalf we weaken our own inner resolve. If we find mentors and run with their stories of accomplishment or how they attracted their money and follow their pledges of ‘You can do it too – let me show you how’, we may be denying our own ‘life purpose’ and falling for theirs. Are we looking for a missing parent? If so, then it is time to start parenting ourselves and gently leading the undeveloped part of our nature forward step by step.

There are many great teachers and business people in whom we can trust. Their role is often bountiful, to the extent that we may remember what they have said to us for as long as we live. They have truly made a difference to us on the inside.

But when we are concerned that our ‘life purpose’ is not exciting enough or does not seem to be netting us any rewards we can be susceptible to being misled by another’s suggestion.

We are all wired differently and need to create our own design. That design does not amount to ‘one big thing’ we do in order to put our stamp on the world. It is the composite of many small acts of trust, kindness and expression that build our character and give our life purpose every single day.

Once we are capable of calling ourselves adults we also need to be capable of owning our choices. Yet we fall for someone else’s interpretation of what is best and it could be just another grand seduction. We naturally crave to find hidden potentials for artistic expression or follow the non-traditional formula so we can think of ourselves as unique and different; yet harnessing our creativity is not so difficult.

It begins from here, whether we are washing dishes, changing nappies or writing an engineering blueprint. Creative living is as much an attitude as it is a ‘destination’. Those who believe it is the latter run the risk of never being able to ‘find it’ or ‘get there’. They may be dissatisfied with what they have now and that can spark unhealthy or unnecessary ambition for change. If we work our way forward with an open heart from our present point, things fall into place.

- Karen Cohen

Recommended reading
Understanding the I Ching - The Wilhelm Lectures by Hellmut Wilhelm, Richard Wilhelm
The Laws of Change: I Ching and the Philosophy of Life by Jack M. Balkin
The Writer's I Ching by Jessica Page Morrell
A Woman's I Ching by Diane Stein

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