Where is the best place
to read Yijing?
Before the pandemic hit, I was meeting clients and friends face-to-face for a reading session. Nice cafes, gardens and parks with quiet vibes are ideal ones. Or better yet, at the comfort of their own homes. Fine enough to feel cozy and just chill out while entering Yijing’s insight zone.
But for some this is not always the case. Instead, public spaces are often the most accessible, but we can’t avoid background noise. It’s easy to get distracted. Doing Yijing readings should be meditative, as often thought by many. So mostly I keep on receiving from clients this same concern: Do we need to go to a quieter place?
I’ll answer that in a bit.
Old school rules
In his translated version, Yijing translator John Blofeld (1913-1987) left future Yijing readers some strict protocols to follow:
In China, those in authority used to face South when granting audience. Accordingly the Book of Changes should be placed ready for use on a table facing south and in the centre of the room. Just in front…of the book, on the same or a lower table, there should be an incense burner…and the receptacle containing the divining sticks. The enquirer stands with his face to the table and thus faces north. He performs three full kowtows…and then, from a kneeling position, inserts a stick of lighted incense stick into the burner.1
Whew! That’s a mouthful, but understandable. I presume Blofeld was heavily influenced by the old school rules of ancient Taoist traditions. This is way too complex for a simpler need of finding a quiet place to do a Yijing reading.
I never follow any of Blofeld’s instructions. I don’t use yarrow sticks, which he had a high regard. I use coins instead, which Blofeld personally didn’t favor. I use my own Yijing “kit” and follow my set of basic rituals (silence and breathing meditations before casting the coins). I don’t face the south, but whichever direction I find myself in. Well, I very rarely use an incense, but an aromatic oil helps me sometimes.
Whether it’s Blofeld’s or mine, doing Yijing readings sounds like it’s only confined to, and perhaps too restricted in just one place. Not just a place, but it must be a quiet place. Or that place should be sacred enough. I find all these reasonable. After all, a Catholic mass must ideally be done inside a church. But when you pray, you can do it inside a church, or anywhere else.
So I’m wondering, can I do the same with the Yijing? Before Zoom, I was always on the go and out to the metro 3 times a week. At times I would find myself on a bus ride with an urgent thing to consult. Definitely, I can’t show all my paraphernalia and do the rituals if I’m riding a bus. So my puzzling question was:
Is it OK to do Yijing anywhere?
This question includes noisy places, inside malls, on the roadside, even in the toilet! Sounds blasphemous, but consider it like praying, which I bet you can do almost anywhere in the world, if you need to do it so badly. Why not for Yijing?
Bird in the Sky
I did a reading to answer this question. (Again, metareading – an approach on reading on how to do a reading). I got Hexagram 12, Blocked. That’s pretty straightforward. It pictures out those instances where I cannot do a Yijing reading, or places where I am not supposed to do it.
Literally, I got blocked when I was reading the text for Hexagram 12. Instead, I meditated on its ideogram:
This is how the ideogram looks like in this Yijing version:2
The ideogram literally means “a bird flying to the mouth of heaven.”
This meaning immediately revealed the answer. The bird represents the practice of Yjjing. The mouth of heaven represents a place not localized on Earth, and therefore nonlocal, which literally means “everywhere”. Just the same with the digital jargon we refer to as “cloud”, which we can access anywhere in the world, as long as you have a good Wi-Fi.
True enough, any place is a good place for a Yijing reading, as long as the intention is there. I even got clear answers when I did the Yijing alone in a cottage in a beach island, as well as on a boat ride back to the town. I had Yijing readings while on a bus and taxi, and I didn’t even cast the coins (I devised a technique similar to a known ancient method that doesn’t use coins or sticks to get a hexagram).
And bringing a smartphone everywhere is a boon. I can just access my favorite online Yijing generator app on Hilary Barrett’s site (Thanks, Hilary!) and do readings anywhere, anytime.
I also gave readings in the middle of a noisy mall, in a huge food court inside it, and inside a busy restaurant. I had readings both on a very busy sidewalk and in a quiet and nice city park. It can be inside a client’s work office, in a meditation room, or in workshop and retreat spaces. It can be as loud as an event venue with a live band, but Yijing still churns out clear and exact answers. And since pandemic happened, I’ve been doing Yijing readings via Zoom, which before I thought not feasible.
And when people asks me if we need a quieter place, I tell them there’s no need. Every Yijing session creates its own time bubble, an invisible sound-proofing sphere that keeps us focused and undistracted even in the busiest and noisiest place.
A poetic reminder
To wrap this insight up, I’m sharing here a poem I wrote back in November 2018, which shares the same title with this post:
after Hexagram 12
If you want
to understand the
to stop reaching it. Just
the bird, small
as a dot,
enters the mouth
With this, I’d like to end this post by saying: There is no place that Yijing cannot reveal.
1 John Blofeld, I Ching, The Book of Change (Dutton & Sons, 1965)
2 Fritz Blok, The I Ching: Landscapes of the Soul (Koneman, 2002)
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Very insightful. I agree that the I-Ching can be read anywhere as long as we are focused. I especially like the image of a bubble we work in.
Thanks, Shad! Yes, true. Doing Yijing seems to create that kind of bubble, which in psychology is called flow.