Whenever I find myself perplexed in my practice or personal life, I like to think back to these oft-uttered words of wisdom from my Chinese medicine professors: Everything can be broken down into yīn and yáng.
A simple illustration of this is found in the Yì Jīng, or Book of Changes. The Book of Changes is an ancient Chinese text that contains 64 hexagrams, or six-line sequences, that each consist of two trigrams, or three-line sequences, of which there are eight, that are each composed of three broken or solid lines stacked on top of each other, that represent, respectively, yīn and yáng.
And if that seems overwhelming, just remember: Everything can be broken down into yīn and yáng.
Traditionally the Book of Changes has been used to divine what the future has in store, but I prefer to see it as a guide for human behavior that is rooted in the principles of nature. In Chinese medicine it is understood that when we are out of sync with nature, disease results. Not wanting to see this in action, I find it useful to consult the hexagram that corresponds to the current month in order to remind myself what is in season for me to focus on and what (like my social media newsfeed) I need to let fall away.
Recently, however, I have been feeling a persistent sense of unease that transcends the nature of any one month according to the Book of Changes. As a result, I started looking for hexagrams not by the time of year, but by how I was feeling.
This is how I found hexagram 64, the final hexagram in the Book of Changes.
Each hexagram is made up of two trigrams, and each trigram symbolizes a natural influence: Earth, Mountain, Water, Wind, Thunder, Fire, Lake, or Heaven (i.e. the cosmos). Hexagram 64 consists of the trigram for Fire on top of that for Water. These are oriented in the opposite direction of what is natural: Fire should flare upward and steam Water, while Water should flow downward and temper Fire.1 In the orientation of hexagram 64, Fire and Water dissociate from rather than mutually benefit each other.1 The name of the hexagram is translated as Not Yet Fulfilled.1 It represents a difficult situation in which one has already achieved one’s goal, but is not yet fulfilled.1 There is a new cycle to come.1 Disorder becomes order, and vice versa.1
Times of unease, though they may plague some more than others, are transient. They will wax and wane like the moon. This is natural.
And this is how I came to have hexagram 64 shaved into the side of my head.
It’s been just over two weeks since I had it done, and already the lines are fading as my hair is growing. This, too, is natural.
The meaning of hexagram 64 sums up an important aspect of my treatment philosophy: that in many cases healing is a process, rather than a product.
Everyone wants to get “better,” but I would encourage you to ask yourself what that means for you. “Better” is a relative term, like yīn is to yáng and yáng to yīn. With regards to health, “better” can mean fully recovered, but it can also mean, for lack of better English, more well.
Hexagram 64 does not make unease easy to deal with, but it can make it easier.
And with that, I wish you the better in the new year!
~ Eve ~
- Huang A Taoist Master. The Complete I Ching: The Definitive Translation. 10th ed. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions; 2010.