Another I Ching Reading this morning, this time focusing on the question of how to handle challenges in friendships, partnerships, romance, or among colleagues, community members, in alliances, etc.
* Hexagram 9 is sometimes called "gentle restraint."
* The hexagram depicts a single yin line in the midst of all yang lines.
* The single yin line is "correct," or it's place is right (it's at a yin place in the hexagram), which means that despite the fact that it is overpowered by yang all around, it's position is good and therefore an auspicious omen.
* Often in life people rise to power, or seize or grab something, without taking the time to really earn, study, and gradually develop their way toward something. We're all guilty of this from time to time, and some worse than others. The teaching of hexagram 9 involves the gradual progress and development of something, and the trust needed to watch it become powerful in its own time. We are instructed to gently restrain the desire to make something happen faster than it's supposed to, or without proper precedents, respect for tradition, patience, etc. This is especially important when we are surrounded by people who are either farther along than us in some regard, or who are tempting us into competition, or who have seized or grabbed hold of power without real knowledge, devotion, or respect for due process. All of that yang surrounding the single line of yin in hexagram 9 is about knowing and trusting that good things come in time and by the integrity of staying true to who we are.
* Hexagram 9 also depicts a situation where we might find ourselves surrounded by difficult people, oppressive conditions, unfairness, injustice, or ignorance. If we look at the situation in terms of an us versus them, it can feel overwhelming. It can feel as though we're being blocked or thwarted in some way. But hexagram 9 suggests that if we look at the bigger picture of the flow of the Tao, then we can understand a secret power that exists in these situations. That single yin might be overwhelmed by powerful forces outside or beyond its control, but it's placement is proper, which means all we have to do is recognize our circumstance as an opportunity for the deepening of our integrity and the future will be bright despite the momentary constraints or limitations. In fact, in an odd way being surrounded by difficult people is ironically just the kind of circumstance that can cultivate our integrity and promise success for us down the road, which hexagram 9 describes like an eventual rain that will come through slow, gentle, small accumulations of virtue and integrity.
* It's sort of like saying, the things or people in life that restrain or thwart us are also the exact opportunities we need to become more substantively ourselves. For this reason, while being thwarted or overwhelmed by something more powerful than us, or by something we can't control, we are instructed to gently retrain ourselves from reacting and instead focus on what insight about ourselves and our own integrity the situation has provided us with. Hexagram 9 then tells us to gently, regularly, cultivate that virtue in small ways, and trust that its progress and development will eventually reach a place where we might be able to address those larger thwarting forces from a more empowered position.
* Hexagram 9 is also a kind of Kung-Fu lesson. People who surround or block us and try to intimidate us into being someone we're not will eventually create their own downfall, usually by overreaching or by underestimating their opponent, or by not truly understanding their opponent in the first place. If we simply stay true to ourselves, resist the urge to overreach or react, and focus on the continued development of our integrity, then in time our position will increase and the balance of power will shift.
* Bullying is part of the picture of hexagram 9, and for as cliched as this might sound, part of the Taoist teaching about bullies is that despite their best efforts to cut others down, they often make others far stronger than themselves (in the end) because they cultivate and reinforce a person's desire to be virtuous or to bide their time and eventually cultivate the power they might be initially lacking. Think for example of how many movies depict the small kid being bullied who eventually grows up to be successful and virtuous while the bullies end up looking wasted away and "small." Hexagram 9 isn't saying "don't worry because eventually you'll have your revenged," but it is saying, "if you think about it, being in the position you're in is actually auspicious when you study the fluctuations of the Tao...but it's critical that you recognize your position in the situation and be content within the restraint."
Imagine...restraint is showing us who we are...restraint is a way of recognizing where we are...contentment within restraint is therefore auspicious.
So, for all those experiencing hard, nasty, overwhelming, bitter, competitive, or bullying people...
Prayer: Teach us to recognize the peaceful center opened to us, for us, by enemies. And teach us to pray for those who persecute us.