This morning during my meditation time I cast the I Ching and asked the question, "What is the meaning of this upcoming Mars retrograde? What can we all learn from it?"
The first hexagram received was #46, often called "Upward Mobility," or "Rising" or even "Promotion."
One translation of the decision reads: Pushing upward means successful progress. Have no anxiety about meeting with a great man. An advance to the south is fortunate.
The image is of wood slowly growing upward out of the earth.
Meditating with the riddles of the I Ching is always exciting. In this particular hexagram the general picture has to do with someone or something rising, growing upward, gaining momentum or power slowly but surely, and doing so by persisting in what is right and good. The instruction to meet with a great man, without fear, is the picture of someone asking for assistance, promotion, help, support, endorsement, confirmation, or encouragement. The successful turn to the south is a frequently repeated line in the I Ching that usually means something like, "going for it works out." I've read one translator suggest that in this particular hexagram the turn to the south indicates that the plant or wood is turning to the Sun and gaining its life giving support.
On a deeper level, I'm always struck by this hexagram's encouragement. To en-courage means to help build someone's courage. Sometimes this hexagram comes up when we're doing the right thing but we're not feeling confident about it. Other times this hexagram comes up as a confirmation that people above us, or people with more authority, will be willing to help or support our cause. At the same time this is a hexagram that is frequently an instruction to take the high road, or to persist in attempting to succeed in ethical or noble ways, rather than selfish ways. The turn to the wise person, or to the Sun in the south, is about succeeding in the right spirit.
All of these ideas are of course applicable for a Mars retrograde. Insofar as Mars retrograde periods might feature a sudden lack of confidence or the temptation to go after success in ruthless or divisive ways, this is a hexagram that simply instructs us to persist in going after our goals in ethical, courageous, and virtuous ways.
Upward mobility is also an image of gradual, steady growth, and insofar as retrogrades sometimes involve setbacks or delays, this hexagram tells us to persist in our course of action, so long as we stay humble along the way.
The changing line is the 5th line of the 46th hexagram and it reads: She ascends the steps with all good fortune. Due to her firm correctness, she is successful.
The second hexagram is #29, called dangerously deep. The image is of deep water or a perilous pit filled with water.
This sequence suggests a turn of events, where someone or something is moving toward success, due to being virtuous, modest, humble, patient, courageous, and persistent, but then falls unexpectedly into a very dangerous, tricky, or difficult situation.
The changing line indicates a good deal of success. It shows a person of good integrity ascending and succeeding specifically because of their good character. But then the individual is faced with a trial or a difficult challenge of some kind. Dangerously deep is one of those hexagrams that says something like, "Character is forged by how we respond to very difficult situations. Honesty above all is the way to take any impasse and move through it safely."
I've often gotten hexagram 29 when I'm in a politically or socially challenging situation, one that requires a combination of tact or diplomacy along with total transparency. Other times I've gotten hexagram 29 as a reminder that difficult times, or setbacks, are opportunities for the molding of our integrity.
One translator writes that hexagram 29 is a kind of "Guardian of the threshold" teaching. In video game terms it's like an end level boss.
This wisdom is also easily applied to our upcoming Mars retrograde period. Insofar as the Mars retrograde period might point toward a time of challenges and setbacks, even dangerous situations, these kinds of tests shape our integrity and eventually empower us just as much as, if not more than, the attainment of our goals or ambitions. Why? Because the strengthening of our integrity is the strengthening of our actualizing power (sometimes called our "Te" in the language of the I Ching).
Although Dangerously Deep may seem like a dark omen, it's actually very auspicious in this sequence. The overall message of these two hexagrams not only points toward promotion or success in the short run, but it also points toward a kind of test or trial period that is related to an even bigger level of success on the distant horizon. In other words, these are just the kinds of tests we run into when we're ready to take a big step forward in our spiritual maturity and worldly success at once. So just remember...whatever setbacks, delays, or difficulties we may encounter, especially those that feel like a rainstorm on our parade, how we respond to these challenges is perhaps part of an even bigger level of success we're moving toward, even if we can't quite see it yet.
Prayer: Teach us to see the opportunity for growth inherent within every difficulty, setback, or challenging situation. Especially those that come in the midst of our success.