This hexagram suggests that a deepening of one’s modesty now is a sure means of improving the situation. There is no power so great as modesty for compelling the assistance of the Sage – nor one so hindering as immodesty. Those in high places who retain their modesty are loved by all and continually prosper; those below who cultivate modesty inevitably rise on the strength of their merits, without making enemies along the way.
But what does modesty mean? Certainly it entails a refusal to boast or act imperiously with others, even in small ways. But beyond this steadfast humility it also means that our effort to discern what is right and then do it is constant; we do not work against ourselves, and we do not indulge in doubts about the wisdom of correct conduct. This unwavering commitment to what is correct might be called “the modesty before the Sage”.
So there is in modesty a component of nonaction – that is, not indulging in arrogant, ego-centered behavior – as well as a component of active effort: looking for opportunities to correct ourselves, to assist justice where there is injustice, to feed where there is hunger, to give solace where there is pain.
Finally and most plainly, modesty means holding to innocence, sincerity, and openness in every situation. To do this is to empty ourself and make room for the blessings of the Creative to take root.
The image of the hexagram K’an is that of water: water falling from the heavens, water coursing over the earth in streams, water collecting itself in pure and silent pools. This image is meant to teach us how to conduct ourselves in trying situations. If we flow through them, staying true to what is pure and innocent in ourselves, we escape danger and reach a place of quiet refuge and good fortune beyond.
K’an often appears to warn of a troubling time either drawing near or already at hand, and to counsel you not to fall into longing for an immediate and effortless solution to the trouble. When you become “emotionally ambitious” – when you cling to comfort and desire to be free of the currents of change in life – you block the Creative from resolving difficulties in your favor. What is necessary now is to accept the situation, to flow with it like water, to remain innocent and pure and sincere while the Higher Power works out a solution.
It is not that you should not act now; it is that you should not act out of frustration, anxiety, despair, or a desire to escape the situation. Instead, still yourself and look for the lesson hidden inside the difficulty. Correct your attitude until it is open, detached, and unstructured. Abandon your goals and stay on the path, where you proceed step by step, arm in arm, with the Sage.
Those whose hearts and minds are kept pure and innocent relate properly to all events, understand their cosmic meaning, and flow through them with the strength, clarity, and brilliance of pure water.