Arriving at the correct solution to a difficult situation requires a receptivity to inner truth. Unless we are willing to put aside the strong emotions of our egos and devote ourselves to discovering what is right, there can be no hope of progress at this time. Help only comes when we invite it with a sincere and innocent attitude.
The I Ching teaches a simple but effective method of influencing difficult people and arduous situations. It advises us first to lay aside our prejudices – our feelings of being wounded, angry, or in the right – and second to seek to understand the positions of others and the lesson that the Sage is teaching us with the situation. Even when another is truly out of line, it is only be accepting this and remaining balanced that you make it possible for positive change to occur. Gentleness and understanding create in others an unconscious willingness to be led.
The superior person therefore avoids the use of anger and force in trying times, knowing that they only prolong conflict. It is far wiser to accept that each experience we have is necessary for us to learn something about ourselves and about the higher laws of life. The greatest openings come when we meet difficulty with acceptance, gentleness, and a desire to understand the lesson underneath.
Even the foolish can attain wisdom by modestly following the Sage.
Folly is a characteristic of youth: those who have had little experience generally exhibit little wisdom. This is true of us in a spiritual way as well; in comparison to the Sage we are “babes in the woods.” The hexagram Mêng counsels us to utilize the I Ching as a lantern so that we may survive our youthful folly and travel safely through the woods of life.
There is no shame in seeking guidance in life. A child is eager to be shown the way by his parents and teachers, and we are wise to recognize that in spiritual terms we are akin to children. Our success will come quicker if we find and follow a wise teacher. The Sage is available to serve in this way for those who approach the I Ching with a sincere desire to learn and grow.
To study the I Ching is to gain the perspective of the Deity, to learn the cosmic lesson inherent in every situation that faces us. If we truly look for and strive to comprehend these larger lessons, we gain mastery over fear, doubt, and anxiety. We can learn from study of the I Ching to live in a state of understanding, contentment, and acceptance, but several things are required of us.
The first is that we suspend our mistrust of the Unknown and allow the Sage to lead us. It is tempting to think that the I Ching might be just a book, merely words on paper, but there is more to it that this. To accept this is to recognize the Sage and become receptive to his assistance.
The second thing required of us is that we quiet the demands of our egos for comprehensive answers to our questions about life. The I Ching teaches us not how to get from A to Z but how to get from A to B, then from B to C, then from C to D. The sage travels step by step, dealing always with what is immediately at hand and bringing complete focus and concentration to the moment. By doing the same we fall into step with, and receive the help of, the Creative power of the universe.
Lastly, we are required to unstructure our attitude. By abandoning strategies about people and situations, we let the past and future go and meet the present with an open mind. To be unstructured and open is to allow the Sage to guide us safely and joyfully through life.
The image of Mêng is that of a stream beginning to flow down a mountainside, filing each ravine and hollow place as it goes. If we persevere in following the Sage, seeking the counsel of the I Ching and filling in the gaps in our character as they are revealed, we will be led to lasting success in life.