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I Ching Hexagram Interpretations

60: Limits and Connections

Limits and Connections

Limits are necessary to channel purpose and lend direction to life. Constantly swimming in a sea of boundless opportunity would lead to exhaustion. Winging it alone wild and free in a sky of boundless opportunity would lead to being lost. In human affairs, the making of choices, and alliances, implies limitation, for in choosing one path, another must be left behind.

A key to a successful life is to select your limits consciously and carefully — to be discriminating in the setting of personal boundaries, but also knowing when to fly in formation. Just as thrift often precedes prosperity, letting go of selfish interests leads to greater personal reward. Only by consciously accepting useful limits can your energy be channeled to good purpose, and lead to lasting accomplishment.

Point yourself toward a middle way between discipline and freedom of spirit. Limits will come of their own accord; but to consciously select your own affiliations … now, that’s knowing how to fly! At the same time, do not go overboard on discipline. Even limitation must be limited, so that in the effort to bring order and direction into your life, you do not choke off vital sources of lively enthusiasm and spontaneity.

In groups and organizations, rules and regulations should strike a balance between being too strict and too lenient. If too hard, they build frustration among people, and ultimately become destructive. If the rules are too soft, sloppiness becomes acceptable, and energy is soon dissipated. The best path is one that allows for the fulfillment of individual potential, while encouraging self-discipline and focus.

Changing Line Interpretations

Line 1 (bottom line)

Before initiating any significant action, the wise first evaluate their ability to carry out the task. If the limitations are overwhelming, no action is taken. But inaction is also a decision, a kind of action, because the passage of time itself can bring strength to what is weak, and add energy to what has been still. Maintain a steady purpose, but act only when the time is ripe. In this way, limitations can serve your best interests. Only with the utmost discretion can anything be carried through to fruition.

Line 2

When the waters of a lake rise above the dam, the water spills over without hesitation. When limits in a particular situation have suddenly been overcome, nervous hesitancy to act is bound to be a mistake. Seize the moment!

Line 3

To live a life of extravagant luxury before having contributed to society; to act willfully and selfishly in violation of reasonable rules and customs; to defy social conventions for the thrill of doing so -- these are all excesses which can lead to serious and unfavorable consequences. Learn to take initiative and pleasure inside the bounds of what is fair and proper.

Line 4

The measure by which to evaluate self-imposed limitations is this: do they save and restore energy, or do they dissipate it? A diet that requires such constant vigilance and self-struggle to maintain that it saps both one’s physical energy and one’s personal resolve, will not achieve its intended purpose of restoring youth and vigor. Vain struggles with artificial limitations are best redirected quickly, so that the true goal is kept in sight. Easy does it now.

Line 5

Do not ask others to wear a yoke you yourself would be unwilling to carry. Impose no rules you yourself cannot live by. This is especially true, if you are in a position of leadership. If you are able to impose limits on others that truly fit the circumstances, and do not overly limit their freedom, the greatest success is possible.

Line 6 (top line)

Tyranny never endures, because the source of power is undermined. Ruthless severity in the administration of power -- the imposing of strict limits on others’ freedom -- can never be a consistent strategy, for a greater counter force is thereby encouraged to build. Severity can be imposed in specific circumstances, when the situation calls for it, but it must be specific in intent and limited in duration to be successful. In the skillful exercise of leadership, strong actions are balanced by mild and compassionate ones to achieve balance. Nevertheless a certain strictness may be called for to protect oneself from temptation, guilt or regret -- or to save that which is most valuable.