Let the I Ching Guide You Through Uncertainty

We live in an age of high anxiety, perhaps higher than ever during a pandemic. Humans have always had plenty of reasons to feel insecure, but things seem qualitatively different now. Rapid change, and the uncertainty that accompanies it, have accelerated to chaotic levels. As of this writing, during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and massive social justice demonstrations, we are collectively experiencing fears of a cascading health and economic catastrophe while worrying for a rise in infections among protestors. The pandemic is both slowing us down and accelerating change in new—and hopefully healthier—ways.

Rapidly shifting conditions require new strategies while they offer new opportunities. In the process, we are challenged, as always, to make beneficial choices and skillful decisions. This is where an authentic divination system like the I Ching can help us on an individual level.

Responsible decision-making is arguably the single most important human activity, but it is stressful. We are the only species that can visualize different possible outcomes following from different choices we might make. The quality and good timing of our decisions determines, more than anything else we can do, our success and happiness in life, our ability to survive and hopefully thrive through the cultivation of empathy and a higher more inclusive consciousness.

Even though human beings have this amazing capacity, decision-making is risky and we are not very good at it. We can so easily be too emotional and impulsive or, conversely, overly analytical and procrastinating. So, what can we do to make life’s pivotal decisions more wisely? How can we be smarter about it? The I Ching can help us approach decision-making with calm intention, while gaining more insight into the potential directions you can go. The I Ching is an amazing tool for intuitive decision-making, but what’s wrong with good old-fashioned logic and rational information analysis?

Ever since the Renaissance in the 1600s, the western world has glorified reason and looked to scientific rationalism for the solution to most problems. The assumption was: sufficient data in, good answers out. With the recent dawning of the Information Age—with instant access to virtually unlimited data—it was surmised that logical decision-making would become easier as well as more convenient.

Well, think again. In the process of weighing pros and cons, analyzing statistics, applying probability theory, or toying with computer models, logical analysis is only as good as the quality of the information available. And there’s the rub.

We’ve got too much information, and it’s become virtually impossible to differentiate the reliable from the fake. And even the information we accept as true now has a shorter shelf life, because rapid change makes current information obsolete, and more quickly than ever. We have to stay on our toes. Logical decision-makers often put off decisions while awaiting more information, making themselves liable to miss increasingly short-lived windows of opportunity. Good and timely decisions are a balancing act and an art. So how do we determine which portions of available information are true or meaningful so that we can make the decisions that need to be made? The answer is not to be found in our minds, but in our hearts, in our intuition.

Good decision-making is more an art than a science. Having harnessed powerful computers and artificial intelligence—the ultimate models of left-brain processing—we have become aware of the limitations of left-brained information processing and we are beginning to appreciate a mode of perceiving that is more holistic, that sometimes approaches mystical realization, such as we can get from an I Ching reading.

Since the revelations of quantum physics a century ago, the perceived gap between the empirical and the mystical has been closing. Major credit for bringing these two camps within hailing distance goes to the Swiss-born father of depth psychology, Carl Jung, who introduced the West to the idea of meaningful coincidence, or “synchronicity”—one of the most practical mystical concepts ever, which depends so entirely on intuitive intelligence in order to be useful.

Jung’s work in general provides a backdrop for any serious exploration of intuition. He fearlessly explored the territory connecting scientific inquiry with a person’s inner experience, including what he recognized as a spiritual dimension of consciousness (in deference to scientific nomenclature, he called it the Collective Unconscious). He highlighted the importance of symbolism for psychology—suggesting that symbols point to a deeper truth—and counseled us to interpret and learn from our own unique set of inherited or adopted archetypes.

In a 1952 essay entitled “Synchronicity, An Acausal Connecting Principle,” Jung contrasted the western mindset—influenced by early Greek philosophers who focused on logical details—with the eastern perspective, which focused on the whole big picture, with each part and every detail sharing the qualities of the whole gestalt. Jung’s essay was derived from his introduction to the first mass produced version of the I Ching, the translation by Richard Wilhem and Cary Baynes.

To Jung, the eastern approach that transcended mere logic better described the mysterious workings of the human psyche. It also provided a more contemplative and holistic viewpoint. Jung pointed to a power of discernment that can take advantage of “the irrational functions of consciousness … that is, sensation AND intuition.”

When it comes to making skillful decisions, the question arises: Should we just trust whatever feelings come up? Or are there systematic ways to go deeper and access intuitive intelligence? Fortunately, a number of people—including prominent scientists and business leaders—have rediscovered the ancient Chinese technology for intuitive decision-making and creativity: the I Ching.

The I Ching, since its Western revival in the 1960s, has been dismissed as “new age” in the popular media. It is, however, anything but new—having been used by emperors, sages, and ordinary people in China for over 3000 years. Today, this oracle is more and more commonly put to practical use by creative counselors and their more highly aware clients.

Jung was enchanted with the I Ching due to the way it seemed to put individual psychological elements in context, as part of a seamless whole. “There is no need of any criteria which imposes conditions and restricts the wholeness of the natural process… In the I Ching, the coins fall just as happens to suit them.”

Traditionally when a person consulted the I Ching, they drew sticks or tossed coins and recorded the results as a 6-line pattern called a hexagram, which was then interpreted from a book. Now there are online readings, a Visionary I Ching app, and our latest production: the Visionary I Ching Deck featuring 64 beautifully illustrated cards with original watercolors by Joan Larimore, along with a booklet of interpretations. But regardless of the format you use to derive a hexagram reading, you may wonder how any sort of truth could be divined from seeming happenstance.

Two Chinese sages, King Wen and the Duke of Chou, devised the I Ching oracle some 4,000 years ago to strengthen the connection between the psychic and the material realms. An individual seeking insight and advice approaches the I Ching prepared to resonate inwardly with one of its sixty-four archetypal patterns. As Jung put it, the I Ching oracle interprets an “inner unconscious knowledge that corresponds to the state of consciousness at the moment.” In other words, it stimulates our intuitive intelligence.

Intuition exists outside the stream of ordinary thinking consciousness and can present itself in many ways—from a vague hunch to a fully developed vision. It may arrive as a mathematical equation, as an invention or as simply a hunch about the best path to take. And so it is that an answer to a long-unsolved quandary can seem to just pop into our heads. But events oozing with connective portent that have no apparent causal relationship are hardly random. Something in the external world triggered inner knowledge, and the two realities intersect within our working mind. The I Ching offers us a way to reliably produce this phenomenon of meaningful coincidence.

Not only did the I Ching fascinate psychologist Carl Jung, it also attracted the attention of his fellow scientists, the famous physicists Werner Heisenberg and Albert Einstein. Heisenberg, discoverer of the Uncertainty Principle, even had the yin-yang symbol representing the binary polarity of the I Ching’s 64 patterns added to his family’s coat-of-arms.

A more recent example from the world of business is an old friend of mine, Paul Wenner, a successful entrepreneur who had a cause. In 1985, he founded Gardenburger, Inc. to provide a healthy vegetarian fast-food alternative. Much sweat equity and thousands of decisions later, Gardenburger rose to become the world’s fastest growth stock in 1994. Today Paul is a multimillionaire, the author of a major book on vegetarianism and a booklet entitled Ten Secrets to Success.

A surprising number of people in the Western world use the I Ching at work as well as at home. Years ago, I consulted the I Ching often, as the single parent of a teenage boy! The I Ching software program named Synchronicity—developed by my first company, Visionary Software—was surprisingly popular in the business world when it first came out. One customer said he was able to close a three-million-dollar because of using the I Ching program to reorient himself during lengthy negotiations. He consulted the oracle on his PC before every meeting, to center himself and stimulate his intuition. The I Ching is a great way to prepare for negotiations and support critical decision-making—whether with a potential business partner … or a teenager testing boundaries.

This age of massive uncertainty we’re living through is stimulating greater fear and anxiety every day, leading to confusion, mistrust, cynicism, stress and plenty of bad decisions. It is no wonder we seek answers that can guide us through the morass of misinformation and propaganda. Parched for guidance and wisdom, it continues to be my intention to help people realize how tools of ancient wisdom like the I Ching can provide clarity, increased insight, and wisdom, while supporting our most important skill—intuitive, timely and wise decision-making. By helping me do this since I was 19 years old, the I Ching has enriched my life in every aspect.

visionary I Ching cards and guidebook

Time isn’t the problem

Chad E Cooper is the author of Time Isn’t the Problem: Four Strategies to Transform Stress Into Success. Chad leads his life by example. He retired at 35 and has since been a successful coach working with CEOs, professional athletes, and people in everyday walks of life. He inspires others to grab their dreams and execute them with passion. Chad teaches people to move out of a life of fear, boredom, frustration, and exhaustion and live a life where dreams can ignite a Legendary Lifestyle, and where time can serve them.

Coping Skills

Dr. Faith G. Harper is the author of Coping Skills: Tools & Techniques for Every Stressful Situation. She’s a licensed professional counselor, board supervisor, certified sexologist, and applied clinical nutritionist with a private practice and consulting business in San Antonio, TX. She is the author of many popular “Five Minute Therapy” zines and books, on subjects such as anxiety, depression, adulting, intimacy, anger, and grief, including UnF#ck Your BrainThe Revolution will Include Cookies, and This is your brain on Anxiety. She gives you the honest facts on how to deal with whatever you’re dealing with, how it affects your body/brain, and even gives you the tough-love you didn’t know you needed.

Ancient Taoist Approach to Modern Stress

Feel rushed? Even when you’re on vacation? Worried about the future? Overwhelmed? Fast-paced living creates “hurry-sickness”– a sense of desperation and time-pressures that are draining. We’re conditioned to chase money, power, success – ever embracing a wilder, faster pace of life. Despite a rise in stress-induced illnesses, we continue onward in a furious race to an imaginary finish line. The anxiety we feel breeds muddled thinking which leads to poor choices. Poor choices lead to more problems, pain and suffering. It’s a race to the finish that we’re destined to lose.

Yun Rou, a modern Taoist monk I interviewed on my Pathways show, offers wisdom pointing to a better way. Tao, in fact, means “the Way.” It refers to living life in harmony with nature. Many of us spend our time and energy doing battle with life when the key is to live in harmony – through a Taoist alchemy that finds the balance between action and non-action, between assertion and letting go of resistance, as circumstances dictate. Yun Rou uses the term ‘rectify’ to refer to the effort it takes to bring things out of whack back into balance. We will never finally achieve perfect balance – we will always be rectifying – but it’s fun trying and getting better at it. Otherwise, we squander considerable effort and time trying to force the universe to bend to our will. So very exhausting!

Below are four Taoist secrets to doing less and getting more done.

1. Be like water – in the flow.

In his book, Mad Monk Manifesto, Yun Rou notes that we are each called upon to become a sage, defining sage as “a person who deeply senses the flow of the world and moves with it, not against it.” But how do we learn to yield and not resist? Taoists embrace the image of flowing water: when a stream of water is confronted by a rock in its path, it flows effortlessly around it or over it, rather than banging its head against the rock. Flow like water.

2. Cultivate inner peace.

Meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga – all of these ancient methods can be used to help us calm our anxious minds and reduce stress. If we imagine the principles of yielding, softness, centeredness, slowness, balance, suppleness and rootedness that these methods draw upon in a balance of stillness and movement, then we will sense our connection with nature, harmonize ourselves to her ways, and cultivate the inner peace that we all need and subconsciously crave.

3. Find the balance.

An important first step toward attaining this solution to modern stress is by learning to recognize and align ourselves with the movement of life itself. This is achieved through an understanding of yin and yang and finding the balance points of life’s ever-changing dance of polarities – light or dark, up or down, feminine and masculine, giving and receiving, consuming and sacrificing. Balance is the Way.

4.Practice gentleness and compassion.

Mistakenly interpreted as weakness, true gentleness is a courageous sensitivity, respect, and reverence for all life. Its companion virtue, compassion, brings acceptance, generosity, forgiveness, and love. How wonderfully ironic that caring about others’ happiness as if it were your own will reduce your stress level and improve overall well-being for everyone. Yun Rou sums it up: “Compassion is the key element of the awakened, rectified life.”

Feeling Good

David D. Burns, MD, is Adjunct Clinical Professor Emeritus at the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. His best-selling book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, has sold more than five million copies  and is the book most frequently recommended for depressed individuals by American and Canadian health professionals. Many published research studies have indicated that 65% of individuals with moderate to severe depression who are given a copy of his book improve dramatically within four weeks with no other treatment.

Awareness Explorers

Jonathan Robinson is a psychotherapist, best-selling author of 12 books, and a professional speaker from Northern California. He has made numerous appearances on the Oprah show, as well as many other national TV talk shows, and articles about him have appeared in USA Today, Newsweek and The Los Angeles Times. He co-hosts the podcast “Awareness Explorers” with author Brian Tom O’Connor.  Through TV, live lectures and radio, Mr. Robinson has reached over 100 million people around the world.  He is known for providing his audiences with immediately useful information presented in a fun and entertaining manner.  His latest book is entitled “More Love, Less Conflict.”  Other books by Jonathan include: Find Happiness Now: 50 Shortcuts for Bringing More Love, Balance, and Joy Into Your Life, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Awakening Your Spirituality, and Real Wealth: A Spiritual Approach to Money and Work.

Breaking Up with Busy

Yvonne Tally is the author of Breaking Up with Busy: Real-Life Solutions for Overscheduled Women. Yvonne leads meditation and de-stressing programs for corporations, individuals, and private groups in Silicon Valley. An NLP master practitioner, Yvonne co-founded Poised Inc., a Pilates and wellness training studio, and is the founder of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarves, a charity that provides headscarves to cancer patients. She lives in Northern California.

Childhood Adversity

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is the author of the new book, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity. She is a pioneering physician who is reshaping the conversation about childhood stress. In her book, she tells the story of what toxic stress is, how it affects children, the ways it leads to lifelong health problems (from obesity to heart disease to cancer)—and how to break the cycle.

The Five Roles of a Master Herder

Linda Kohanov is the author of the new book, The Five Roles of a Master Herder: A revolutionary model for socially intelligent leadership. Linda is also the author of the bestseller The Tao of Equus. She speaks and teaches internationally. She established Eponaquest Worldwide to explore the healing potential of working with horses and offer programs on everything from emotional and social intelligence, leadership, stress reduction, and parenting to consensus building and mindfulness.

Using the Practicing Mind

Thomas Sterner is the author of the new book, Fully Engaged: Using the Practicing Mind in Daily Life. Tom is founder and CEO of the Practicing Mind Institute. As a successful entrepreneur, he is considered an expert in Present Moment Functioning, or PMF™. He is a popular speaker and coach who works with high-performance industry groups and individuals, including athletes, helping them to operate effectively in high-stress situations so that they can break through to new levels of mastery.