A sobering divination for a seeker with a broken family...

The question was asked by a person who is working hard to navigate a mindful path through the latest chapter in a decades-long family conflict: "How can I know that I'm doing the right thing?"

The oracle's response: Hexagram 8, UNION, changing through lines 5 and 6 to 23, SPLITTING APART. What initially seemed to be a contradictory response ended up making sense, especially the changing lines, which seemed to offer a course of action that the seeker had already arrived at, but had not yet put into place.

"Rachel" (a pseudonym) laughed when UNION presented itself as the first hexagram -- a rueful laugh, and a confession that her family was "irretrievably split" (presaging Hexagram 23?). The recent conflict concerned a critically ill family member -- and some necessary contact with relatives she had been estranged from for a long time.

UNION not only points to cooperative cohesion among people, but trust and clear focus within and towards oneself. From Jack Balkin's translation:

Look deep inside yourself and divine
Whether you have greatness, perseverance, and constancy,
For then there will be no blame.

Despite the fractures in her family, Rachel knew two things: that she had to address another relative's deceitful behaviour, while helping to tend to the person who was ill. She wanted no part in the conflict, and chose to declare her position in relation to it (the knew of the deceit, and would not participate in it). She felt sure that one relative in particular would "probably blow up at me" -- yet she could not ethically remain silent. She had strong words for this person, and needed to say "ENOUGH."

Be wed to wisdom, first and faithfully, the oracle advises us; only a core of unity within your own self will lead to positive change.

"Is that a warning?" Rachel asked. "Should I not say anything?"

It was time to explore the changing lines!

8:5 is the ruling line of the hexagram and indicates powerful leadership, a fair and somewhat martial attitude -- the line refers to a hunt in which the lead hunter allows some animals (the stronger and more resilient creatures) to escape capture. Those in accord will come together, the oracle says -- and perhaps there is is a measure of fate that plays out here. A wise leader allows voluntary union; in this particular hunt, the ancient writings say that three of four sides of containment are closed. In Rachel's "hunt," there too exist possibilities for both entrapment (deceit; infighting) and for openness. Do not coerce union or condemn disjoiners, the oracle also advises. If you possess sincerity and strength of character, these qualities will shine through to others ... Let the small things ("small" or deceitful personalities) go.

8:6, at first read, seems to indicate yet another contradiction (what family isn't rife with them?); a condition that stands against the willing and cooperative actions of the fifth line:

No head for union.

Jack Balkin's translation spoke to the broken heart of Rachel's family: When unity does break down, it is often because something was wrong from the start ... bonds of trust and reciprocity did not form or did not grow strong enough to weather the stresses and strains that naturally occur in any relationship ...

Rachel and I thumbed through several other translations; all told, they both acknowledged tension (Troubles mount ... One's head is lost ... No good leadership), and recommended caution: Don't do something that you'll later regret ... Make sure to do the right thing.

I shared an image that sprang to mind -- that of Rachel gingerly stepping across a floor littered with shards of shattered glass.

"Family landmines," she added, and we both had to laugh. (Every family has them, n'est-ce pas?)

"So ... I hold to my highest principles and step verrry carefully through this, right?" Rachel asked.

"Yes," I replied. "You may not be leading anyone else in your family, but you can always lead yourself."

Then we examined Hexagram 23, which might have seemed to portend (yet more) breakage ... but we both felt steady after the counsel of 8's changing lines. We were both attracted to one particular facet of 23 -- that of stripping away what is old and obsolete; getting out of the way of disintegration and allowing it to occur in its natural, inevitable way:

You are experiencing the end of an old cycle without the comforting assurance of what is yet to come ... You must endure this period of deterioration and wait for better times to emerge. According to the law of nature, they inevitably will. In the meantime, acquiesce in the new conditions without surrendering your principles ... Let yourself die to clinging.

Rachel acknowledged that hardship was sure to come, as her family was gathering close around her ill relative, whose prognosis was uncertain.

"I mean some hardship emotionally," she said, and sighed.

I pointed out to her that Hexagram 23's trigrams are Mountain over Earth, and found this promising coda to leave her with:

If you behave with kindness and magnanimity even when everything is falling apart, you will make your position as secure and stable as a broad expanse of mountains.

"Spring will come," Rachel said with a bittersweet smile ...


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