In my inglorious youth I used to consult oracles morning, noon and night. It’s something that young people do… constantly. As one gets older this habit diminishes (thank goodness) and now I consider the I Ching as a book of wisdom offering information about the character and organics of change, and the Tarot cards as a picture book of human archetypes.
But recently things have been odd and uncertain. The recession grinds on, there are crises across the world and people are worried. On the brighter side my partner’s sister has moved into our house, which is exciting for all – a pleasure shared is a pleasure increased – but the effort was unbelievable, following over 50 years of life in a vast old house. With the stress of the move my partner became ill, and for other entirely different reasons so have many friends and relatives; some good people I know and love are very seriously ill indeed.
A close and wise friend who is an inspired astrologer says that there are many squares and therefore many blockages in the movement of the cosmos… it does feel that way.
It was in this atmosphere of flux and evident change that I decided to consult the I Ching – The Book of Changes, asking for a hexagram that might offer advice to all those that may share this moment of uncertainty… and who might read this blog. I threw the coins. Which hexagram? I asked. The answer came back… 42.
Before I go into the meaning of this hexagram, which is pictured on the left, I have to say that the universe, the cosmos and the deities (whether you believe in them or not) all have a sense of humour. 42, as you know comes after 41, but it gained hilarious notoriety after its appearance as ‘the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything’ in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. That said, it’s worth noting the significance of this hexagram in the Book of Changes, and its relevance.
Hexagram 42 means Increase… of all things!
The strong lower line that once belonged to the upper trigram (the top three lines) has moved down to take its place at the bottom of the lower trigram. This is an important pattern; it reiterates the concept that ‘to rule is to serve’. The sacrifice by a good person at the top of the tree produces an increase in the wellbeing of those sitting on the other branches – spirit can change the world, the zeitgeist is on the move, and even if we don’t feel as though things are on the increase… apparently they are. It’s true to say… the I Ching doesn’t usually get it wrong, and in my life… it has always been right.
So maybe… when we all felt rich or at least safe and secure we were slipping into spiritual and (for some of us) material decline, and now the tide is turning, in unexpected ways. Apparently when change starts to manifest itself, and certainly the summer took us all by surprise, we need to take advantage of the movement of time, we need to gently make decisions that bring change for the better, in oracle speak, we need to ‘undertake something… so… it furthers one to cross the great water”. This is a symbolic or metaphysical way of saying… get out there and do something inspired, and if possible, beautiful in every sense.
It’s the time of increase, and yet it may not feel like it. Perhaps that’s because we are all apprehensive. It’s true to say that when I went to the allotment today I came back with practically more than I can carry, and who could have believed such a thing was possible during the first the first four months of this year when it seemed that winter would never, ever end.
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. C.G.Jung
Language is powerful, wonderful, limited and misguiding. Tell somebody not to think about a blue fluffy rabbit, and what do they immediately think about? Something blue, something fluffy and something strangely rabbity, wabbity. This is what language does. It throws us ideas, impressions and associations with words. Words can also mislead us when not properly used. In this way empires have fallen, people have died because of a few Chinese whispers mumbled on a battlefield, and the word ‘Green’ has become an anathema to taxi drivers in Brighton, due to the poisonous word-spinning of ‘The Evening Argus’, the rag that purports to be our local paper…but I digress…
So what’s wrong with meditation? Nothing, of course in itself ‑ in fact the act or process of meditation is the most wonderful thing that one can do for oneself. It changes your mind and your body, in a similar way to the mechanism one uses when fantasising. But there are major differences, so that instead of upping ones hormones and blood distribution by conjuring up impressions that make the heart beat faster and bring about bodily changes, with meditation there is another aim and intention, that takes us somewhere else, to a higher place. With meditation we are creating a magic pathway between heart and mind that balances everything – providing sensations, sights and sounds of harmony, peace, and health. The intention flows from the mind, the heart and the spirit, creating positive change at the cellular level. Meditation is the most exquisite healing process I know, but I would never have believed this 16 years ago.
16 years ago I was looking at a daily timetable of the Bristol Cancer Centre, where an entire morning appeared to be dedicated to meditation, and sometimes an entire afternoon. The word meditation conjured up unattractive images – rooms full of earnest people sitting eyes-closed, cross-legged on the floor of white-walled rooms, tuned into a mysterious place beyond understanding. Another idea I held was that to get into a place of meditation one had to empty ones mind of everything, and then sit like a stuffed owl in silence for hours on end, trying to persuade oneself not to think about anything… at all. In reality I learnt at the Bristol Cancer Centre, that meditation can indeed include such ‘mind-emptying’ exercises, but that is only one facet of the process. The practise there was mostly ‘guided meditation’ which is a very different thing altogether.
Guided meditation is about finding a place or space in ones mind and in ones heart, where one may choose to go, and rest in total tranquillity, experiencing the joy of inner calm. It’s a visualisation technique that can also conjure up sounds and sensations. The most lovely and colourful images may be suggested, taking one to a place that may be every bit as wonderful as the reality of a sunny beach, with the singing of crickets and the call of seagulls overhead, or lying in an English meadow, listening to the sound of the lark. Furthermore, there is great benefit to be had in sharing this experience. In a group, the guide can take meditators to a place of sunshine and joy on a dark, cold wintry night. Additionally in a group we can physically and mentally ‘feel’ loving-kindness. Meditation is the most divine medicine one can possibly take. It has carried me out of the most sorrowful states, it has transported me from places of near-death, and today I have the opportunity to enable others to discover its healing powers, its pleasures and joys for themselves. The benefits it brings to those with serious illnesses are astonishing, but it also benefits the healthiest of us, particularly those that possibly work too hard.
My next meditation group will be held in the Adelaide Room of the Cornerstone Community Centre in Church Road, Hove, from 6 to 8pm on Friday August 16th.