If you sit by a freshwater stream and listen carefully, you will hear a sacred sound. This is the sound of the eternal present. If you observe the flow, you will notice some branches and rocks causing obstructions. The stream will slow down, sometimes swell, then build up strength and move on. Our life is like the stream. It is rife with all kinds of obstacles. What is the best approach to handle these conflicts and obstructions? Do we burst through them? Do we run away? Do we take a deep breath, gather our reserves, and then when the time is right move gracefully ahead? The latter approach is always the best.
The Water Trigram is structurally composed of a broken, yin line on top, a solid, yang line in the middle, and a broken, yin line on the bottom. The two outer yin lines temper the strong, yang line in the center. Take some time and meditate on the image. The Chinese name for this Trigram is Kan.
When you think of water many images appear… rivers, streams, lakes, oceans, etc.. Water is soft but when in motion it can be very strong. It can chip away rocks and like a tidal wave, it can destroy. It is flexible on the outside but strong and firm on the inside. Like the ocean, water can be deep, mysterious and in some ways dangerous. This is why the traditional interpretation of this Trigram is danger, abyss, caution, and pay attention. With all that is going on in the world today, I cannot think of a more timely Trigram to explore.
Let’s look back on the Trigrams we studied. The Heaven Trigram expresses taking the initiative and moving forward with strength. The Earth Trigram expresses receptivity, softness, and flexibility. The Fire Trigram expresses clarity and wisdom gathered from life’s bumps in the road. Structurally with it’s strong, center, yang line bordered by two yin lines, the Water Trigram represents a stream of consciousness flowing from a more subtle source which reaches out to build a cohesive channel of communication. An example of this cohesiveness is the Acupuncture meridian system. When these lines of communication are strong, we are more aware of ourselves as well as the environment around us. Our attention and focus is keen. When it is weak, we become easily distracted and get overly involved in useless self centered endeavors.
Water sustains life and is part of a integrated cycle of transformation and renewal. Water vapors evaporate to the clouds forming rain which then nourishes streams, rivers, lakes and oceans which all lead back to the clouds for a new cycle. Nothing is in isolation. The Water trigram not only represents the inner connection to our own energy field, but our interconnection to everything in the universe. Traditionally when you consult the I Ching and the Water Trigram appears, you might be frightened because it is indicating that there is danger ahead. On a much deeper level, the Water Trigram is warning us that the real danger is severing our universal interconnection leading to separateness rather than oneness. John Lennon reminded us of this danger in his beautiful song “Imagine.”
A central premise of the I Ching is that nothing in the universe is at random. The past, present, and future are playing out at once. When we study the I Ching, we tap into the universal mind which is beyond time and space. Currently there are many lectures on the value of being present. It is true that we dwell too much in the past and future. For thousands of years the I Ching has been teaching us via the Water Trigram the benefits of being in the here and now. Being in the moment slows us down to an even pace. We see the essence of life. Our senses become acute, and we pay attention and feel the beauty around us. You truly appreciate and cherish the people in your life, all beings on the planet, and the environment.
So, when the Water Trigram appears in your mind’s eye, be like water, stay soft with a strong inner core. Be receptive to your inner stream of consciousness and what your intuitive mind is directing. Flow gracefully and evenly through life. Truly seize the moment. Hug your loved ones. Don’t put up walls and barriers but feel the oneness. Get in gear and cut down on useless distractions. Pay the utmost attention to political issues, policies and elections.
“Sunlight and the city is barely awake
As all the seconds in our lifetime drift away
So live every moment and hold me so tight
A second changes day to night”
(Ray Davies, In a Moment, Working Man’s Cafe, 2007)