Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Trouble in River City

Last weekend my Sweetheart and I went for a walk along one of the high tributaries of the Dart, at Shipley Bridge on the edge of Dartmoor. The river rushed past foxgloves and buttercups, banks of magenta rhododendrons and clouds of hawthorn blossom. It was breathtakingly beautiful. We clambered over the slippery stones along the river, and at one point I nearly had a nasty fall.

A rushing river and a nasty fall. Two of the images associated with Hexagram 29, KAN.

The trigram KAN is formed of one yang line enclosed in two yin lines. KAN is water, but not still water, like a lake. It is moving water, rushing like a river. In ancient times, crossing a river was a dangerous prospect, and not undertaken lightly.

Doubled, it gives us the hexagram XI KAN – danger upon danger.

XI is the image of the rapid, repetitive movements of the wings of a bird in flight. It means repeating; or skill; or learning something by repetition.

KAN can mean exhausted; to have run out of breath (or money). More commonly, it means a pit, or to fall. The ideograph is formed of TU, Earth, on the left. On the right is a very old ideograph depicting a person standing on one foot; directly underneath him is a vertical line symbolizing a falling movement, and a pit.

Thus the meaning of KAN is either a pit or falling. And it’s doubled! You get out of the pit and fall back into it, or into another one.

Huang translates KAN as ‘Darkness’; LiSe as ‘The Teaching of Darkness’. Blofeld calls it ‘Abyss’, and Wilhelm, ‘Abysmal’ – both terms which carry the sense of a bottomless pit. Kan is a pit; you may be exhausted and out of breath (or money), but it is not a bottomless pit. You are, as Huang puts it, “falling, but not drowned, in danger but not lost”.

KAN signifies Danger and Darkness, and how to deal with them. It’s about how to get out of the pit.

The inverse trigram/hexagram is LI – Fire – the radiance of solar light. KAN is lunar power, the reflected light that shines in the darkness – and that is the key: to keep your light in the darkness.

Trouble upon trouble can make you crazy. Time and again, in working with clients who have survived – but been traumatized by – some overwhelmingly harsh or terrifying experience, I have heard the story of how troubles can make you crazy, and that craziness leads you into more trouble. Or maybe you’ve just survived some horrendous violation or injury, and the people you turn to for help tell you to pull up your socks, or that it was your own fault. When you are in the middle of such a vortex, it can seem that one disaster leads to another, and everything you do, everything that happens, just makes matters worse.

So what can we learn from Water, about how to get out of the pit? What would Water do? Water goes with the flow; it has no form, no plan, and it reflects whatever light there is. The nature of water is to surrender and flow. It fills up the pit, entirely conforming to the limitations dictated by the circumstances of the moment, and then moves on. The Commentary on the Decision tells us: “Water flows and fills, not accumulating but running. Pass through dangerous places; never lose self-confidence”.

It is sometimes difficult to be right where you are, to stay present with profoundly distressing experiences. But there is a part of us that is not shaped or altered by even the gravest misfortune; it is never injured, never compromised. If you can be present in the moment of distress, and still stay with that eternal part of you – your own Essence, the yang line, shining pure and bright at the centre of the Darkness – then it can move you through even the most distressing situations.

Kan is a teacher, and double trouble gives you a second chance: if you don’t get it the first time, you might get it the second time. The Commentary on the Symbol tells us that “The Superior Person cultivates and practices virtue constantly, and responds through teaching”. If you can master this situation, you will also have the potential to help others through it, like former addicts who can help others through, or indeed any of us who can offer to others the hard-won fruits of our lessons learned.

No comments: