Tuesday, 29 January 2008


Pfeiffer State Beach, California

Heartfelt thanks to all of you who sent good wishes, via the blog or directly to me via email, for my father’s recovery.

And the good news is….he’s come through the crisis, and is slowly, and very painfully, learning to walk again. His general health at the moment, though still delicate, is probably better than it’s been for a couple of years.

When I arrived in Los Angeles, things were not so good. I will spare you the details of the long list of his medical problems, but suffice to say the prognosis really was not positive. This was compounded by the fact that hospital policy dictated that the doctor on his ward changed at least once a week, and the nurse in charge of his care changed every day; during the weeks I was there he did not have the same nurse twice. Nevertheless, most of the doctors were wonderful (one held my father’s hand while he spoke to him), and managed to keep him alive -- no mean feat! -- despite barely having had a chance to get their heads round the complexity of his medical issues before they were rotated away to another ward. The nurses were consistently competent, patient, and caring: walking examples of what Hakomi calls ‘loving presence’. So were the physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and auxiliary staff. It was actually a healing environment; it was what a hospital is supposed to be.

And there came a point when we all tentatively dared to believe the crisis was over; he was reasonably stable, and both convalescence (for he was still very weak) and rehabilitation (learning to walk again) could begin. He was moved to a ‘sub-acute nursing facility’, where his numerous medical issues continue to be closely supervised, he receives high-level nursing care, and several hours of physical and occupational therapy each day.

That point – out of crisis, but still terribly vulnerable – is the next hexagram on from 23 ‘Stripping Away’; it is 24, FU, 'Returning’. The character FU shows a footstep, leaving a town, or going to market. It means to return to the way you used to go, to resume or carry on your own way, e.g. in the context of the planets, it means following their own orbit.

(Strictly speaking, 24 does not follow directly on from 23. Hexagram 23 is the stripping away of the last remaining bits of yang; 24 is the first re-entry of the yang. Between them is total yin, Hexagram 2, KUN, the Winter Solstice, the Womb/Tomb. 23 is like the day before the Solstice; 24 is like the day after.)

The text of 24 speaks of returning to your Dao, your way or path, i.e. finding your way again. You’re not yet really in the light, but you’ve put your foot back onto the path, and stepped out of the darkness.

The text reads:
Exit and enter without anxiety
Companions arrive without fail
Turning around and returning is the way
The seventh day brings return
Worthwhile to have somewhere to go

Cheng Yi (an illustrious 11th Century scholar) explains why you need those companions who are going to arrive: “When one yang arises, it is extremely faint, and certainly cannot prevail over a group of yin to produce things; it must await the coming of more yangs…”

You can’t do much yet, because this really is not a yang hexagram; it’s only the very first hint of the return of the yang: one yang lines, and five yin.

And only in seven days! This is also not a fast hexagram. It is formed of Thunder under the Earth; Thunder is a mighty force, but here it is only the beginning of a sprout. Some day it will be a majestic oak, but at this point you can crush it under your foot with a careless step.

This is not a bawling baby, full of life. This is the moment of conception, and those first fragile weeks of pregnancy when anything could happen, or maybe nothing. Something momentous has begun, but only just, and it’s invisible to the naked eye. It still looks like Kun, the Womb/Tomb source of life, but you might have the feeling of something starting...

My father’s in the right place for his return. The tender seedling of his convalescence is being tended by an enthusiastic staff of nurses, auxiliaries, and physical and occupational therapists.

A few years ago, I had an astrological reading from a Vedic astrologer who pinpointed, from my chart, pretty much exactly when my mother had died, more than thirty years ago. I asked him if he could do the same with regard to my father. He pondered a moment, then laughed and said that if my father lived to the end of 2007, he’d live forever. There were many moments in December when I thought of that reading, and wondered if it was just a tactful way of saying he wouldn’t survive past the end of 2007. Now that he’s sailed into the new year, and with flying colours, I wonder if it was just a tactful way of saying he might outlive me. Now that would be a good laugh.

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