You can’t force creativity. You might want to write your novel in a week, but it may take you a year. Or five years. This is where the I Ching can help you to appreciate your creative process, because the I Ching teaches respect for the cycles of existence. The deepest dark will always turn into light, because that is the Tao, the way.

I’ve been interested in the I Ching, known as the Book of Change, for around 15 years. However, I couldn’t achieve a personal relationship with this great book until I started practising Chi Kung, which is a kind of meditation in movement. The Chi Kung exercises helped me to feel chi (life) energy, and suddenly the I Ching became more open to my understanding.

i-chingThis is not to suggest that you need to practise Chi Kung to appreciate the I Ching, but a meditative practice does help.

The I Ching is arguably the oldest system of divination in everyday use, because it’s up to 5,000 years old. At your library and bookshop, you’ll find many books on the I Ching. The book I’ve been using for the past couple of years is “The Complete I Ching: The Definitive Translation” by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang.

At over 500 pages, The Complete I Ching is not a quick read. However, if you’ve been used to working with westernized I Ching translations such as those by Wilhelm and Legge, you’ll get a whole new appreciation of the text with Master Huang’s book.

Your first I Ching reading

The I Ching is useful if:

* you’re blocked on a creative project; or

* you want to know whether the time is right to start a specific project; or

* you want a fresh viewpoint of something you’re working on.

When you consult the I Ching, approach the process as if you were asking a question of a sage, that is, a very wise person. Ask only one question at each session. It’s best to ask for advice, rather than asking for predictions. That is, ask “how can I improve my novel?”, rather than asking: “will my novel sell to a publisher?” or “Will my book be a bestseller?”

The most common methods of consulting the I Ching are using either three coins, or bundles of yarrow stalks, to discover the hexagram which is the oracle’s answer. I’ve never used yarrow stalks, but used three coins until I found The Bamboo Oracle. The Bamboo Oracle is a boxed set of a book, 64 cards and 12 bamboo sticks. The book has beautiful calligraphy, but I love the cards as a way of finding the hexagram which is the answer to my question.

I use The Bamboo Oracle’s cards in conjunction with Master Huang’s book. Each of the 64 cards is a painting of bamboo. To find my hexagram, I look through the cards in a meditative way, and select six cards, placing them in a pile face up to one side. When I’ve found six cards, I turn the pile over. On the back of each card is a yin (broken) or yang (unbroken) line. These lines build the hexagram, working from the bottom up.

I find using the cards of The Bamboo Oracle much more satisfying than using coins. The cards have a calm, steady energy. However, you can use any method that appeals to you to locate your hexagram. I’ve seen methods using cards where each hexagram is printed on a card, and you shuffle the cards as you would a tarot deck, methods using gemstones, and many more.

A super-easy do-it-yourself method is to cut up 10 index cards into quarters, giving you 40 small cards. Mark 20 of the cards with a yin (broken) and 20 with a yang (unbroken) line. Drop the cards into a deep bowl. Meditate briefly, thinking of your question, then select six cards from the bowl, with your eyes closed as you pick. Build your hexagram with the six cards, working from the bottom up.