Decoding Destiny With the I Ching

How to use this ancient Chinese divination tool to glimpse the future--and to better understand where you are right now.

Who wouldn't like to know what tomorrow holds? Every ancient culture, it seems, has devised methods to foretell the future. Europeans had their tarot cards, Native Americans had their cowrie shells, Japanese looked into tea leaves and the Chinese depended on the I Ching or the Book of Changes.

I was exposed to The I Ching as a young girl and remember being shocked by the accuracy of the answers. My question had to do with a boy I was attracted to. Would he ever like me back, I asked? After throwing a die, I was referred to a certain page which offered an answer, albeit a cryptic one: Wherever the sister goes, the brother follows. It was true. I befriended the boy's sister and soon enough, he became my boyfriend. I have been a fan of the I Ching ever since.

Written over 5000 years ago by a Chinese sage named Fu Hsi, the I Ching is based on eight trigrams, which look like three rows of three lines

(---) one below the other, each of which means a different thing. Fu Hsi developed these trigrams based on his observation of nature and the correlations between different parts of the universe-heaven and earth, fire and water, wood and metal, yin and yang, creation and destruction. And therein lies the first lesson of the I Ching: Everything is interconnected.


Much of Taoist philosophy is based on this interconnectedness. The great Taoist scholars and sages could foretell events by observing seemingly unrelated elements. For instance, a crow's incessant cawing could indicate that a visitor was approaching. In the modern world, we call these omens and pay little attention to them. But as Chinese fortunetellers will tell you, "Just because you can't see the sign doesn't mean that it isn't there."

And therein lies the second lesson of the I Ching: In order to see the future, you have to have be deeply rooted in the present. In other words, you won't see any signs if you are haring around, all stressed out and overscheduled. You have to slow down a bit, observe the world around you and gauge what you see. You have to pick up on subliminal signs and allow your unconscious thoughts to flow through. As Carl Jung writes in his brilliant commentary on the I Ching, "I would sit for hours beneath the hundred-year-old pear tree with the I Ching beside me, practicing the technique by referring the resultant oracles to one another in an interplay of questions and answers. All sorts of undeniably remarkable results emerging alongside meaningful connections with my own thought processes which I could not explain to myself."

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