Tag Archives: I Ching

Discipline

I want to start this post with a metaphor, by way of an anecdote. The other day I was driving home late in the evening. I had gone out to a bookstore after work, and so it was probably close to 9:00 p.m. by the time I was returning home. There is a mosque in the part of the city that I live in, and I happened to drive past it just before the nightfall prayers. What I saw there I’ve seen in the past, but this time it really touched and inspired me. I saw the faithful coming by foot from all directions to enter the mosque in time for the service. It wasn’t like a huge stream of humanity, but rather maybe a dozen people or so that I saw scattered at various points, all walking to that same destination with the same objective. The faithful do this every day as they are able, and I believe that some of them make this journey several times a day if they can. This is the discipline of a genuine spiritual practice, and it is something for which I hold deep respect.

As some of you have already gathered from reading my posts, I am a practicing Buddhist. As such, I don’t believe in God per se, yet at the same time I find it inappropriate to judge or criticize anyone else’s beliefs. There are at least as many spiritual paths as there are people on this earth, and they all can work if done with genuine intention. In the Buddhist tradition, we often speak of the six paramitas, or “perfections”. The second of these perfections is ??la, the Sanskrit term for discipline. There are many ways of looking at and explaining what this means, but in brief it asserts the importance of having the right lifestyle: enough time for spiritual practice and study, behaving in compassionate and non-harmful ways, and so on. I would say that the greatest challenge I’ve had in walking my spiritual path since my marriage crisis erupted 8 months ago has been holding myself to this discipline. At times, life just got too intense for me to stick to it.

One thing I have been able to stick to is my regimen of actions and behaviors that are part of my reconciliation agenda. This involves the many things I’ve been doing, the ways in which I’ve reached out consistently and repeatedly to my wife, and so on. I am required to do this no matter how I might feel and no matter how she might treat me. It is an exercise in compassion and loving kindness, so I suppose in a way it actually has become part of my spiritual practice as well.

There are many things that test one’s discipline in the reconciliation process. I had one such test this morning. I woke up and decided to have a look at my long-neglected Facebook page. I seldom go there anymore, because I just find it to be such an inauthentic form of communicating and connecting with others; typically I’ll visit the site if I am contacted by someone for some reason. I used to be an inveterate Facebook addict, and I’d say it was one of the things that helped my marriage to erode. In fact, the laptops that my wife and I possess did invade our marriage and became tools to violate its sanctity.

So, if there weren’t enough to put me off of Facebook for a while, there was more there for me this morning. Right after I logged in, I saw a picture at the top of my newsfeed of the “girls’ night out” that my wife had last night with her colleagues. The woman that my wife had stayed with a couple of months ago posted this picture. There were the four women in attendance standing in the host’s kitchen, and the aforementioned woman’s husband standing there with them, looking like a complete goofball, wearing a wig so that he might look like a woman. My wife was wearing a striped orange summer dress that I’d never seen before, and was holding a Cosmopolitan of the same color. My wife doesn’t drink, so she probably had little more than a couple of sips.

The photo didn’t really bother me as much as did the comments underneath. Most of them were inoffensive, but right down near the bottom was a comment from the adulterer himself. He is a “friend” of this woman and her husband, and this couple actively aided and abetted acts of adultery, treating my wife’s affair as though it were somehow normal, and giving her safe harbor by allowing her to live with them for three months. The adulterer’s comment said something to the effect of “I love the way your drink matches your dress, honey… Lol” [sic]

Now, I really do despise the abbreviation “LOL” and never use it myself — except if I’m quoting someone, as I’ve done here. I find it juvenile and inauthentic. I put it in the same container as expressions like “my bad”: they just rub me the wrong way. But what rubbed me even more was the comment itself. This immoral fraud calling my wife — my wife — “honey,” as though he had some sort of normal relationship with her that he could just be public about.

That’s adultery in a nutshell, folks. Launch a completely immoral relationship with no future prospects whatsoever, and then attempt to make it legitimate by taking it public. Now I don’t know if the adulterer knows that I can see his coments, and frankly I don’t really care. My initial reaction was to watch my blood boil a bit, and then to think about reporting the picture as offensive. Of course, there was no harassment involved, so that wouldn’t fly, and it would just probably cause a backlash against me. Then I thought that maybe I should ask this woman to take the photo down, as I found it offensive. But I don’t find the photo offensive, just the adutlerer’s comment.

Then I thought about this woman’s intentions. Clearly from her standpoint she is neither aiding nor abetting adultery. In fact, she doesn’t see my wife’s infidelity as an act of adultery, but rather looks at it like a “new relationship” that needs nurturing. Now why is that? Well, this woman lost her sister to cancer about 10 years ago, and I believe that she misses that sort of sibling closeness, the kind that can develop into a close friendship in adulthood. She does not have that anymore, and I believe that my wife is sort of a surrogate sister figure to her now. This woman has also been through many traumas, and I believe that she feels she can be helpful to my wife in guiding her through this “transition” in her life. No matter that this transition moves away from morality and into grossly immoral territory, it is just a Very Important Juncture in my wife’s life that she could be instrumental in aiding. I’m certain that she’s heard all sorts fo slanderous things about me that help her to justify in her mind the actions she has taken on behalf of my wife over the past many months.

So here’s what I did about this situation: Nothing. I just ignored it. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from my engaging or confronting this situation in any way. I just thought to myself, “that’s just a picture, and those are just words.” I’ve chosen the moral high ground, and that position speaks for itself. I don’t have to do anything more than wear my wedding ring and continue with my long-established behaviors. And if someone should say something to me about my marital situations, expressing sympathy or concern, I just simply tell them that it’s private and  not an appropriate topic of conversation. It only takes a half dozen or so words to convey that message, and such brevity can be very powerful.

Yes, I could confront that situation, open a can of worms, and humiliate people. I could actually precipitate the end of that affair much more quickly by doing this as well. But my objective is not to end the affair, it’s to reconcile my marriage. I think this is where some so-called marriage “experts” get it wrong by advising the betrayed spouse to expose the affair. You might be effective at ending the affair, but you might also destroy your potential for reconciling your marriage as well. Believe me, I’ve heard the arguments for this approach: it’s not about trust (because your spouse won’t trust you afterward, and besides, they’ve already violated your trust) it’s about honesty. The problem with that idea is that you cannot force someone else to be honest. If they want to be dishonest and deceitful, that is their choice. It doesn’t mean that you have to roll over and take it — you can object to things you find offensive — but I do think it means that you should recognize that you cannot change someone else’s behavior. When people post these kinds of photos and write incriminating comments, that is their opportunity to embarrass and humiliate themselves. If they choose to do that, that is their prerogative, and I say let them do that. There are actually far more opportunities for the affair to end as a result. When one puts that kind of negativity out there into the world, there is a corresponding back-pressure that eventually results, and this can manifest in all sorts of unforeseen ways.

Okay, so there is one thing that I did do. I consulted the I Ching. Yes, I know, this is probably pathological at this point, but I have found it to be really revelatory on virtually every occasion. I wanted to know what to make of this photo, and the answer I got was this:

Hexagram 29: Darkness. Darkness after darkness, danger after danger. There is difficulty going forward or backward. The situation is similar to having fallen into a black well. One needs to cease struggling in order to move forward.

This is where my wife is at. She is struggling. She has fallen into a deep, black well, and cannot get out. My role is very clear. I have to stay the course, and provide her with nourishing. She needs replenishment, not humiliation.

Thus my decision to ignore the whole situation. In a nutshell, and in a very practical way, that’s discipline.

I love my wife

I love my wife. Those are four words that I think many men facing the kind of crisis I am would have a hard time saying. I mean, she has spurned me, betrayed me, lied to me, abandoned me, you name it. But I still love her. Why is that?

Love is irrational. Love transcends ego. Love transcends attempts to put boundaries around it and attach ideas to it. Love just is. It isn’t ours to own, either. It’s way too primordial for that. So I admit it might sound strange to think that today, with my wife 237 days from the start of her affair — that’s nearly 8 months — that I still love her.

It just makes the pointlessness of her life trajectory right now that much harder to bear. She sent me a text yesterday, asking me to put some money in her checking account. $180, to be precise.  She was expecting a paycheck to come, and I guess she was going to use that money for something or other. I have a lot of bills to pay this time of month, and I simply cannot pay the bills and honor her request. I think she has probably written a rubber check, and it will just have to bounce.

Tonight she has a concert. I emailed her a couple of days ago to see if I was invited. I did not expect a response. She emailed this afternoon to ask me not to come, as it would make her feel uncomfortable. She said that there will be friends there who “know about our situation.” Well, if they know about our situation, that means two things: 1) she violated my privacy, and 2) there should be no discomfort. I mean, if she’s blabbed to these people — and she’s blabbed to anyone and anyone who would listen — then what’s the big deal, right?

Here’s the big deal: the adulterer is going to be there. I’m pretty certain of it. I expect that she plans to introduce him to various and sundry people. If I’m there, then the situation becomes very uncomfortable, right?

So, I’m not going. The music is definitely not my taste, and under normal circumstances I would only go if she asked me to go and to give her support. My support does not seem to be desired.

You know what else I did? I got out my I Ching and posed a couple of questions. Yes, I’m an amateur, but it’s uncanny the kinds of answers that I get. The questions were a) what happens if I go to the concert tonight, and b) what happens if I don’t go? For “a” the answer was “hindrance,” alternating to “retreat”. Hindrance is sort of what it sounds like; retreat, however, is actually seen as a positive: one bides one’s time and strengthens one’s reserves. So there would likely be discomfort, but a positive outcome eventually. For “b” the answer was “humbleness,” alternating to “brilliance injured”. This interpretation is far more auspicious: humbleness is a very auspicious quality, and the transformation indicates that one simply needs to bide one’s time and wait for the negative circumstances to pass. The inner meaning of this interpretation is “relief”: that relief from hardship is sure to follow.

This was enough to convince me to stay away. I do have alternatives, anyway: Green Tara practice is tonight. There will be far more benefit from me doing that than there will be in my sitting at that concert causing discomfort.

I love my wife. She might be nuts right now, but I still love her.

Everything changes

I chingSo I finally took the plunge and bought a book on the I Ching. I guess the online resources just weren’t enough for me, and I felt the need to do a bit more in-depth work, or something. I ended up buying this book, The Complete I Ching by Alfred Huang.

It was quite an eye-opener. The author provides a very close translation of the original texts, and this means that the metaphoric and often vague qualities of those texts are preserved, leaving ample room for interpretation. This is the art of divination, I guess: learning how to interpret the texts in a way that illuminates the situation.

He also provides a number of ways to do the divination, from using yarrow stalks, to the more common coin toss, to a rather simple method using gemstones. I did one reading this evening to see if I could gain any insight into my reconciliation prospects, and the results seemed quite auspicious. Here’s what came up:

The main hexagram was #8: Union.  Good fortune is to be sought in seeking union. In this reading, Unionthere was one moving line — the fourth line from the bottom (called the fourth six), indicating that the one who seeks union from without will find good fortune by being steadfast and upright. In this hexagram, the correspondence between the first (bottom) and fourth lines is weak, since they are both yin, so the upper yin (fourth line) yields to the line above, which is yang — and the only yang symbol. The weak yields to the strong.

I also learned about the so-called “mutual” hexagram, which is composed from the inner lines of the main hexagram. falling awayBasically, what one does is to take the second, third, and fourth lines from the bottom and construct these as a new lower trigram, and then take the third, fourth, and fifth lines from the bottom and construct these as a new upper trigram. This yielded hexagram 23, Falling Away. The image here was one of mountains eroding into the ground; this sounds perhaps negative, one metaphor given was that of building a house on a solid foundation. One acst in accordance with the situation and keeps still; unnecessary actions, emotional baggage, and mental clutter can fall away.

bringing togetherThe moving line of the main hexagram (#8, above) changes that hexagram to #45: Bringing Together. This is a strengthening hexagram 8, Union, in that it has two yang lines in the internal positions of the upper trigram. There is correspondence between these yang lines and the yin lines in the lower trigram. This hexagram again states that it is favorable to be steadfast and upright, and should one do so, there will be good fortune.

devgradThe mutual hexagram of this transformed hexagram is #53: Developing Gradually. Again, this augurs good fortune and favors steadfast and upright behavior.

My interpretation, amateurish though it may be, was one of positive and auspicious indicators. This reading is very positive and auspicious. It begins with the premise that the one seeking union from outside (me) will find that fortune fulfilled by being steadfast and upright — a common theme throughout this reading. For the one who lags behind (my wife) there will be no way out: the only way forward is through reconciliation. This will become evident. Concomitant with this is an erosion of the negativity that has plagued our situation, and this yielding of the weak aspects (immorality) to the strong (morality) will allow the strong to build a foundation that is favorable for the continuance of the relationship.

The moving line is in a very favorable position, and indicates the strengthening of that union. The original symbol is water above earth, and this consolidates to lake above earth: a great gathering of the forces. The forces involved will bring us together, creating great fortune. The mutual hexagram of Developing Gradually indicates that this situation indicates a gradual movement forward through reconciliation, with a strengthening of moral behavior that will enable this relationship to progress from its strong, stable foundation.

Or so it would seem. How is this going to play out? I have no idea. I do have a session with my counselor tomorrow in which I at least can talk over some of the recent, more positive developments. I very much look forward to his insight.

Decompressing

Following yesterday’s relatively momentous “date night,” I put in a very busy day of work and am now sitting here with a glass of Merlot by my side. I put “date night” in quotes, because it’s not a 100% accurate descriptor, but that’s what we call it in the marriage reconciliation biz. Successfully married couples tend to do this as a matter of course; unsuccessful ones often do not. It’s not totally accurate because a) it might not seem like a date, and b) it doesn’t have to happen at night.

I was kind of on an emotional high yesterday, and needed a bit of grounding. I know these reconciliations can turn on a dime, but I also know that my wife has had an agenda that has been attached to a 7-month-old narrative, and those narratives don’t necessarily just fold on the virtue of one “date night.” That’s not to say that one such experience can’t be instrumental, but I just simply could count on that, and needed to be careful. Thus, I consulted the I Ching.

That’s right, the I Ching, the Chinese book of oracles. I got a copy of it when I was a teenager via the estate of a great uncle who was a noted architect, inventor, and intellectual. I never really gave it much thought until I entered grad school and began studying the music of John Cage. Then I began to explore the process of divination via the I Ching, but never really did much with it.

Fast forward a number of years to 2012, when yours truly finds himself in the midst of the marital crisis of a lifetime. I have a spiritual practice that keeps me grounded, and which has involved various mantra recitations harvested from the Buddhist sutras. Out of curiosity, I purchased a couple of CDs with teachings on the older Vedic mantras that predate Buddhism, and incorporated a few of those into my practice. One of the CDs, by the late Thomas Ashley-Farrand, is on the topic of relationships, and how mantras can be utilized to attract, improve, and repair them. On this CD, he speaks of consulting the I Ching when he had issues with his wife, and would then choose mantras base on that divination. That sounded compelling, so I actually sat down and did a few divinations last night. It’s not that hard: you pose the question, toss a set of 3 coins 6 times, and from this construct a hexagram of broken and unbroken lines. Traditionally, one would use yarrow stalks, but who has those at hand? There are online tools that help you to interpret these hexagrams by giving you the relevant texts for each hexagram. My questions all surrounded my wife, our relationship, and particularly her affair, and I kept getting the same results: obstacles (the affair), revolution (presumably the affair crumbling), and the need to be cautious. I had been milling over the idea of booking a session with my counselor, so I posed that as a question, and the result was pretty clear: do it. So I booked that session this morning. He’s not available until Tuesday, so I guess I’ll have to hold tight until then. There will be much to talk about, that is sure.

Ta YuI thought I’d give it a go again this evening, and so I posed a question to ascertain what I should know about dealing with my wife this weekend. (Note: I don’t normally see her on weekends, so my interactions would presumably just be the customary voice mails.) Here was the result: Hexagram 14, Ta Yu, or Great Treasures. The text from the I Ching is as follows:

The Fire of clarity illuminates the Heavens to those below:
The Superior Person possesses great inner treasures — compassion, economy, and modesty.
These treasures allow the benevolent will of Heaven to flow through him outward to curb evil and further good.

Supreme success.

There are many ways of interpreting this text, and one source I consulted offered the following:

You have become an instrument of Heaven’s will, offering a balance in the world around you.
It is not swashbuckling prowess or uncanny talent that qualifies you for this office, but your simplest gifts — your modesty, your compassion, your economy.
Because you can see clearly who most needs a miracle, Heaven’s bounty is being put at your disposal.

One interesting thing about these hexagrams is that they can be cast in such a way that they contain either “moving” or “unmoving” lines. A moving line occurs when all three indicators are the same, e.g. when all three coins come up either heads or tails. One can arrive at the solid lines in the hexagram above either by casting two tails and one heads (pure yang, as in “yin and yang”) or three heads (changing yang). Whenever there are changing lines, a second, transformed hexagram is offered. There are processes for knowing how and which changing lines to read, as there may be more than one. In the casting I did, all of the solid lines were changing lines. Since there were five changing lines, the instruction was to read the non-changing line, i.e. the pure yin line, which is the broken line just under the top line. The interpretation for this was as follows:

His sincerity attracts and inspires others whom gold could not.

The transformed hexagram that follows was hexagram 2: K’un, or receptive force. This one is pure yin, and is nothing but broken lines, as shown below. The text and interpretation are given next to the diagram.

K'unText:

Earth above and Earth below:
The Earth contains and sustains.
In this situation, the Superior Person should not take the initiative; he should follow the initiative of another.
He should seek receptive allies in the southwest; he should break ties with immovable allies in the northeast.

Responsive devotion.
Receptive influence.
Sublime Success if you keep to your course.

Interpretation:

This is a time for dealing with reality as it is, not as you would have it be.
If you realize that in this situation you are the receptor, not the transmitter of the stimulus, you will find yourself reaching goals that seemed unattainable under your own steam.
If you persist in futile efforts to be the Shaper rather than the Shaped, you will completely miss this unique opportunity.

Now isn’t that interesting? Stay the course. This is what my counselor always says. Stay the course. This totally makes sense to me.

So what am I to think of this? I don’t know. I’ve been committed to staying the course for 7 months now. I guess that things were so heady yesterday that I felt like I could shape things with my actions right now, but I do know that to be untrue. There are too many other variables that just cannot be controlled. The only thing that I can do is to receive the stimuli, and to react appropriately.

Those are my musings for the evening. I shall let the winds of karma blow me in the directions that I need to be taken, and will do my best to act with the appropriate skillful means. Not much else a guy can do, anyway.