Sunday, November 17, 2019

Divining the Way to Harmony

To know harmony is to know the eternal. To know the eternal is to know enlightenment.
--Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching and founder of Taoism

Divination is the art of gaining insight into a question or situation by the interpretation of signs or omens. The goal of divination is to encourage well-being by helping a person live in harmony with the universe around them. One of the best known systems of divination is the I Ching. For some 3,000 years, people have turned to the I Ching to help them uncover the meaning of their experience and to bring their actions into harmony with their underlying purpose. The central idea of the I Ching is that divination is a means of coming into harmony with the ultimate reality of the universe. We can use the oracle to divine the way to harmony with the Tao (the absolute principle underlying the universe). It is a pathway to the infinite Tao, the unknowable force that guides the universe and everything in it.

The I Ching emerged in China as a fortune-telling guide. According to legend, it was Fu Hsi, the first emperor of China, who originated the linear yin/yang system of the I Ching. He discovered the symbols in the pattern of markings on the shell of a turtle that emerged from a river. It began with eight three-lined symbols called trigrams, which represented all of the fundamental phenomena in the universe. When doubled, the eight trigrams became sixty-four six-lined hexagrams. This doubling process produced trigram relationships, such as "Heaven and Earth unite," the symbolic elements of the hexagram for "Peace." The underlying premise of the I Ching is that the sixty-four hexagrams represent the basic circumstances of change in the universe. When you consult the I Ching, it responds in the form of a hexagram (or hexagrams if there are changing lines) that provides guidance for your specific circumstance at the moment.

Otherwise known as the Book of Changes, this archaic and enigmatic text was the fountainhead of Taoist and Confucian thought. Its philosophy encompasses such issues as ethics, social values and personal responsibility. It conveys archetypal paradigms and perspectives that serve as models of ethical and harmonious living. Over time, the symbolism of the I Ching was interpreted in commentaries by thousands of Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist adepts, inspiring a renaissance in philosophy, religion, art, literature, science and medicine throughout East Asia, and eventually the West. In short, the I Ching became, in the words of a nineteenth-century Chinese commentator, "the mirror of men's minds."

The wisdom unveiled in the I Ching is simple and consistent: if we relate correctly, keeping ourselves in harmony with the universe, all things work out beneficially for all concerned. The I Ching reflects the philosophy that all events (past, present and future) are part of a single, interrelated whole. It describes the universe as a vast, singular entity in which all things are in continuous cyclical change. The central theme is that all things move in predictable patterns or cycles, therefore no situation is static or immutable.

The original text of the I Ching was organized by King Wen of Zhou around 1150 BC and remains virtually unchanged to the present. It consists of sixty-four hexagrams or six-line symbols which consist of upper and lower trigrams. King Wen is credited with having stacked the eight trigrams in their various permutations to create the sixty-four hexagrams. He is also said to have written the judgments which are appended to each hexagram. Each hexagram is accompanied by a text containing folk poetry, historical tales and commentary. These ancient writings describe the conditions associated with the sixty-four archetypal patterns of cyclical change. They convey the laws and principles pertaining to time and change. The hexagram symbols reveal the patterns through which change manifests itself in the ebb and flow of time. According to renowned I Ching scholar Richard Wilhelm, "The hexagrams and lines in their movements and changes mysteriously reproduced the movements and changes of the macrocosm."

The I Ching is a codebook of archetypal patterns in which the hexagrams counsel appropriate action in the moment for a given set of circumstances. Each moment has a pattern to it, and everything that happens in that moment is interconnected. Based on the synchronicity of the universe and the laws of probability, the I Ching responds to an inquiry in the form of a hexagram. By evaluating the hexagram that describes your current pattern of relationship, you can divine the outcome and act accordingly. The oracle serves as a gauge -- a precise means for placing oneself in relation to the pattern or way of cyclical change, and that way is known as Tao.

The I Ching is a microcosm of all possible human situations. It serves as a dynamic map, whose function is to reveal one's relative position in the cosmos of events. The hexagram texts address the sixty-four archetypal human situations. The commentary of each hexagram reveals the optimal strategy for integrating or harmonizing with the inevitable for a given condition. It provides the appropriate response to your inquiry. It affords a holistic perspective of your current condition and discusses the proper or correct way to address the situation. To align yourself with the universe, consult the I Ching.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Five Books for Connecting With Power Animals

Shamanism is the endeavor to cultivate ongoing relationships with power animals to gain insight, healing methods, and other vital information that can benefit the community. Power animals are also called guardian spirits, spirit allies, totem animals, and tutelary animals. A power animal is the archetypal oversoul that represents the entire species of that animal. It is actually the spirit of one of the First People, as they are called, who at the end of mythic times turned into the animals as we know them today. The following books will help connect you with the collective strength and wisdom of power animals:

1. Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals by Jamie Sams: Jamie Sams is a best-selling author and medicine teacher of Iroquois and Cherokee descent. I have used her unique and innovative divination tool since its publication in 1988 for guidance, insight, and help in finding answers to life's questions. The messages always clearly reflect whatever life situation I am going through at the time. This card-based divination system draws upon ancient wisdom and tradition to teach the healing medicine of animals. The deck of cards and book connect the natural attributes and behaviors of the animal with the native lore relating to each creature in a way that is both sensible and spiritual. The suggestions for introspection are evocative, and I find myself returning to them again and again.

2. Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small by Ted Andrews: Easy-to-read and understand, Ted Andrews's bestselling Animal Speak shows readers how to identify his or her animal totem and learn how to invoke its energy and use it for personal growth and inner discovery. Nature lovers will love this insightful compendium filled with touching stories about animals, natural history, and animal folklore. Readers will also learn magical animal rites and how to read omens of nature. Animal Speak includes a dictionary of bird, animal, reptile, and insect totems, which describe each creature's meaning. This bestselling guide has become a classic reference for anyone wishing to forge a spiritual connection with the power and wisdom of the animal world. 

3. Bird Medicine: The Sacred Power of Bird Shamanism by Evan T. Pritchard: Evan T. Pritchard is a descendant of the Mi'kmaq people (part of the Algonquin nation) and the founder of The Center for Algonquin Culture. Pritchard's scholarly and illuminating book is based on his field interviews with people in the Native community on birds as teachers, guardians, role models, counselors, healers, clowns, peacemakers, and meteorologists. They carry messages and warnings from loved ones and the spirit world, report deaths and injuries, and channel divine intelligence to answer our questions. Bird Medicine is a treasure trove of ornithological insight and indigenous wisdom. It provides numerous examples of everyday bird sign interpretations that can be applied in your own encounters with birds as well as ways we can help protect birds and encourage them to communicate with us.

4. Power Animals: How to Connect with Your Animal Spirit Guide by Steven D Farmer: Dr. Steven Farmer is a psychotherapist, shamanic healer, and the author of several best-selling books. In Power Animals, Dr. Farmer guides you through a journey on the accompanying audio download to connect with your power animal. Once you meet your power animal, you can refer to the text to learn what this says about you and read a channeled message for you from that animal spirit. This is an easy-to-read introduction to the concept of power animals, and provides descriptions on 40 different animals. It's clear, insightful, fully developed but not overly wordy, and all of it is helpful.

5. Animal Spirit Guides: An Easy-to-Use Handbook for Identifying and Understanding Your Power Animals and Animal Spirit Helpers by Steven D Farmer: After the publication of his book Power Animals, many readers inquired about the meaning of power animals that were not contained in that work. In Animal Spirit Guides, Dr. Farmer provides concise, relevant details about the significance of more than 200 animals that may come to you in physical or symbolic form as guides and teachers. He lists three things for each animal: 1) if the animal shows up, what does it mean, 2) when you should call on the particular animal that you are reading about, and 3) if the animal is your power animal what does it mean. This makes the information very concise and easy to find and understand. It is an excellent reference book to have on the shelf.