A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Doctor's Visit & The I Ching

I went to my general doctor today. My blood pressure is good, the mammogram and chest x-ray were fine, I don't have diabetes. Almost all the tests came out in normal range except the cholesterol. My good cholesterol is too low and my bad cholesterol is too high. The doctor said I should take 500 mg of Vitamin B3 (niacin) which should help to bring my good cholesterol up and he said I should start exercising to get the good cholesterol up and the bad cholesterol down. And, of course, I should not drink whole milk or eat a lot of cheese, etc... which I don't do anyway. I'm very pleased with the results, especially the fact that I don't have diabetes which my mother and brother both have. From now on I'm going to pay closer attention to my health. I'm 45 and it's time I did the responsible thing. I mentioned to the doctor that sometime in the next 12 months I wanted to try to seriously quit smoking. He said that if I wanted him to give me a prescription to help me out he could do that anytime. I think I'll take him up on that offer and also see if I can find any support groups for quitting around here. The last time I tried to seriously quit was early on in my psychosis, that was seven years ago or so.

(Three days later...)

I know. I haven't been writing. Sorry, not sure why. Maybe it's because I've been preoccupied with consulting and studying the I Ching. I've returned to my I Ching teacher for a few more lessons. Yesterday she replied to an assignment I did on interpreting a single hexagram. Normally when you consult the I Ching you receive a hexagram, six lines either unbroken--yang or broken--yin, with moving lines, that is lines that are changing from yang to yin or yin to yang (visually that means changing from an unbroken line into a broken line or visa-versa). So you first read the hexagram as is and then reconstruct a second hexagram out of the moving lines. Confusing? It's a lot easier to show than to describe but I don't have a program for showing hexagrams. Anyway, normally you get two hexagrams but at fairly regular intervals you will get a single hexagram with no moving lines. Bear with me while I try to explain...

I Ching means Book (Ching) of Changes (I). It's sort of like the Chinese Bible for philosophy and divination. The origins of it date back to at least three thousand years ago, a time when the practical and the spiritual were combined. Most ancient Chinese believed in spirits that, through divination, would guide people on earth. They were called the ancestors. Great respect and reverence were given to the ancestors.

(Another day later...)

For me the I Ching is definitely part of the higher power but I still have trouble placing it. It is not God but it is related to God. It is a mediator between earth and heaven. I believe in the reality behind the voices too but the I Ching is not the voices either. It is something unique.

The premise behind the I Ching is that the one thing that is constant is change and that change alternates between to basic energies, the yang energy (creative, light, direct) and the yin energy (receptive, dark, subtle). It's the different between the strong sunlight on an open field and the shade cast by a large oak tree. Both are important but while there's still energy running through them, it is of a different quality. So there's this interaction between all life, the push and pull of things. The basic unit of all matter is the atom. The smallest and lightest atom is the hydrogen atom which consist of one proton with a positive charge in the nucleus and one electron with a negative charge that orbits around it. Two elements (though there are also neutrons in other atoms) with a play between positive and negative energies. And this is everywhere, in everything.

One of the themes of the I Ching is the flux of nature, the waxing and waning of the moon, the change of seasons from Spring to Winter and back to Spring. Included in this flux and in each of the 64 hexagrams are the various combinations of eight natural phenomena: Heaven, earth, water, fire, thunder, mountain, wind and lake. This is the basic symbolic language of the I Ching: the forces of yin and yang and how they act on the world around us and in us.

I just asked the I Ching what is the best way to describe the I Ching to others and I got the hexagram PEACE with two moving lines that changed it into THE ARMY. For the sake of clarity I will just focus on the first hexagram. Here is Richard Wilhelm's interpretation of the hexagram: "This hexagram denotes a time in nature when heaven seems to be on earth. Heaven has placed itself beneath the earth, and so their powers unite in deep harmony. Then peace and blessing descend upon all living things. In the world of man it is a time of social harmony; those in high places show favor to the lowly, and the lowly and inferior in their turn are well disposed toward the highly placed. There is an end to all feuds. Inside, at the center, is the light principle; the dark principle is outside. Thuus the light has a powerful influence, while the dark is submissive. In this way each receives its due. When the good elements of society occupy a central position and are in control, the evil elements come under their influence and change for the better. When the spirit of heaven rules in man, his animal nature also comes under its influence and takes its appropriate place." (48-49)

From the I Ching's own perspective it sees itself as Peace and heaven on earth. The hexagram is composed of two trigrams three lines each. The bottom trigram represents heaven with three yang (unbroken) lines and the upper trigram represents earth with three yin (broken) lines. The movement of heaven is up and the movement of earth is down hence they meet each other and "unite in deep harmony". Attaining this harmony is the goal of the guidance of the I Ching and thus PEACE is a good symbol of the book.

I still feel somewhat disoriented when I go into a personal reading. There's a lot to learn and a lot to interpret and I am a beginner but I think I will stick with this and gradually create a stronger relationship with the I Ching. Just returning to Hilary for guidance has already cleared some things up for me. I feel respect for those who have years of study behind them.

Okay, that's all for now. I hope you all have been taking good care of yourselves.
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