Carol K Anthony: A Guide To The I Ching- Hexagram 52: Keeping Still, Mountain

(Keep ones inner thoughts quiet, and relinquish the childish heart)

We receive this hexagram either when our thoughts are entangled with our emotions, or when the situation is such that we may become emotionally involved. Once our emotions are involved it becomes impossible to acquire clarity of mind; thus, we are counseled to keep still.

Keeping still means quieting the thinking of the heart. In the I Ching, when our emotions are aroused the heart is said to think. The childish heart thinks in terms of it’s wants and needs, and of what it dislikes and wishes to avoid. It also thinks in defence of any pretensions we may have adopted; thus it is also the egotistical thinking of vanity and pride. It constantly measures the direction and pace of events to see if its goals are being furthered. The object of ‘keeping still’ is to quiet this frenetic and focused mental activity.

If we could detach long enough to see such thoughts objectively, we would realise that they arise from fears of the bodily self, some of which are conscious, some subconscious. The I Ching recognises these thoughts as voices of ‘The Inferiors’. ( The Inferiors are bodily and emotional impulses which are often manifested as inner voices. They may be led either by our Superior Man or by the Inferior Man. When they are led by the Inferior Man (ego) they are in opposition to our true self.) So long as they (The Inferiors) dominate our mental space, it is impossible to attain the neutrality and acceptance that leads to a correct and reasonable perspective.

There are several ways in which we may quiet the inferiors. We may explain to them the need to be quiet so that clarity will be possible. We may tell them that they must not become confused by the appearance of things, that change is the rule of life. We may reassure them that if they can be disciplined, we will draw the help of the Higher Power to make the impossible possible. We may explain the need for their obedience and that we must cling to the unknown to show the way, as in The Clinging (Hex, 30). By encouraging them in such ways we may attain their cooperation and perseverance. This method of limiting inferiors is called ‘sweet limitation’ in Limitation (Hex, 60).

To obtain these results it may be necessary to sit quietly in the meditative state. Very often, receiving this hexagram is a call to meditate, or at least to get in touch with the worries and fears of our inferiors. The inferiors need to be reassured that if we will only trust the Unknown, and allow the Creative to work through the vehicle of time, everything will work out correctly. Sometimes this work requires that we recognise our pretensions and pride – culprits which must be “Killed” through firm perseverance.

Once we have come to a state of acceptance and docility, we attain the peacefulness described by the image in The Joyous (Hex,58) as the shining lake. The unruffled surface of the lake symbolises the contentment of inner peace. The moment any emotion arises, a ripple is created on its surface.

Keeping still also symbolises the I Ching way of meditating, which entails bringing oneself to a state of inner emptiness through systematically clearing out the clamouring voices of the inferiors. Keeping still as meditation requires sitting in a relaxed but alert position so that the nerves of the backbone become quiet. The spinal column is not only the route by which the brain conveys messages to the bodily self, it is also the pathway by which the bodily self conveys its complaints to the brain.

By sitting in a self-supporting position (we lean on nothing), we remain awake while our body relaxes. As our blood pressure and energies subside, the inferiors become quiet, as if asleep. At this point ego-separation occurs: the pretentious, defensive, assuming voice of the self-image separates from our consciousness so that we are able to hear its thoughts separating from ourself. Its voice is sometimes subtle and tempting, sometimes strained and harping, sometimes demanding and furious. Ego-separation gives us an opportunity to hear and understand the ego and its pretensions. Once we understand it, we can liberate ourself from it’s domination. Once we have heard it in meditation we can recognise its insinuations from the sideline during our everyday activities. Recognition enables us to resist its demands.

Once the ego has separated we may also see and hear the inferiors. In listening to their concerns and complaints we will notice that they are like children. Like children they focus on wanting, wondering and worrying. Body cells, or organisations of cells, have both verbal and nonverbal ways of telling us we are hungry, tired or afraid. During normal conscious activity we would think these thoughts to be integral to our make up; in meditation, however, we hear and see them as separate from our central self. Through contacting them in meditation we find that they have been under the control of the ego; we also find that now we are able to enlist them in working towards the goals of the higher self. In this way our superior self, the Superior Man, gains the ability to command the inferiors. Once this happens the personality resumes to it’s natural true order.

Listening to the needs of the inferiors, and putting their fears to rest, seems to reassure and pacify them, and our heart comes to rest. In a state of true quiet we sit, as it were, in a space of total neutrality and acceptance. We see or hear nothing. Sometimes it becomes possible to hear a new voice and to see new things. The new voice is the quiet, unobtrusive but firm voice of the sage. We listen and watch, as if we were waiting for a movie to begin. We may also see images which demonstrate the lessons of universal truth. While we participate in what happens, we do not control it.

Meditation is also the time in which we make the sacrifices called for in various hexagrams such as Contemplation (Hex,20). Sacrifice means to turn over to the Higher Power questions of inner conflict, and emotions such as justifiable anger, the feeling of having rights, indignation due to injustice, impatience with evil, and our tendency to focus on the petty elements in others which tend to bring on the question, “Why are things this way?” We sacrifice these feelings and perceptions because they obstruct progress and inhabit the general good. Such sacrifices enlarge the spiritual being.

To the serious student of the I Ching, the daily practice of meditation is essential. Through meditation we perform the inner cleansing that returns us to purity and innocence.; freed of thoughts which generate restlessness and inner deafness, we return to the alertness and inner attentiveness that makes it possible for us to interact with others in a creative way. Freeing ourself from the preponderating concerns of the inferiors has the effect of cleaning our inner house. Just as our external house becomes cluttered with extraneous and unnecessary preoccupations. These may consist of belief systems, concerns, fantasies, and false ideas which make inner peace and harmony impossible to achieve. Inner cleansing implies that we let go of the world and its preponderating concerns, and let go of all belief systems. We let go of old anger and hostility, and any attachment to injuries people have done us; we discard all philosophies of negation, and petty likes and dislikes. On cleansing our “Ting” in this manner, we become freed of the enormous burden entailed by carrying such mental trash.

If, in trying to meditate, we seek to achieve inner quiet without first performing inner cleansing, clarity and communication with the sage will not be possible. To bypass this step is to “force meditation”. To practice daily inner cleansing is the “daily self-renewal” which enables the Superior Man to remain at the height of his powers (see The Taming Power of the Great, Hex.26).

Through meditation the sage allows us to glimpse our ego as an organised defence system which we, through abdicating leadership of our personality, have allowed our inferiors to construct in defence against the Unknown. We are permitted to see, one at a time, the fears which give life and power to the ego; we see our fears both in demonic disguises which enable them to terrorise us, and as the really harmless things they are. To unmask such fears in meditation is like discovering the Wizard of Oz in the act of manipulating his frightening machines fro behind a curtain; never again are they able to wield power over us.

Since this sort of meditation seems indispensable to a serious study of the I Ching it is not surprising the Confucius said “study without meditation is labor wasted; meditation without study, is perilous.