An I Ching Reading to Live By
Heng/Endurance, Hexagram 32 of the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, offered up sage advice when I threw the coins with no particular question in mind. As always, I take heed.
Enduring. Success. No blame.
It is beneficial to persevere.
It is beneficial to have somewhere to go.
To endure means to keep going despite obstacles. Endurance is neither stagnation nor a state of rest. It progresses forward, unlike stagnation, and it keeps moving and growing, unlike rest. What endures renews itself and its effects through continuous activity. What endures does so through change, not in spite of change. Its effects are understood against the experience of change. We see this in the cycle of the seasons that continually renew themselves as the earth moves around the sun. The cycle of the seasons repeats perpetually because its underlying causes continue. Plants and animals grow and change as they endure over time. When they cease to grow, they die, and then they cease to endure.
So it is in life. All life is change. But in order to make change intelligible, there must be things that persist, against which change can be understood. To give your life meeting, you must have something that endures: your identity, your relationships with others, and your principles. If you surrender what is enduring within you, then you surrender to the flux of events and become indistinguishable from them. Then there is nothing left of you.
The lesson of Heng is that you must learn to be consistent and persevere in the face of a changing world. Circumstances around you are changing, but you must maintain your integrity. Be consistent. Do not allow yourself to be blown about by a momentary alteration in fortunes. Do not let concerns about what others might think or how well others are doing by comparison lead you to take drastic or reckless action. Instead, focus on what is and should be enduring in your life: your relationships, your character, and your principles.
The situation that you face now requires you to persevere even though you face adversity and obstacles. Choose a path and stick to it. Keep your long-term goals firmly in mind and progress slowly but surely toward them. Employ routines, practices, and cycles of activity that you can engage in over the long haul that will bring you closer and closer to your goal. Be content to make progress step by step through time-tested methods. Attend to the little things. If you neglect them, they will cause problems in the long run. But if you take care of every day tasks, you’ll head off a lot of problems before they can become large.
The secret to endurance is character. Stick to your principles. Maintain your vision. This will see you through difficult times. You will inevitably have to adjust to your strategy as times change, but do not give up its essential features. Don’t be tempted to make radical alterations out of fear or anxiety. Slow and steady will win this particular race. When things go well, keep going and do not become lazy. When things go badly, keep going and do not become disheartened or afraid. But whether things go well or badly, you must keep going. Never give up. Through endurance and continuous practice, advantages will slowly but surely accumulate, and the situation will eventually move toward your desired goal.
Balkin, J. (2002), p. 352. (See Bookshelf for full citation).