52. Keeping Still, Mountain
(Keep one's 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 become 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 its wants and needs, and of what it dislikes and wishes to avoid. It also thinks in defense 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 realize they arise from fears of the bodily self, some of which are conscious, some subconscious. The I Ching recognizes these thoughts as voices of 'the inferiors.' So long as they 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 appearances of things, that change is this 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, as in Hexagram 7, The Army, and that we must cling to the Unknown to show the way, as in Hexagram 30, The Clinging. By encouraging them in such ways we may attain their cooperation and perseverance. This method of limiting inferiors is called "sweet limitation" in Hexagram 60, Limitation.
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 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 recognize our pretensions and pride - culprits which must be "killed" through firm perseverance.
Once we have come to a state of acceptance and docility, we obtain the peacefulness described in Hexagram 58, The Joyous, as the "shining lake." The unruffled surface of the lake symbolizes the contentment of inner peace. The moment any emotion arises, a ripple is created on its surface.
Keeping still also symbolizes the I Ching way of meditating, which entails bringing oneself to a state of inner emptiness through systematically clearing out the clamoring voices of the inferiors. Keeping still as meditation requires sitting in a relaxed yet 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 in sleep. 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 separately from ourself. Its voice is sometimes subtle and tempting, sometimes strained and harping, sometimes demanding and furious. Ego-separation give us an opportunity to hear and understand the ego and its pretensions. Once we understand it, we can liberate ourselves from its domination. Once we have heard it in meditation we can recognize 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 organizations 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 makeup; 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 we are now 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 its 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 come 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 may participate in what happens, we do not control it.
Meditation is also the time we make the sacrifices called for in various hexagrams such as Hexagram 20, Contemplation. 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 inhibit 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 that makes it possible for us to interact with others in a creative way. Freeing ourselves from the preponderating concerns of the inferiors has the effect of cleaning our inner house. Just as our external house becomes dirty through living in it, our inner mental space 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 it preponderating concerns, and we 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 cleaning our "Ting" (see Hexagram 50. The Caldron) 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 this inner cleansing, clarity and communication with the Sage will not be possible. To bypass this step is to "force meditation," as the third line warns. To practice daily inner-cleansing is the "daily self-renewal which enables the Superior Man to remain at the height of his powers (see Hexagram 26, The Taming Power Of The Great.)
Through meditation the Sage allows us to glimpse our ego as an organized defense system which we, through abdicating leadership of our personality, have allowed our inferiors to construct in defense 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 the demonic disguises which enable them to terrorize 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 from behind the 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 that Confucius said, "Study without meditation is labor wasted; meditation, without study, is perilous."
Line 3. Keeping his hips still. When we strive to trust, or be quiet, we force a state of mind on ourselves. The way to composure is not to try to "be" something, but to work at freeing ourselves from any elements that make us more or less than what we really are; usually, these elements are pride, or negative thoughts. We need not like people, for example, but it is important to disperse hostile feelings and come to a moderate and just view of them. This is to find the "middle way," and to come to an acceptance of life that is called "noble hearted keeping still."
Enforced quiet also means that we are still harboring worries and anxieties. We must let go of all pressing matters. Such resignation brings good luck, whereas dwelling on issues prevents it, because the dark force still operates.
When we make a great effort to find the negative element to be dispersed and still cannot find it, it will come through naturally if we keep our mind humble and free. To strive hard, even in trying to do the right thing, causes "splitting apart, Hexagram 23."
Sometimes we think that to get rid of doubt we must "believe." This is yet another attempt to force tranquility on ourselves. It is impossible to replace doubt with belief, for then we have not really dealt with doubt; we have only covered it up. Because doubt is still present, we are continuously forced to justify and defend the belief system that keeps it at bay. We also accept beliefs because they flatter us in some way and make us feel better. Sometimes we try to flatter the unknown by creating a belief system that we think will please it, in the primitive fantasy that worshipful obeisance will placate it. This is similar to the practice, in primitive religions, of sacrificing animals to placate angry or trickster , gods. Indeed, with this view the Higher Power leaves us alone to our own devices. The I Ching way is to let go of doubt and replace it with nothing. We humbly accept the Unknown and offer no resistance to it. The trust needed is only the absence of distrust.
Line 6. Noblehearted keeping still. It is noble hearted if, in spite of attacks by our inferior-self who keeps asking "why," we turn our backs on them and keep still. Such perseverance leads to detachment and peace of mind.