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The 64 Hexagrams
of the I Ching

Pushing Upward

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46: Pushing Upward

About I Ching Hexagrams The Well

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48: The Well

47: Oppression

One image of oppression is a dried-up lake bed with scavenger crows stalking the shoreline. Hard times can shrivel our spirits, and give rise to a multitude of “crows” in the form of troublesome worries. Times of great loss or personal failure can break weaker people, but the strong of heart are able to bend with their fate. To endure hard times -- or even benefit from them -- you are called upon to tap the deepest stratum of your identity, which is stronger even than fate and essentially incorruptible by even the harshest realities. During hard times it is especially essential to tap that wellspring of human endurance -- hope.

In one sense, there is no such thing as failure. There is only sweet-and-sour reality. Often more is learned from the sour than from the sweet. As for our failures, as hard as they may be to accept, they can open our eyes and reawaken a clarity of vision only known by those who have risked -- and tasted -- disappointment. This clarity and learning is the silver lining of dark clouds.

When you are in the throes of difficult circumstances, it is important to be strong on the inside while remaining quietly cheerful on the outside. Avoid too much talking -- except to your closest friends. Your words will have little effect on most others, since your influence will be at low ebb, and aimless talking costs you vital energy. A strong silence is the most skillful posture when facing the public during adversity; it shows that your inner core is strong enough to withstand the current troubles, and suggests that your recovery will be complete. At the same time, communicating openly with those you trust is also important, for in times of calamity, talking and feeling are part of the healing.

Failure -- the final taboo in modern society -- is but one part of the inevitable cycle of life’s up and downs for those who dare to live fully and completely. Never to fail is to fail in the biggest way. By avoiding risk altogether, one will always fall far short of what might have been.

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