A couple years ago, when I was in the nascent stages of expanding my spiritual horizons, Ian brought me home a copy of the I Ching, or Book of Changes. The I Ching is an ancient Chinese oracle, and the particular book I have has been translated both into English and into modern, sensitive, but fairly prosaic language. An oracle, of course, is designed to make you think—not to answer your questions in any cut-and-dried way. But it’s nice to at least know where you stand. I do have another I Ching book, and the translation is beautiful, but there’s a lot of “climbing mountains” and “sitting by the quiet stream” and things like that, which can be less than comforting in times of angst.
My first profound moment with the I Ching was last year, when I had found out that I had breast cancer again and I was panicking. Literally, I had several panic attacks and thought I was dying during them—and thought I was dying when I wasn’t having the panic attacks. Cancer still seemed to be a frightening, out-of-control assault that I needed all my warrior strength to deal with, even though at the time it was just in my breast, and I was able to clear it completely with the mastectomy.
Anyway, the night of my darkest fear, I threw my coins (three 1967 quarters, just because they’re older than me), and the hexagram I received was #24, FU/RETURN. A time of darkness comes to a close. It likened my current experience to the winter solstice (not too far off, actually, in the calendar at the time), where the darkest night, the most abject fear, the greatest feeling of hopelessness, has arrived, and what is left is only the return of the light. It was profound, for me and for the couple friends who had been intimately a part of my panic. And the light did return from that time on.
I don’t consult the I Ching often, and when I do the hexagrams I generally receive are useful but not the life-changing event that one was, in part because I am not usually asking life-changing questions. But about a month ago, when all this started, I did.
I was making a shopping list in the living room yesterday and found a clipboard with a question on it: “How can I love my cancer?”. This is not the question I asked last year. This is not a question I would have asked last year. It’s a question that I have learned to ask over the last several months, to incorporate love into all my life, instead of strife and hatred and fear and battle. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see that that is how I chose to word my request, presumably the day I came home with my new diagnosis of lung and bone metastases, before I even knew about the brain. And the answer, which I reread last night, was again profound, and profoundly suited to how I am being with this cancer now. It’s not too long, so I will include the whole answer below:
# 5: HSÜ/WAITING (NOURISHMENT)
To wait with a proper attitude invites the assistance of the Higher Power.
There is a situation at hand that cannot be corrected by force or external effort. The Creative will provide a solution to one who waits with a correct attitude. This is a time for patience and careful attention to inner truth.
Do not give in to doubt and agitation now. You are not meant to wait in a state of desperate longing but in one of patient inner strength. Without certainty in the power of truth, success is impossible. Attempts to force a change, rather than allowing it to mature naturally, will only cause misfortune.
You would be wise to strengthen and reaffirm your reliance on the Creative. When you indulge in fear and doubt, you flood the arena where the Higher Power is attempting to work. Your principle responsibility in life is to keep this arena—your own consciousness—free of negative influences.
By accepting things as they are and not making fruitless comparisons to the situations of others or some imagined ideal, one engages the power of the Creative. If one then remains balanced, modest, and independent, good fortune will come to hand.