How the I Ching Saved My Life

by Ron Masa Ph.D.

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The I Ching (pronounced E-Jing) is an ancient Chinese oracle popularized in the West by Carl Jung. It allows us to ask direct questions, and read the answers in print. When I teach I Ching classes I often tell students about the day it saved my life.

I had been in silent spiritual retreat in a cabin high in the Rocky Mountains, (ca. 1985). After 9 days without human contact, I felt refreshed and ready to return to "civilization." It's quite a transition and I wanted to ask the I Ching for guidance on the journey.

I cast the coins and got an answer I'll never forget: line 4 in the Hexagram "Waiting." It reads "Waiting in Blood, Get Out of the Pit". The Wilhelm translation continues:

"The situation is extremely dangerous. It's of the utmost gravity now, a matter of life and death. Bloodshed seems immanent. There's no going forward or backward. We're cut off as in a pit. Now we must simply stand fast and let fate take its course. This composure, which keeps us from aggravating the trouble by anything we might do is the only way of getting out of the dangerous pit."

I was less than thrilled with the forecast but knew I had better pay attention to it. So, having no idea what to expect, I departed in my little yellow Toyota Starlet. An hour later I was cruising through the mountains ascending Kenosha Pass, when I found myself behind a VW Rabbit pouring diesel fumes.

For some reason, he was driving 15 mph under the speed limit. In these Colorado mountains there was no place to pass so I followed dutifully for miles and miles. Soon, dozens of cars were backed up behind me and this Rabbit... who would have lost to any turtle that day.

Having raced cars for a decade, I was very frustrated following this slow-poke up the mountain. After many miles I realized we were nearing the brief passing lane at the peak of Kenosha Pass. Approaching that turn I thought "I'm finally going to get free of this dawdler now!" Rounding the curve I can see the passing lane, my narrow window of opportunity.

I stepped on the gas and began to pull out around this car--when the thought hit me: "Wait! This is the pit! I can't go forward or backwards. It's like I've fallen in a pit in the ground. This is the situation I was warned about!"

With cars ahead and behind I am trapped in a moving pit. And what am I about to do? I am about to make an effort to resolve the situation through my own efforts: the one thing I was warned not to do!

Because of that awareness, I swerved back into line... just as the Rabbit driver "put his foot in it"! Why after all those miles, I don't know: maybe his carburetor cleared, maybe he awoke from a trance. Whatever happened, he was suddenly accelerating right at the moment I would have been beside him! To my left was a wall of Rocky Mountain granite. And coming around the turn at 70 mph, heading right where I would have been was... a 16-wheel Mack truck.

His front bumper would have been my the last sight. There was nowhere to go to the left, the Volkswagon was on the right and I would certainly have died on that curve. I had been certain I knew enough about racing cars and passing safely... but I did not know all the relevant variables in the universe. My higher self, those coins I threw, the Sage of the I Ching, somehow knew what I did not. The I Ching stopped being a theory that day.

As I'm still behind the Rabbit who is accelerating wildly, though not as fast as my pounding heart, I realize: "Oh my God, I almost died. Without the I Ching's guidance, I would be dead." Within a mile or so, the Rabbit turned off onto a small dirt road. And, right in front of me, from that same road, pulled a pickup truck with the license plate: "SA-1144." And now I burst out laughing, because 11:44 is the minute of my birth.

This birth, this new life, I owe to the I Ching because my best cleverness and life experience would have gotten me killed. I have paid much better attention to my daily I Ching readings ever since.

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Ron Masa, Ph.D. taught and used the I Ching extensively in his private practice for 25 years. Dr Masa does telephone readings and co-teaches the "Whole I Ching Seminar" by phone with Debbie Hart.  They co-lead the University of Yourself: "Helping You Hear the Guide Inside"

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