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I Ching Hexagram Interpretations

51: Shock


One hears thunder clap unexpectedly. First comes fear, then a sharpened vision. Recall any close brush with danger — a falling branch, an automobile accident barely avoided, an escape from a potentially violent confrontation. Such incidents arouse every nerve in your body — perhaps in a brief wave of panic — but soon, once the danger has passed, the reaction gives way to a heightened awareness. The same process also occurs with other types of shock — the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, business failure and so on.

The lasting impact of a major shock can be stimulating or debilitating, depending upon your inner strength of character. The critical factor is the ability to become immune to fear, thereby enabling you to transform anxiety into laser-sharp perception.

When overtaken by crisis, the wise look within and search their hearts for strengths, in order to face the world with courage. Courage can mean daring to take the unexpected path, to bounce back quickly after failure, or to have faith in the meaning of life when confronted with death.

We tend to think of shock in the context of unpleasant events. We can also be jarred, however, by the sudden release of tension that comes with an unexpected success. To keep your bearings in the aftershock of either trauma or victory, it is essential that your inner compass be aligned with “true north” — the magnetic force that guides you toward fulfillment of your deepest desires and your highest destiny. Prepare yourself now to take some jarring surprise in stride. Meditate a little bit to center yourself. A calm reaction — to either gains or losses that may arise — will help you surmount shocks to your system.

Changing Line Interpretations

Line 1 (bottom line)

A changing first line indicates a time when good fortune follows sudden change that at first may have seemed unfortunate. If we remain open to all possibilities in a time of crisis, sometimes the results will be shockingly positive.

Line 2

When tumultuous events strip you of what is rightfully yours, it is of no use to fight it while the storm is yet raging. Retire to the mountaintop temporarily: take the high ground. In the end, after the storm has passed, this strategy will result in a full restoration of all that is yours without need for contention. Confronting uncontrollable forces when they are at their peak only brings further misfortune and loss.

Line 3

The shock of unexpected change can be almost paralyzing. At a time like this, your concentration is easily scattered, and your mind might come to resemble the Milky Way. This is not the time to stand back and just watch things take their course. Focus is needed now. Begin with small details, and gradually reestablish normalcy. The resumption of habits and routines can become an armor that keeps external misfortunes from infecting your soul. If you allow a jarring situation to motivate you to restore your focus, you will be freed of possible ill effects.

Line 4

A nimble mind evades on-rushing fate much like a matador twirls away from a charging bull. But even a nimble mind can become mired in the muck of muddled or jarring circumstances. Sometimes when you are stuck, you become a target for the bullhorns of fate. If only you had a clear problem, you could do something about it. For now, don’t force anything -- just try to keep your wits about you.

Line 5

A series of repetitious shocks is indicated here. It is possible to avoid danger by remaining calm and staying near the center of the storm, instead of dashing toward the extremities, where added movement would only increase the risk of harm.

Line 6 (top line)

When startling events are at their peak, clarity of vision and perspective are often lost. The smart move, in such a situation, is to withdraw long enough to gain time in order to be able to develop a coherent strategy. This can only be done if your withdrawal comes soon enough, before the outer turmoil has confused your perspective. Friends and associates may not understand the reason for your actions, and may talk behind your back, but no great general ever plotted his strategy while mounted on his horse. Sometimes retreating to your tent takes more strength and courage than charging the front lines -- and more brains too.