Saturday, 24 December 2011

Astrology and the I-Ching

Both Astrology and the I-Ching have played dominant roles in my life for the last twenty-six years.  I was first introduced to Astrology by my mother’s interest back in the late 1970s.  We used a starter kit to work out the family’s charts and it is difficult now for me to look back and separate my knowledge now from what I actually believed or knew then.  I find that my memory is that I always knew my chart and those of others to some extent.  I think I did always have a background awareness but by the time I was at University I was a staunch sceptic in terms of Astrology and had bought into the cultural norm that it was nonsense.  At university I met two friends, Rhodri and Johanna, who introduced me to both Astrology and the I-Ching (and subsequently to my friend Chrissy).  Whilst I still expressed some scepticism – or at least ambivalence, their insights into my personality and, having given them my parents charts, their insights into them was so accurate it was impossible to deny the validity of Astrology.  After a year or so, I gave in.  Where it was particularly valuable to me was in describing the different elements of my personality.  Having someone describe accurately the feeling of my Cancer moon with it’s sensitivity, need for close relationships and it’s difficulty being away from home for the first time, in contrast to my Sun exactly conjunct the ascendant in Sagittarius with it’s confident and independent exterior was such a valuable insight.  At the time I was struggling with relationships.  My friends said that it looked like I needed a lot of freedom in relationships.  No, no, I protested, I tend to attract women who need a lot of freedom; I am very committed in relationships.  They asked me how long my relationships had lasted.  I had to admit that the majority were around two to three weeks but I ended them because the other person was not committed.  They could not help laughing.  I then pointed out that my last relationship had lasted a year and a half, which did make them consider my point about commitment until I admitted that I had spent over 4 months of it travelling and she had been away for another 4 months of it.  Astrology described so accurately my inner experience and how people were reacting to me.  My doubts evaporated and I became fascinated with learning more about myself and others.  Since most people are fascinated by themselves it was not difficult to learn.

However, whilst I was busy learning about Astrology and gaining insights, I was still troubled about what to do with these insights.  They gave me such rich information but they didn’t provide me with insight on what to do about it.  Thus came the second part of my friends’ gift: introducing me to the I-Ching.  If Astrology was the illumination that suddenly allowed me to read the road signs of this journey of life I was on, then the I-Ching was a perfect driving instruction manual.  Astrologers as a group tend to be more like academics than the occultists that many would like to believe them (although I am conscious that over the last 15 years in my work, those who don’t know their chart or brand it rubbish, have become the rarity.  Most people have had some contact with Astrology and most, interestingly, are respectful of the insight it provided).

The Delphic oracle’s lietfmotif was “Know thyself”.  If you want to do so, then I have yet to find any tool to rival Astrology in providing this insight.  However, as I discovered studying for my diploma from The Faculty of Astrological Studies, knowledge of Astrology was not synonymous with wisdom.  I remember my wife attending classes and being stunned by a brilliant astrologer who advised someone with Venus in Sagittarius that they were bound to want affairs and find it difficult to commit to relationships so they had better have affairs since they needed freedom but not tell their partner!  I was amazed that an astrologer could be advocating such an unenlightened perspective.  I had associated astrology with wisdom (not unusual perhaps given my preponderance of Sagittarius) yet it became clearer and clearer to me that Astrology was a phenomenal tool but only a tool.  This tool provided objective information about individual personalities and about the universe and how it was working.  Yet it’s value as a tool was entirely dependent on how skilfully or wisely it was used.

During my first year of consulting the I-Ching I asked about the relationship I was in.  We had been together a year and a half and I wanted out.  My girlfriend was short, attractive and we got on well together but having lots of Taurus she was beginning to put on weight and being so Sagittarian I wanted a girlfriend that was tall, athletic and youthful.  I did not want things like getting fat, getting old etc.  Besides, my girlfriend did not fully share my interest in Astrology and the I-Ching.  It seemed time to leave; yet my heart could not quite justify it.  On consulting The I-Ching it bizarrely told me that I should commit myself to the relationship and have a long-term perspective.  It had clearly made a mistake so I asked it again.  I received almost exactly the same answer! (I ought to point out here that I believe the I-Ching to have a well-developed sense of humour.  One time when I received a hexagram with 4 moving lines in which I did not understand, I consulted it again to ask it to clarify exactly what it meant and it gave me the same 4 lines and hexagrams! On another occasion I was building a stone wall but could not find enough stone or the right type.  I was so blocked and frustrated that I went into the house to consult the I-Ching and I threw the third line of Oppression (47) which says “One is oppressed by stone”).  The advice bemused me but I had learnt to respect the I-Ching by then.  I thought carefully about what I had thrown and I realised that I was going to reach this point in whatever relationship I had, so perhaps now was the time to learn to get past my romantic mind-pictures.  I committed myself to the relationship fully in order to learn to give up on illusions about romance and commit to something real.  The I-Ching was pleased with me.  My girlfriend on the other hand was stuck in a black hole where she was happy with the relationship but worried that since it was her first real relationship (we were only 19 when we got together), what if she might be missing something? She decided to end the relationship.  She came back to me within days to say she had was caught and perhaps she did not want to end it, but she was still vacillating and stuck so I gave her permission to go and be free.  What I realised was that I had left the relationship cleanly, without messes or a responsibility for hurting someone.  I also realised that I was ready for this stage when it occurred in my next relationship.  I had learnt to move well in the way that the I-Ching teaches.  Knowing enough astrology to see that I had a Sagittarian desire for a tall slim, youthful looking wife and that my Sagittarian personality would probably always be dissatisfied in relationships was a valuable insight.  How to deal with this and to be in the I-Ching’s language “free of blame” was the necessary wisdom to complement the Astrology.

The I-Ching teaches that inhibition is the path to freedom.  A number of psychotherapist friends of mine tell me that this is dangerous and that you should get everything out, yet learning as a student from my friend Chrissy she made a valuable distinction that is now very much part of the way that Emotional Intelligence has moved.  Chrissy distinguished between repression, the denial of an emotion and inhibition, where we feel and acknowledge the emotion but choose not to act on it if it is not appropriate.  It is interesting that the current research on the brain from people like Ian McGilchrist (The Master and his Emmisary) and a recent article in the New Scientist, both talk about the role of the forebrain in creating our ability to be aware and also to inhibit our emotions.  What is fascinating here is that on Chrissy’s pattern the forebrain is ruled by Aquarius and Saturn – Awareness and Inhibition.  It is extra-ordinary that Ian McGilchrist has reached the same conclusion from an academic and scientific background.

So, back to me (given I am the Sun rising in Sagittarius, I rarely stray far from this fascinating topic!), having split up with my girlfriend what happened next and why was this so valuable?  What happened next was that I decided to give up on relationships and I set about missing the boat.  Given that I have been a student of Chrissy’s for twenty-five years now, I must acknowledge my debt to her role here.  It was Chrissy that taught me the I-Ching and furthered my interest in Astrology; she also had a profound influence in teaching me how to take a wise approach to life.  In spending two years missing the boat, I was practising giving up the inaccurate mind-pictures or mental models that I had of the world.  I stopped watching television, I meditated a lot and I sorted out my finances.  I also gave up on career.  I realised that I did not really know how to approach any of these areas and I realised that the models the world presented, which largely revolved around missing the boat were confusing and unhelpful.  Chrissy’s advice was that it was not worth worrying about getting a girlfriend since Life already knew when and if that would happen.  I notice that most people are busying trying to get somewhere or get something in their lives; whereas my experience has been that this is an illusion and that we are not in control of such things.  Whilst waiting patiently and giving up on the world, I came to realise that the reason I was having difficulty in friendships and relationships was down to my Sagittarian shadow which had such high expectations about the type of girlfriends and friends that I should have.  Sagittarius’ shadow is the groupie who has to be where it is at and have the trendiest friends and girlfriends.  I asked Life, if it were possible and part of my journey, if I could have a very Cancerian and committed wife, who shared my interest in Astrology and the I-Ching.  Then I sat down and practiced waiting and being content.  The first thing that happened was that I met my life long friend Sam.  Sam was a jewel, but I had to give up my Sagittarian shadow to see that.  After two years, I met my wife (a woman with the Sun, Ascendant, Mercury and Venus in Cancer and a Taurus moon).  She did not fit the Sagittarian bill but I learnt to inhibit my Sagittarian (and Uranian) dissatisfaction and after twenty-two years together I realise that it was perhaps the single most rewarding and valuable thing I did in my life.  What is interesting is that the Sagittarian side of my personality expresses itself (and Jupiter in Gemini in the 7th) through travelling around the world engaging with people on wisdom and the I-Ching.   When we inhibit our personalities from expressing at a more instinctive level we allow them to express in more evolved ways.  This is not to say that the emotions we feel change but that we are less attached to acting on them.  We can acknowledge our jealousy, rage, desire for power but not act on it.  I think the great gift of Astrology is paradoxical, that it gives us the ability to separate our consciousness from our personality and to have the freedom not to act on its impulses and identify so strongly with it.  The I-Ching guides us on how to move wisely so that we can be free of blame, of creating messes and hurting others.  The combination of the two seems the most powerful axis I know of for living in an enlightened way.

Thus for me, Astrology plays a key role in keeping my heart open because it allows me to identify and separate the elements of my personality from my consciousness.  It also gives me greater compassion towards others.  When I worked at Ernst & Young I worked as part of a team of senior HR managers.  One of my closest friends worked with me.  We also worked together with a friend who became jealous of our closeness and in revenge she told our director that we were plotting to make decisions about the department thus undermining him.  This was not true and my close friend was so hurt and angry that he transferred to another part of the firm.  He was bemused that I was able to still relate to and keep my heart open to our friend who had done this to us.  I thought about why that was the case and I realised that it was down to Astrology.  I knew she was Sun-Mars conjunct in Taurus opposite Neptune in Scorpio and that it was a repeating pattern for her that she would compete and then when she felt unable to compete she would undermine people through "black magic" (passing on negative, heart-constricting gossip).  I recognised that I could be anyone, I could probably even be a chair and she would act the same way, she was simply playing out her chart; in many ways it was not personal even though it felt so.  It enabled me to keep my heart open and even to be able to help her see her pattern (chart) playing out.

PS. The Astrological Association is holding its conference on the 7th to the 9th of September 2012 (  This provides a suite of seminars from top astrologers across the 3 days.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Further thoughts on the Euro Crisis

So now the Euro crisis is set to continue (perhaps as those with a knowledge of Astrology would have anticipated).  Last week I was in both Paris and Frankfurt, this week in Milan and the Czech Republic.  Whilst in Paris, I spoke to a Senegalese taxi driver.  I shared my thoughts on Europe and was interested to find him agreeing vehemently with them - I liked him a lot (I find I tend to like people who vehemently agree with me!).  In a previous blog I mentioned that I thought that Europe had spoilt the smaller nations (Greece, Ireland, Portugal etc.) like a bad parent who indulges their children.  As parents we had tempted them with money for infastructure projects on the promise that it would help accelerate their growth.  The catch was that they needed to provide half the funding for these projects.  They could not resist the temptation of the money and bankrupted themselves in the process.  But who do they owe the money to?  The answer is the European banks; for Greece France owns fifty percent of the debt, Germany over thirty percent and the UK around fourteen percent.  So everyone has been using (usury used to be the term for lending money to others to make profit) everyone else.  The chickens have well and truly come home to roost.  What is the solution to all of this?  I am conscious that the response of the EU currently has been to increase and centralise control.  This is the response of many a parent when they feel their children are misbehaving (interestingly many insightful television programmes have helped highlight the fact that it is usually the parents who are creating or exacerbating the issue and need to change in such situations).  This response of centralising power has critical dangers.  If you want others to grow and take responsibility but they fail to do so, or act irresponsibly, then the natural response is to withdraw responsibility.  Unfortunately, often the result of this is to further deepen the problem.  When someone takes control over us they assume a parental position.  Our instinctive reaction to this is usually either to be "good" and comply or to rebel and be more irresponsible.  Either response re-inforces a dependent and childlike relationship.

Working as chairman of our local Steiner school, I noticed in trying to change the school and address some of the issues that it had, we, as governors, ended up taking greater and greater responsibility.  Furthermore, the more we took responsibility the less that staff seemed to.  The result was a continuing rift between the governors and the teaching staff.  This seemed endemic, as it played out at other Steiner Schools and had been the case long before I was part of the school.  I noticed after some time that the way the administrator and the governors talked about the staff was as if they were errant children and indeed they seemed to behave more and more like errant children.  At the time there was a plan to restructure the management of the school which the governors were enthusiastic about implementing.  However, the staff rebelled and insisted that they wanted to continue to implement the approach that they had always had (which had never worked successfully).  The result was a schism between the Governors and teachers running the school.  The temptation on the part of the governors was to enforce the change.  However, I recognised that to do this would perpetuate the sense of "us" and "them".  Consulting the I-Ching I received the top line of Hexagram 5 which talks about "even happy turns of fortune come to us in a form that at first seems strange".  It certainly did seem strange.  Initially the teaching staff were very aggressive and determined to seize power and dictate how things would be.  They set about fighting us (the governors) for power.  However, I could see that whilst initially it was difficult and appeared to signal collapse and destruction - the adminstrator was sacked from her role and  destructive oppositions were created with the parents and the support staff, I realised that something else was at play.  I realised it was a test or learning for dealing with power.  If we held on to it as Governors, or even fought for it, then it would be a fight without end and everyone would be suffer. If we acted through force or power then we signalled that our aim or purpose was power.  Life has a wonderful sense of humour and the person leading the teachers at the time, and full of revolutionary zeal was a man whose surname was Power!  It was clear to me that the lesson was about how to handle power (when you begin to see how the Universe is working, it is amazing how much it gives the game away)!  So I decided that my test was to give away power and go with this new emerging energy.  I started by apologising for our part in the situation as governors and for the fact that we had tried to push a change programme on the school - my fellow governors were not too happy about this and considering whether to assert their authority and try to force through the change but luckily for me they were willing to trust me.  So instead we gave away power to the teaching staff and let them win the fight.  Also, I could see that this move on the part of the teachers was exactly the responsibility we had been looking for.  It might not be coming out in the form we desired but it was the energy we had bemoaned the lack of.  I had to work like I had never worked before to hold any frustration and instead be determined to work on supporting the teachers in taking responsibility, but I realised that unless someone transformed the oppositions and negative emotions then nothing would change.  Since I had no control over anyone else and it was not my responsibility to dictate how others behaved I could only work on myself.  My fellow governors mostly followed suit.  After 18 months, I remember them saying to me that they now felt they would not choose anyone other than our Mr Power to be the Chair of College (the teaching body managing the school).  This was in direct contrast to 18 months earlier!  It is now some six or seven years since these events.  The school had an Ofsted inspection and one of the elements that received the biggest commendation was the very positive working relationship between the governors and the teachers.  The company that ran the inspection was one set up particularly with Steiner schools in mind and they were intrigued to know how we had got round the division between teachers and governors that seemed to bedevil every school.  To this day, one thing that is continually referred to by both the teaching staff and the governors is the fantastic working relationships between us; they talk about the fact that there is so much trust that they feel as if it is just one body.  Our mutual respect and affection for each other is very high and the relationship seems so natural no-one can really understand how it was ever different.  This experience was a wonderfully rich learning experience for me.  It took very hard work to transform the opposition into union but I realised it was what the I-Ching meant by the hexagram Work on What Has Been Spoiled.

The situation of the EU appears to be Work on What has Been Spoiled (Hexagram 18).  It is not a mistake that the EU is in the position that it is in, it is a lesson which has to be worked on consciously to understand the reasons and take responsibility for the situation.  Taking greater centralised power does not seem like it is going to work.  It feels like King Canute trying to hold back the waves.  There is a model which I have worked with a great deal over the years which sees three stages of development in creating relationships, teams and organisations.  The three stages are inclusion (or dependence), assertion (or independence) and collaboration (interdependence).  To get to interdependence you have to work through dependence and independence.  The key is that interdependence includes dependence and independence.  It is the independence which is always tricky for people because Saturn (structure and control) is an uneasy bedfellow with Uranus (independence).  In myth Kronos (Saturn) cut off his father Ouranos's (Uranus) testicles.  Symbolically this represents the way that structure and control over time disempower new fresh energies.  Applying greater control, I fear, is unlikely to elicit greater responsibility.  The danger is that democracy is having to be bypassed.  Most large conglomerations of power seem prey to falling into corruption and bureaucracy and in the end lose the dynamic and fresh independent energy needed to sustain them - think of the Eastern Bloc and Russia, think of Rome etc.  So the key appears to be finding the balance between independence and dependence in order to get to interdependence (the conscious and voluntary choice to co-operate from a position of independence).  An analogy a friend of mine uses for Europe is that of living with one's neighbours.  We may get on very amicably with our neighbours but this relies on the freedom we have to choose to co-operate from a position of independence.  Were we to try to share a bank account with our neighbours, the likelihood is that we would quickly find ourselves in many fights and unhappiness (blocks of flats which share costs rarely seem to do so amicably).  The I-Ching in the hexagram The Family (number 37) states that the family is the basis for all society.  In line 3, where it is describing conflicts within the family, it says that "the wise thing is to build strong dikes within which complete freedom of movement is allowed each individual".

So we are experimenting with our interdependence and with groups.  Not surprising given the movement to the age of Aquarius.  It is going to take time; probably hundreds and thousands of years, to crack this one.

And so finally, back to the Senegalese taxi driver - where does he fit into things?  I was thinking about King Canute holding back the waves and the fight there is between a human's conception of their power and what they deem important and Nature.  Europe is a human construct.  Their are no physical boundaries which define Europe.  Indeed no-one seems terribly clear what is included in Europe exactly - is Russia part of Europe?  The EU is considering including Turkey as part of Europe.  When I was in Milan, I was told a joke by one of my Italian coachees - with the Hong Kong stock exchange everyone knows it is backed by the might of China, with the New York stock exchange everyone knows it is backed by the might of America, without Europe, what is the London stock exchange backed by?  The answer - Surrey!  The message was that London needs Europe and many people have described the UK as a pygmy without it.  This intrigued because I began to see as I went round Europe that the main arguments in favour of Europe were largely based on fears connected to power.  Indeed in  Italy and France the sentiment was very clear, that we needed to hold together in these difficult times to protect each other.  The analogy I was given by one Italian was that it was like being on a lifeboat in a shipwreck in raging seas with people drowning around you.  You have to look after yourself and hold together with others to prevent being taken down by those less fortunate.  I didn't like this image, I replied that I would rather try and save as many people as I could and if I died then so be it, better that than live at someone else's expense.  When I was talking to the Senegalese taxi driver this is what we were discussing.  I shared with him my thought that I didn't like the exclusive nature of club Europe which sought to create barriers towards other nations.  It is a self-protective mechanism.  The argument always seems to be one of a herd mentality - you can't leave the herd, you will be isolated and die without the protection of the herd.  This instinctive way of acting is based on fears and suspicion.  It is "us" against the great "them".  It occurred to me that the notion of Europe is that of an elite club and is against the flow (King Canute's waves) of our human hearts.  There is a historic flow of interaction and trade between France and northern African countries like Senegal, there is also a flow of interaction and trade between the UK and the old commonwealth.  I wonder if Europe denies our global interdependence and seeks to create a mutual dependence within a clique?  I think maybe we all need each other during difficult times like this and I certainly feel that there is an opportunity for the European countries who have benefited and in previous centuries exploited other countries to support and help them.  My Senegalese taxi driver liked this idea.  He felt that Europe was an exclusive club and it was time for it to reach out rather than trying to protect itself and exploit others.  Creating a European super state doesn't feel like doing that to me.  So perhaps Europe needs to break down so that every country can enjoy it's independence but choose consciously to be part of a globally interdependent world where it is supported and helped.  Europe was originally created to prevent the disasters of another World War, in particular to prevent France and Germany ever being in violent opposition to each other.  Perhaps it is time for everyone to be included in this?  Perhaps the blockage that Europe represents to the Global flow needs to be washed away to achieve this?  When we are friends with people only our jealousy (based on fear) tells us that they are not allowed to be friends with others and must exclusively be friends with us.  I would like every country to be free to be friends with every other country.  It usually means we end up losing friends if we can't share them with everyone.  I would like every country to be free to be friends with every other country.  In this respect I leave the last word to William Blake:

    He who binds to himself a joy
    Doth the winged life destroy,
    But he who kisses the joy as it flies
    Lives in eternity's sunrise.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

A vignette from Life

This afternoon I returned from Dubai after spending 2 days coaching for one of my clients.  I do not particularly like Dubai as a place, the artificiality and the focus on materiality and luxury do not appeal to me greatly. This time, though, I took more time to understand the background to Dubai and its phenomenal growth.  It was intriguing to look at how fast it has grown and to see how it has positioned itself to be a hub between the East and West and also the North and South.  What made me sad was chatting to the taxi drivers (mostly Indian) who drove me.  One in particular, who was not unusual, had come from Chennai in India and had been working in Dubai for seven years to send money back home to his wife and children.  He aimed to stay another two or three years (although I noted that everyone I spoke to aimed to stay another two or three years before returning home).

My instinctive reaction was that this was not something that would be acceptable in England.  As usual, Life was listening.  On returning to the UK, I had an hour and a half to talk to the taxi driver driving me home from Birmingham airport who explained to me how many flights now came into Birmingham and Manchester Airports and how the Emirates was paying for an extension of the runway at Birmingham airport in order to allow the Boeing 780s to land (these planes carry up to 600 passengers).  At Manchester, he explained there were 3 flights per day to Dubai.  I then spent time (as I love to do) chatting to the taxi driver about his life and sharing mine.  He explained that he had become a taxi driver when his business selling small gifts in offices had gone bust.  He described how he now worked on average 75 hours a week.  I asked him why he worked so many hours and he explained that he was only paid the minimum wage of £5.50 an hour which had just been put up to £6.10 an hour and this was the only way to make it pay.  Suddenly I saw how cleverly Life had caught me out again - here was an exact parallel of what I had seen in Dubai and it was the Emirates that was providing the work!  I wanted to know more, curious to understand his black hole game and what had brought him to this point.  He explained that the accountants for the business had made an error on VAT which landed them with a bill for £20,000 that they could not afford.  He and his wife carried on trying to survive but reached a point where they realised that they were completely overwhelmed with debt.  They had used their credit cards to their maximum, they were missing payments on their mortgage and so on.  He said that he turned to his wife and said they were going to have to give up and ask for help.  So he consolidated the debt.  It was £120,000.  He explained that it was going to take until he was 75 until the debt was paid off, however, they got to keep the house which was important to his wife and didn't have to declare themselves bankrupt this way.  My heart went out to him and I was busy thinking of schemes whereby I could anonymously help him out by paying off some of his debt.  However, as we talked, he explained that many of his fellow drivers complained about how they were treated by their company but his response was that it depended how you viewed it (something we had been discussing in terms of what you could control in your life) and he would always challenge the other drivers on what other job they could do where they could paid to drive a top class Mercedes Benz around all day.  As he explained more about his background it emerged that his father had been a relatively successful stockbroker and he had come from a reasonably well-off background.  He explained that his father, though, had spent his whole Life speculating and trying various schemes to make money and he had inherited this.  I reflected to him, that perhaps his situation had freed him from this and he agreed.  He reflected and said that his wife had a good job which paid reasonably well, he got to keep the money above a certain level to pay off some of the debt and they continued to live in their house.  In many ways he had all he wanted and was freed from the scheming, worry and fear about money.  He was quite surprised to realise that he was probably more content now than he had been at any stage of his life and agreed wholeheartedly with me that money was relative - the problems did not really change, they scaled up or down.  We talked about the Emirates who were fabulously wealthy and speculated that probably the less wealthy Emirs probably felt poor and jealous of the wealthier ones, that the Sheik of Abu Dhabi (the captial Emirate) probably got very anxious and jealous when Dubai expanded and grew so rapidly and he no doubt feared he would miss the boat and be outdone by his fellow Emir.

I related to him that when I was in my teens (we were not particularly well-off when I was young) I asked my father who continually worried about money, how much money it would need for him to stop worrying about money (I was nothing if not a precocious child!).  I was stunned because he had an instant reply - £250,000.  At that point you join the world of the rich where money makes money he said.  It was because this was the amount at the time that you needed to be a "name" at Lloyds of London (before the crash when they were all bankrupted!).  Some years later with inflation and property house rises I realised my Dad was probably worth £250,000 so I asked him "are you happy now? Are you secure?" (what it is to have kids eh?).  "No" he replied.  Given inflation and other factors he explained that the figure would now be a million pounds.  I waited patiently and when my Dad retired he sold his business and with a small inheritance and the rise in property prices I realised he had again exceeded his goal for security.  I asked him again if he had done it.  He told me that now all he was doing was worrying about it running out and the fact that mother was still young and that he realised he was never going to be free of it no matter how much he earned.  It struck me, having inherited his anxiety about money, that no amount of change in his external situation would change anything if it was going to change it would require a change internally in attitude.

When I got back home, I could feel an interesting after effect of the trip to Dubai.  I had flow Business class, I had stayed in a hotel with a sauna and swimming pool in the sunshine and come back in a chauffeur driven car (free courtesy of Emirates airline).  There was just the first traces of being seduced by the luxury lifestyle. When I had landed I had been noticing the first signs of this and I was reminded of the line in the I-Ching about someone when he is established becoming arrogant and luxury loving.  I sat down at my messy desk in my ramshackle house and opened up my emails.  There was an email from one of my clients about my trip to Paris the following week.  It detailed that a number of people couldn't see me and one of the main people I was coaching did not want to see me.  My heart sank with paranoia and anxiety.  I turned to the I-Ching to consult it and received the first and 4th lines of 10 (Conduct) in a situation of 59 (Dispersion).  The first line says:

A man finds himself in an altogether inferior position at the start. However, he has the inner strength that guarantees progress. If he can be content with
simplicity, he can make progress without blame. When a man is dissatisfied with 
modest circumstances, he is restless and ambitious and tries to advance, not 
for the sake of accomplishing anything worth while, but merely in order to 
escape from lowliness and poverty by dint of his conduct. Once his purpose is 
achieved, he is certain to become arrogant and luxury-loving.

Arrogant and luxury loving! The fourth line was the contrast of someone hesitating and uncertain but
having the inner power to carry it through. I wrote to the individual who apparently did not want to see
me and said that the message I had received had made me anxious, was it that he wasn't going to be
around or was it that he didn't want to meet up with me again, that I didn't mind if it was this but it would be useful to know why. I received an immediate response saying he had not known whether he was going to be in Paris and that he had already confirmed a time since the message had been sent - and also reassuring me not to worry! As I received this, I suddenly twigged what Life had been up to. Careful it was saying, you get carried away and start getting comfortable and certain about anything and you are going to trip up, so here is a little shock to remind you. What I love about understanding Life in this way is that as soon as I understood what Life was saying and the I-Ching so clearly any anxiety disappeared and I could laugh and see the message. In this respect I am always reminded of Ram Dass seeing his guru in different guises coming to trip him up and test him - even coming disguised as a microphone that he didn't want - "I'll get you, you phony holy you". Life can catch us all just when we are tempted, I think it loves to trip us up whenever we succumb to hubris or we relax and get complacent.

(The author is currently absent in Paris being tested regularly and being reminded that he is in a precarious position and knows nothing - so that's ok then!).