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The Way Out Is In


Hexagram 29 K’an/The Abysmal (Water)


“In man’s world K’an represents the heart, the soul locked up within the body, the
principle of light inclosed in the dark…Water sets the example for the right conduct
under such circumstances… Water reaches its goal by flowing continually…When we
are in danger we ought not to attempt to get out of it immediately, regardless of
circumstances; at first we must content ourselves with not being overcome by it…A
spring flows sparingly at first, and tarries for some time before it makes its way into the

open…we must wait until a way out shows itself.” 1



Emerging from my night time journey, I float to the surface of waking life in slow motion. Time has not yet influenced my body, as spirit soars freely—watching. Although we are still in the depths of winter, I feel the first stirrings of spring within.

A restlessness emerges from the dark waters of my soul—lost to an emptiness filled with impatience that aches for things to be different from what they currently are. In this moment I feel trapped by the heart-breaking realities of life on the planet.

I decide to take Impatience and Trapped-ness for a walk. I patiently follow while Impatience leads, and Trapped-ness rides along in my heart. Moving at racer’s pace, my heart devotedly pumps blood to my extremities so that I can keep up. Impatience shows no sign of slowing down. Trapped-ness quietly watches.

“What are you running from, and where are we going?” I wonder out loud. “Anywhere but here.” Impatience mumbles. So we continue on. And on. And on. Until the trail turns into a sheet of ice, causing Impatience to freeze in her tracks.

Filtering through the trees that are swaying in the breeze, light lands in scattered patterns, dancing on the surface of the ice. Down below the ice, dark shadows move in slow, organic patterns. I am captivated by how alive they are even as they are trapped under the frozen surface of the ice. More light dances above with the wind and the  trees, while the blobs continue to enjoy their new found freedom below the ice from which they emerged.

Something in me slowly begins to shift. Trapped-ness melts like ice in the sun, slowly moving in resonance with the blobs of water. Now, gently pulsing to her own natural rhythm, Trapped-ness turns into Red Bird 2 and nestles joyfully in my heart. Impatience discovers her true nature in the breeze surrounding us—free to move in all directions, delivering messages between heaven and earth.

Change is ever-occurring, yet only becomes visible at certain times. We can orient through change by staying true to our original nature. Everything has value, even our most unseemly states. By relating to our inner world with openness, curiosity and presence, we find what we need.

As I walk home, I remember Rebecca Solnit’s observation that we cease to be lost “not by returning, but by turning into something else.”3 Like water, we are continuously shape-shifting in response to current circumstance. By staying true to our original nature, we remain whole even as we are becoming.

The ten thousand things come and go like flocks of birds and changing weather. By following Impatience with openness and curiosity, she becomes who she truly is—a messenger between worlds and bringer of change 4 By caring for Trapped-ness with the warmth of compassion, she is becomes fluid and circulates the light of shen 5 wherever she flows.

The soul, no longer locked up within the body, joins the vast wilds of existence. No matter where we are and what our circumstance, we are never far from home.


1 Wilhelm/Baynes, The I Ching or Book of Changes p 115-117

2 Red Bird is the spirit animal of the heart. It nestles peacefully in the empty space in the heart within the heart. Shen brings messages from the heavenly realm to help us orient toward our true nature and keeps us settled in our heart through the course of our lives. In times of shock or prolonged stress, Red Bird can flee its nest in the heart. Yet there are ways to call her home.

3 Solnit, Rebecca, A Field Guide to Getting Lost p 71

4 Impatience is a state associated with the liver (wood element, spring, wind, change) that arises when the free flow of the hun is impeded in some way. The hun is one of the five spirits that lives in the liver. The hun are responsible for bringing what is learned in embodied life to the heavens, and messages from the heavens down to embodied life. The hun bring clarity of vision to guide us with benevolence in the living of our Tao.

5 Shen is one of the five spirits that resides in the heart. The other four yin organs each have an aspect of shen within in them, assigned a particular function in the fulfillment of our destiny. The function of the shen is to imbue us with consciousness in connection to our original nature. Shen arrives at the moment of our conception and stays with us throughout our entire life.




About the Author:  Monique Gaboury is a licensed acupuncturist, in Freeland, WA, specializing in Alchemical Acupuncture. She loves sharing her passion for natural healing at her clinic and through writing her blog ’Nourishing Change Through Connection’.

Juniper Medicine Alchemical Acupuncture serving the greater Seattle area on Whidbey Island. To schedule an appointment call 360-672-1506 or email contact@junipermedicinewhidbey.com.


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