I grew up in an environment that was often at odds with my natural orientation to life. As is true for most of us, some of the useful survival skills I learned as a child became self-defeating habit patterns when I reached maturity. One of the patterns that survived far into adulthood was my “go it alone” attitude. If my environment was not supportive, my attitude was, No Problem, I’ll Do it Myself.
While this effortful approach helped me, it also led me on some significant detours. Through my practice, I eventually understood that none of us are “going alone,” and this attitude or stance toward the world is a product of ignorance. We are all, always, going together.
Alliance is an interesting word. I began to learn about its significance for human life through my interaction with the ancient Zhouyi oracle. The Zhouyi is the older text from which the I Ching eventually emerged. I was taught to use this oracle by one of its translators and most accomplished practitioners.
Alliance is the central value of the Zhouyi. Within the ancient world of the Zhou people, alliance organizes families, friendships, communities, and nations. In the contemporary West, we tend to see most of our personal relations through the lens of emotionalism. These relations are sticky, rather than strategic. On the other hand, business relations are often defined as purely instrumental.
In the Zhouyi, alliance does imply strategy, but it is the strategy of Heaven. Each person, family, community, and nation has a unique character or configuration that changes through time. Heaven, or the ineffable wisdom expressing in each moment, presents us with opportunities to most beneficially ride the continuous waves of change in ways particular to our real situation.
As human beings, we have the capacity to ‘discern the moment’ and to use our freedom to follow the path of Heaven. The alliances we choose, or that choose us, are the products of our adherence to, or deviation from, Heaven’s wisdom.
The world of the Zhouyi is a fully-lived human world. It has none of the aristocratic, mannered quality of the I Ching. The Zhou people were warriors and nomads. Their View has much in common with that of Tantra.
So, each of us has limitations. We have capacities, and we have areas in which we are more ignorant, or less capable. If approached with respect, openness and skill, the wisdom masters speak to us through the Zhouyi about both capacity and limitation. We need to know about these in order to move with grace through life’s ups and downs.
The principal way in which we, as human beings, make the most of our varied capacities and varied lives is through alliance. No one of us “has it all.” We can team up with others who bring capacity and enrichment in areas in which we are lacking or could use some reinforcement. We can also team up with those who, for complex reasons, help us to relax or disentangle ourselves from the karmic patterns that tend to rule our lives.
Making and nurturing proper alliances with others brings us more opportunities to Self-realize. Sometimes this comes in the form of needed comfort and physical support. At other times people with specific skills or teachings appear in our lives, and we find the courage and wisdom to work with them. Important alliances can manifest in a flash, for instance, in one small conversation with a stranger. We can experience helpful alliances in dreams, and we can be helpful allies to others through our dreams. Many alliances ripen over years, or a lifetime.
We discover which alliances are best in a particular situation, not through calculating business mind, but through consulting Heaven as it speaks through our Gurus, oracles, astrology, deep perceptions of the flows of nature, the responses of our body, energy, and mind, and by learning to “read” the everyday events that are the warp and woof of Heaven’s communication with us. We can also gain clarity about the alliances that reinforce our karmic habit patterns.
The Zhouyi world of alliance does not leave out emotions. We just might not recognize the subtlety of these if we are used to being bludgeoned by the overly-dramatic versions of emotions that clamor for attention within and around us.
Emotions in the Zhouyi are part of the continuous movement of life. Emotion is a form of motion. Every alliance has this aspect of being moved. We can be moved in keeping with the wisdom of Heaven, or we can flail around and be moved in an inappropriate, ignorant way that brings undesirable results. If we are correctly following Heaven, or the wisdom of the moment, we feel a wordless happiness that results from the naturalness of our motion in alliance with our world.
In Ma’s love,