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Hilary Barrett
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13 minutes of 'how to cast with coins'

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Just a few days to go now until the download's ready for you

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Looking at the moving lines - cannot believe I've been 'scaling' this hexagram in the blog since last November...

Connection, Nourishment

It seems to me that food - I mean real, physical nourishment - is one of the most basic ways we experience either connection or its opposite.

I have my own ways of using food as 'noise on the line' so I can't hear anything real. If I'm overloaded, don't know what to do next, overexposed, some part of me switches off and goes to look for sugary crap to eat. Sometimes I notice. (Turns out a daily meditation practice does wonders for my noticing muscle - who'd've thought?) Sometimes I find myself in the kitchen before I come to - and sometimes, when I was in a particularly bad way, I've been known to stuff myself silly with a pile of non-food I don't taste at all. Open packet of chocolate chip cookies, run program, discard wrapper. I feel reasonably safe, sharing this, that I won't be the only one.

It seems to me this little individual downward spiral of
tune out >> eat crap >> feel worse >> tune out
is just an extension of a culture that says...
- food is something that grows in shiny unchanging odourless packets on shelves
- you eat from a packet of type a in the morning, from packet b at midday and packet c in the evening
- you should eat this, you should not eat that (ad nauseam)

And possibly, while you're about it, you should weigh your food, calculate its macro- and micronutrients (you can enter it into a helpful online calculator for this), and also measure out the amount of water you drink to ensure it's the correct amount. Then weigh yourself: if the number has gone the wrong way, you are doing it wrong.

Not that food diaries and logging are a bad thing... they're a way to introduce some awareness into the spiral, aren't they? Interrupt the pattern and reconnect before you have six empty shiny wrappers and a nasty stomach ache. Log it, write it down, review your numbers, make adjustments: get back in the driving seat.

Only... does the poor little conscious mind belong in this driving seat, doing all the work the body's natural appetites evolved to do? Isn't it a bit like asking a newborn to pilot a jet while playing the violin?

Where is... trust? Compassion? Generosity? Do they have any place at all?

Eating... our next most intimate physical connection with our world after breathing. (Do we have websites to log that, yet?) Taking parts of our world, digesting them into part of us. Your body in your environment. And that, surely, is the most basic place for being aware of connection: the starting point for meditation, for intuition - for any present awareness.

And then we create a culture that says food grows in packets, and you can know which are the right, healthy packets to eat by reading the labels created by some wiser authority.

Drawing a veil over how well that's working out for our health, moving on...

I've found, over the past couple of years, that food can still be a means of connection. It connects me into the local ecosystem - place and season. The kale grew here, the sheep grazed here, I'm living here - I'm made of the same land. And connection to other people and to spirits is made with food, too. We humans have been inviting spirits and ancestors to share our meals for a long, long time.

And... oh wonders... by eating just what my long-suffering and endlessly resourceful body can recognise as food (vegetables, fish, meat, fruit, a few nuts, a bit of dairy), it does know what to eat and how to become healthy, just as well as my lungs know what to breathe. I get up in the morning and instead of sleepwalking through the routine with the oats, ask, 'What do I want for breakfast?' Sometimes eggs and bacon and salad, sometimes fruit and nuts, sometimes leftovers. Sometimes just water, thank you. Astonishing.

Of course, my mind still wants cake. See cake, run program 'want cake'. Only then... try cake, do not want cake, put slice quietly in compost bin (in a spirit of absolute wonderment!). And in the supermarket, it's extraordinary how - even within a few months of eating actual food - the rows and rows of packets ceased to look like food at all. All those aisles, all those different colours and flavours... but then the washing-up liquid comes in a dozen different flavours nowadays too, and I don't especially want to eat that, either...

So I'm just writing this to say - the grim inevitability of 'either control and regiment miserably or get fat (but actually, do both, and then feel guilty)' is not grimly inevitable at all. The human animal is not, after all, the only one incompetent to feed itself. Your wise and resourceful body is still the nexus, your connections are all still alive, and nothing is altogether broken.

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My favourite moment in a Yijing reading is the 'aha', or the 'aahh...' - or sometimes the 'argh!' - but whatever the reaction, the moment when reading and situation suddenly become transparent and meaning shines through. Sometimes it's several situations at once - like seeing how some mindless bureaucracy I'm tussling with turns out to be providing a beautiful, perfect model of how I've been trying to run my own work. Each is telling the story of the other, the whole pattern lights up, the dynamics of it become clear.

It's not so much the understanding of that particular thing that makes this extraordinary, though - it's becoming aware that there is significance. There is meaning; I am part of it. Everything is an interconnected fabric; the touch that moves one part is felt everywhere.

So how would it be to have that awareness all the time?

Not to have that level of understanding all the time - at least, I can't imagine that - but just to be aware of being connected?

(And then in my more lunatic, fantasy-fiction moments I wonder: what would it be like to take no action without awareness of connection and significance? Come to that, what would the world be like if no-one acted without this awareness? What on earth would the headlines look like?)

I don't exactly know, because I have so many things I can do instead of finding out. Read novels, play computer games, indulge in random internet browsing, probably involving something like this:
You know the kind of thing?

Don't know what to do next? Quick! Check the email! Find a message that's hard to reply to? Check the headlines! Play a computer game! Catch up on some forum gossip that has nothing to do with me! My eyes are open, my mind is speeding round the familiar old tracks, but I'm not conscious any more.

Why do I do this? Because closing down is easier than opening up - because I'm avoiding the things I'm afraid of. What's the opposite of distraction? I'm not sure - I think it has many - but one is compassion.

So I'm training myself - you know, like one of these
- to find an alternative route. Don't know what to do next? (Or, more likely, suddenly wake up to find myself clicking towards a computer game?) Stop, breathe, pay attention, open the door...
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