Kuan (Contemplation)

I Ching Hexagram 20
Kuan (Contemplation)

Action: View

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 23 Split Apart: Regenerate

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 34 Great Power: Invigorate

You can only lead others toward growth
if you are willing to grow yourself.

Life can only be understood backwards,
but it must be lived forwards. – Kierkegaard

Reading at a Glance: A period of Contemplation can come about for a variety of reasons. Perhaps your ego has been wounded and you are stepping back to understand the part you played in getting hurt. You may have completed a job and are now stepping back to examine future direction. After a time of Great Power and invigoration, the underlying cause suggests that an anti climactic period follows. The hidden influence calls for Splitting Apart the past from the future. It is a time for regeneration. This hexagram has the appearance of a tower and there is a need to gain a wider view – and take time out to consider your future direction. Others are drawn to those who exhibit an evolved understanding of life that can only come from showing their objectivity and willingness to listen and grow. This means even as a leader, you are called to keep growing. Nothing in nature is stagnant and careful Contemplation is necessary prior to making changes.


the red dust.

Arouse the child

to the

endless field.

“The wind blows over the earth: the image of contemplation.” You have the opportunity to climb the heights of what you have built to obtain a wider view. In the image of a tower that allows for a bird’s eye view, find the white space that will allow you to remain objective in finding your way forward. You establish a course for the future by reinvigorating your roots.

Wind suggests purity and the washing of the hands. The master said: “the ablution has been made, but not yet, the offering.” The ‘ablution’ or washing of the hands is how you “remove the residue of red dust,” or the hardened perspective that can accumulate on your journey and open with reverence. The ‘offering’ is your willingness to remain malleable in all you do. Whenever the Wind blows over the Earth, it ushers in a changing climate.

The most common celebrations of ancient times revolved around the harvest festivals of autumn. Perhaps it was out of fear and reverence as the days grew darker, and the natural world began to die away. It was an important time however, because what was done in earnest during this time, laid the seeds for a springtime to come. This is the meaning of contemplation: take inventory of the past to reinvigorate the seeds of the future.

When you look backward, you will see the cycles that remain constant, although you barely remember the vague situations that become meaningless over time. By recognizing all that is transient, you can observe the ‘carved block,’ but only hold fast to that which cultivates growth. In each situation, “retain the lesson but not the carved block.” Other than its transitory manifestations, “the great image has no shape.” It is time to let go and become the uncarved block in the hands of the 'woodcarver.'

The “thread running through the Way” becomes your footsteps through the path of change. Your destiny is revealed by that part of you that remains constant against the wheel of changing events. “Returning to one’s roots is known as stillness. This is what is meant by returning to one’s destiny.” You can move through the changes without being pulled from the center of your unfolding. Although you walk less, you discover more. The core of who you are only sharpens against the vicissitudes of experience. Allow yourself to open to whatever life is shaping you to be.

The master said: “When one is at ease with themselves, one is near Nature. This is to let Nature take its own course.” When you are 'just so,' you are not defending anything. “When ‘this’ and ‘that’ have no opposites, you discover life’s very axis.”

Contemplation allows you to see that all things are equal: the good and bad, the difficult and easy are merely the ebbing and flowing of energy. “When a leader is right with themselves, things will get done without giving orders. When they are not right with themselves, they may give orders, but they will not be obeyed.” You can only lead others toward growth if you are willing to grow yourself.

To others, your humility makes you the representation of “how great fullness seems empty. Full of trust, they look up to view the divine Way where the four seasons do not deviate.” In contemplating, “you partly give and partly take.” You take time for yourself, but also become “something for the world to view. The more one gives, the more one comes to possess.”

A student asked: “Sir, how is it that you are old, but have the appearance of a child?” The master replied: “It is because I have not been worn down by going against the Way.”

Unchanging: Life moves in cycles = find the thread in the eternity at the end. Receiving Contemplation unchanging asks you to take a bit more time to contemplate the object of your inquiry because your approach may be too vague or there are elements that you haven’t recognized. Like the Judgement card in Tarot, you might need to understand the common themes in your life in order to master what you are learning. Contemplation can mean reviewing solutions that worked in the past, however you may need to adopt a new approach more appropriate for the future. Something has changed and perhaps you are not seeing this. You have to Split Apart the situation and look at it objectively rather than viewing it subjectivity. Clarity is missing so wander back through the situation from a perspective other than the one you already know. You might ask or the oracle again: what am I not seeing in this situation?

Line 1 Childish contemplation = acceptable for a child but not an adult. Changes to (42) Increase. You may not be taking responsibility for how you are contributing to a difficult situation. There is something to be learned that will be beneficial to your success if you can approach it with maturity rather than childish fancy. However, until you stop acting childish or like a victim, nothing can be solved.

Line 2 Contemplation through the crack of the door = not seeing everything. Changes to (59) Dispersion. It is not helpful to place yourself in the center of a situation with a selfish or wishful attitude. You will only see what you want to see. There is much that can’t be seen because your view is limited. Look at the situation from a broader view. Expand a self serving perspective into something that allows you to see more clearly.

Line 3 Contemplation of one’s life = a decision to advance or retreat. Changes to (53) Development. An important decision must be made. Taking responsibility for the part you play in succeeding and failing allows you to make better choices. In a past situation one examines the truth of what transpired and comes to understand why things unfold the way they do.

Line 4 Contemplating what others experience = looking broadly at their benefit. Changes to (12) Obstruction. Beyond purely selfish motives, you observe how your actions influence others. You may need to make a sacrifice for the benefit of the team beyond selfish aims. Social awareness furthers your growth where you can make significant contributions. Until you climb out of a purely self centered perspective you may feel Obstructed.

Line 5 Contemplating my life = one is without blame. Changes to (23) Split Apart. Since you are open to removing any faults, you are able to make a decision that will have lasting consequences. It is not so important to scrutinize what you do, but what you’ve done. Determining between what yields tangible results and what wastes your time, you can set a productive plan for the future. Split Apart the ideal from the actual and make changes where necessary. Looking at what you do and its affects allows you to fix what is not working.

Line 6 Contemplating this life = one is without blame. Changes to (8) Union. Beyond taking responsibility for correcting actions that are not serving you, contemplation of the bigger picture allows you to see the effect you have on others. Unifying perspective as if there are no lines separating your thoughts from experience or the impact others have on you and the impact you have on them is a very broad view. Each moment and all you meet are a reflection of how you might grow. Remaining open to the teaching, you remain without blame because you see failure as a stepping stone to success.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 20 unchanging Hexagram 20.1 Hexagram 20.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 20.2 Hexagram 20.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 20.3 Hexagram 20.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 20.4 Hexagram 20.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 20.5 Hexagram 20.5.6 Hexagram 20.6