Kùn (Oppression/Exhaustion)

I Ching Hexagram 47
Kùn (Oppression/Exhaustion)

Action: Adapt

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 37 Family: Support

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 22 Grace: Accept

Success is a pathway of self-completion
and the seed is always within you.

Perfection is reached, not when there is no longer anything to add,
but when there is no longer anything to take away. – Antoine de St. Exupery

Reading at a Glance: Kùn is an image of a tree growing within an enclosure and offers a lesson about remaining cheerful and abundant in the face of confining situations. Tranquility in Disturbance is one of Tao’s greatest lessons to overcome the extremes of responses. "Who can be patient until life returns us to it's dance?" Whatever unfolds might simply be a lesson to cultivate patience and to become less reactive. Great frustration can mount when you feel hemmed in or when your words are not believed. However, sometimes you have to be backed into a corner to discover your inner truth or real capabilities. The hidden influence of Family can show dynamics at play when you feel your buttons have been pushed. At some point you have to take responsibility for your condition and stop looking around for blame. The Family provides an environment that shows us the responsibility of caring where giving is not exhausted because it is done with no strings attached. We care for others because they are a part of us. Nature shows how adaptation mechanisms evolve to help species overcome adversity. These mechanisms are not external. They are inborn, and in the same way all that you will ever need to survive blossoms from within. The underlying cause of Grace offered a message to accept what you cannot change. Now Kùn offers a lesson about adapting and changing to the present circumstances. After a time of Pushing Upward, it is normal to meet with resistance. Sometimes Oppression rises when you are most successful as healthy competition emerges. The greatest thing Kùn presents is that while you may feel weak within, it is exactly those Oppressive situations that reveal an inner strength. It cannot be exhausted because it is not dependent on external conditions. “Keep knocking and the joy inside will eventually open a window to look out and see who is there.” (Rumi) Allow this time of Oppression to reveal the abundance within you.

Life’s gentle prodding

whittles away

the unnecessary -

until only what is necessary


“The Joyous Lake is dispersing water into the Abysmal Water below. Since both bodies of water tend to move downward, eventually the Lake is drained. “There is no water in the Lake” and when oppression appears, you can lose your joy and consider giving up.

The Lake represents a sense of trying to contain fulfillment, while the Abysmal Water suggests a source that is inexhaustible. Kùn’s message is that while you tend to attach yourself to what can be held within the hand, you cannot know today what will come to fulfill you tomorrow. Like an ocean that cannot be depleted because all streams lead back to it, you access a source within that is inexhaustible. It is inexhaustible only when you do not try to contain it. In giving it is only when there are strings attached that we become exhausted. The hidden influence of Family shows us the proper way to support others as if everyone is our Family.

When you model nature, observe how all life forms follow instincts or an inborn pattern of development. Adaptation reveals how oppression ‘out there’ acts as a mechanism to unleash your capabilities ‘in here.’ To measure success only by outward accomplishment, you may fail to see how adversity pushes you back to discover your real capabilities. When you explore your value in the mirror of the unknown, you are ‘just so,’ living the life that you are meant to be living, here and now.

Oppression pushes back against you and has a way of whittling away the unnecessary that leads to exhaustion, until only the necessary remains. The master said: “When great responsibility is about to befall one, life appears to confound all undertakings. Thereby it stimulates the mind, toughens the nature and improves all deficiencies.” Without friction, the unnecessary cannot be carved away. Its message is that “great fullness seems empty.”

To believe that life is working against you will lead to exhaustion and manipulation. That is why the judgment says “there are words that are not honest.” Feeling confined, we may serve base desires with a type of neediness that is not healthy. Success comes when you can approach all of life without prejudice. “With gentle compassion, I can be brave. With economy, I can be liberal. Not presuming to claim precedence in the world I can make myself a vessel fit for the most distinguished service.” In the image of a tree growing within an enclosure, you can be hemmed in and still grow. Success takes root when “you are abundant and yet, not reactive.”

Bamboo symbolizes great virtue because its leaves droop, portraying how one can bow down to the changes and still be content. When the winds of change blow, it moves too, and simply bends in shimmering laughter. Great fullness comes when you recognize success as a pathway of self-completion, and that the seed is always within. “The power that is most sufficient looks inadequate.” When you do not contend, nothing contends with you: that is real power. When there is no longer anything to be removed, you are rich.

Unchanging: If you are abundant but not reactive = nothing gets exhausted. Oppression unchanging can show the long term effects of dealing with a deteriorating situation that you have been unsuccessful in changing. Even with the patience of a saint this can only lead to exhaustion. It may be time to throw in the towel because unchanging, the Oppression is simply confining you in an unhealthy way. You may want an answer or something spoken but the truth and the growth you might have achieved was revealed in the silence. Perhaps you don’t want to face it? Unwilling to adapt to the challenge presented, the opportunity for growth can be missed. This can happen when you are feeling depressed but doing nothing to get out of your rut. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting a different result. “There are words that are not believed” can mean that you have stopped trusting in your intuition, in another or even in the purposeful flow of events. Perhaps you have even begun to lie to yourself? Another may no longer trust what you say as the truth. In this situation somebody feels hemmed in, trapped and movement or communication has stopped. There can be a clash of interests or the exhaustion that comes from not being heard. Perhaps stepping back or changing course is the only way forward. If you feel isolated, talk to someone who can be objective in helping you find your way forward.

Line 1 One sits oppressed under a bare tree and strays into a gloomy valley = for three years one sees nothing. Changes to (58) Joy. Even while the situation clearly shows that nothing is growing, one remains in it. In this case Joy can be a self deluding or escapist approach to ignoring how bad things really are. The only pathway to authentic Joy is in admitting that you may need to face the truth about the situation.

Line 2 One is oppressed while being nourished = a sacrifice for real fulfillment. Changes to (45) Gathering Together. It is not uncommon for even the wealthiest of individuals to feel depressed. This is because no amount of possessions can take the place of real fulfillment. In this situation instant gratification or the search for pleasure has become more important than obtaining lasting fulfillment or making the sacrifice needed for real happiness. You may have gathered a lot of companions but are lacking in real friends.

Line 3 Oppressed by stone and thistles = entering the house and not seeing the spouse, misfortune. Changes to (28) Critical Mass. The situation is one that is severely limiting and some type of change is required. Critical Mass shows how the roof collapses because the foundation is not strong enough. Even while you’d rather not face the need for change, the situation is not sustainable and will collapse. Not seeing the spouse can be a message that you are attempting to make someone something they are not.

Line 4 Being quiet while oppressed and going in a metal carriage = humiliation, but the end is in sight. Changes to (29) Abyss. The situation is one that is not easy but the end of difficulty is in sight. Because of the danger presented the situation can be humiliating although you protect yourself from its affects and remain silent. In fact, the power of silence and the resiliency of spirit can be at play in a way that actually allows the situation to correct itself.

Line 5 Nose and feet cut off, the oppression ignites spirit = it furthers one to make offerings. Changes to (40) Liberation. During a time of oppression or punishment all you can do is to learn from the situation and ensure that your spirit is not broken. The offering can be allowing the ego needs to fall away so that you connect with a spiritual perspective. Liberation suggests freedom although there is not much you can change in the situation. Therefore, Liberation in the face of Oppression can mean acceptance.

Line 6 Oppressed by creeping vines but sad to leave = if going leads to remorse, make changes to achieve good fortune. Changes to (6) Conflict. The situation is unpleasant and does not provide any comfort. However, leaving may not be an option. Perhaps there are changes that can be made that you haven’t considered. Conflict is a condition that asks that you meet opposition half way. Don’t be cynical or overlay the present with negative images of the past. Perhaps the Oppression you feel is merely an illusion.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 47 unchanging Hexagram 47.1 Hexagram 47.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 47.2 Hexagram 47.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 47.3 Hexagram 47.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 47.4 Hexagram 47.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 47.5 Hexagram 47.5.6 Hexagram 47.6