Why would anyone call a collection of books 46. Ascending?

I spent most of my free time over the past six years writing a collection of six novels. I’d never written a book before and, now that I’m finishing the last one, I’m starting to puzzle through what possessed me to do such a thing.

It seemed like fun? I’d always wanted to write fiction? Why the hell not?

Part of the answer lies in something I wrote today to put at the end of the sixth book to explain to any curious reader who had stuck with me exactly why I called this collection of books 46. Ascending.

Here is how I explained it.

  1. It is an I Ching hexagram.
  2. It is what I came up with when I decided that my six proposed books could be made into an I Ching hexagram. Those with a female protagonist would have two lines and those with a male protagonist a single line and book one would be at the bottom and book six at the top because I was pretty sure that was how you were supposed to do it. I thought it was a cool idea.
  3. The lines make Sheng, the I Ching hexagram number 46, as I discovered when I looked up the above cool idea.
  4. Sheng answered the question that bothered me most. The question was not “will my books make money?” or “will I sell a lot of books?” It wasn’t even “will these be good books?” or “will I enjoy writing them?” Those would all have been fine questions. But, this I Ching hexagram answered my question “should I do this or not?”
  5. Researching Sheng, I read that “it is a time of development and progress, the direction is correct” and “hexagram 46 shows a time where a steady progression will occur where the predicted outcome is positive  and “keep working on your plans and maintain confidence in their success.” Those all sure sounded good to me.
  6. My research on 46 Ascending also put this quote in front of me. It is always better to fail in doing something than to excel in doing nothing. – Chinese Proverb . It is undoubtedly a good quote for anyone contemplating anything.
  7. I learned that Sheng was also referred to as the Symbol of Rising and Advancing, Ascending, Ascension, Rising, Promotion, Advancement, Sprouting from the Earth, and Organic Growth. Who can argue with all that?
  8. Sheng’s details included “The emphasis is on upward motion, from obscurity to influence, with growth that is supported by adaptability and an absence of obstacles.” and “Make a sincere effort to apply resolute effort against the forces of inertia, bending around obstacles that arise, and good fortune will follow.
  9. In other words, everything I read about the I Ching hexagram told me loud and clear “write the damn books.” So I did.
  10. Was the universe talking to me? Was I talking to myself? Am I lucky I didn’t put the lines in the reverse order? Those are all great questions. But the one I started to consider was how well did the hexagram fit in with the books themselves.
  11. If you asked me what this collection of books was about, from the beginning I would have told you it was about how all humans have so much more potential than they realize. We can improve, we can rise, we can ascend. Climb the mountain. Move towards the light to the south. You know. Grow.
  12. So this collection of books is named after an I Ching hexagram that not only got me off my butt and writing, but just happened to perfectly describe what it was I was trying to say. Go figure. At the least, it seemed reasonable to name the collection of books after it.

What I don’t address at the end of my novel is the question “did writing the books make me happy?” It’s an important question, but it’s important to me, and not really to my readers. That makes it a more appropriate topic for my blog.

Well …

I can tell you that I wrote these books filled with a sense of energy and purpose unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. Many days, writing wasn’t just what I wanted to do, it was all I wanted to do. It was an addiction, an obsession, and a nepenthe against all the world’s ills. I let it consume me, and I enjoyed the ride.

I emerge at the other end, tireder, older, fifteen pounds heavier and with six years of my life mysteriously gone. But, I was lucky enough to have five people in this world who loved me throughout this process and I was lucky enough to have a way to make a living while I wrote that kept serious worries away. Neither is to be taken lightly and for both I count my blessings.

Everybody always tells you to pursue your passion in life. I don’t think that “everybody” has much of an idea of all that really entails. It changes you in ways you do and don’t like. It’s not always fun. It doesn’t always turn out well, certainly not in the Hollywood kind of way.

But once you’ve done it, you can’t imagine not having done it, if that makes any sense. Like not doing it wasn’t even an option, or at least it shouldn’t have been.

Is that happiness? I’m not sure, but I think it might be something even better.

 

Feeling gratitude in Costa Rica

Costa Rica 2Pick something that you are grateful for.  It sounds like an easy directive, coming from the Qi Gong instructor.  Friends have talked me into joining them on this week-long retreat in beautiful Costa Rica to learn what is commonly called “Chinese Yoga”. We are entering into the meditation phase of the day’s session.

Okay. I do a little Americanized “Hindu Yoga” and I am familiar with the gratitude thing. Good stuff, this feeling of thankfulness. Perhaps it is the Chinese influence, but my first thought is of my parents. Raising me to be open minded, to try new things. Good, that’s settled. I am grateful for my parents.

My Sifu offers more clarification. Yes, I do now have a Sifu. This retreat instructor, by virtue of being my first teacher in this art, is now my “Sifu”, my tutor on this path. Oddly enough, independent western soul that I am, I am completely okay with this. “Make sure you choose something simple, with no complications,” he tells us.

Oh dear. Parents are complicated, aren’t they.  Even basically good and loving ones. Perhaps, for the purposes of this exercise, I need to be grateful for something that carries a little less baggage. That quickly eliminates my spouse, children, sister, job and friends. Let’s try another approach.

Costa Rica 1I open my eyes and steal a quick peak at the gorgeous tropical flowers surrounding the pavilion where these sessions are taking place. My sense of sight. That’s it, I am grateful for my vision.

“This gratitude should erase all worry, remove all the stress from your mind,” my Sifu says.

Oh dear. My eyes have been aging, my vision is not what it used to be.  On some deep level I fear losing my sight in my old age. Maybe this isn’t such a good choice either.

He sees many of us struggling. “Just pick something that brings you joy,” he suggests to the class. “If you really like chocolate,” he says, “be grateful for chocolate.”

Okay, I am not the extreme chocolate lover that some people are, but I do have a similar illicit love affair. Mine is with ice cream. From the almost guilt free lemon sorbet that nursed me through the flu a few months ago to the cappuccino gelato that has no equal, I am grateful for ice cream.

“We are going to use what ever you pick as a focal point all week,” my Sifu adds.

Oh dear. I am always trying to drop a few pounds. Do I really want to spend the whole week focusing on my appreciation of ice cream? Probably not.

“Now concentrate on this gratitude,” he says. I start to panic. What to pick? Something. Quick. Of all the million things I am grateful for doesn’t one, qualify as simple and stress free?

I comes to me. Sunsets. I am grateful for sunsets.

My monkey mind (of which I am hearing a great deal about this week) has not one single objection. Sunsets it is.  I imagine the beautiful colors of the sky at dusk as they burst into oranges and purples. I am grateful.

Costa Rica 3

Read more about my novice attempts to quiet my monkey mind here. Read about other changes this week has wrought here.

To learn more about Qi Gong and what I have spent this past week studying, please visit Sifu Anthony’s website called “Flowing Zen” here.