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.

 

Many Paths in Costa Rica

I’ve just finished a week of qigong in Costa Rica, enjoying mountain views, fresh food, water and air, and a recharge of the practice that I began with some skepticism a year ago. Last year I came at the encouragement of an old college friend. This year I bring people of my own, hoping that they too will take to this ancient Chinese art the way that I have.

Dalai3My daughter is an avid practitioner of hatha yoga, and at first she finds the quiet simple exercises underwhelming. As the week wears on, however, she devises ways to blend her more extreme stretches with what is being taught and our instructor, or sifu, is patient with her hybrid efforts. Yes, there is a place for both in her life, she concludes, and she is glad that she has come with me.

My husband is one of the least limber people I know, and he starts the class out relieved that the exercises are relatively tame. He is also the ultimate do-it-yourself person and as I watch him in class I realize that in spite of the years he has spent as a high school teacher, he accepts instruction rather poorly. He can teach and he can collaborate, but just listen, watch and do is barely in his repertoire.

Late in the week, our sifu mentions that we need to accept that not everyone we try to include is going to embrace qigong the way that we have. He is probably talking to many people, but I feel like the comment is meant for me and is about my husband. Unfortunately, he uses a phrase that causes a visceral reaction in another whole arena. “You must accept that not everyone is ready for qigong,” he says. No, I scream back in my head. Don’t use the word ready.

Ready implies that there is only one way. As a Catholic child in a small Catholic town, I was taught that not all Christians were ready to become Catholics and we should help prepare them lest they be relegated to a lesser place in heaven. Later, evangelical Christians shook their heads at me when I argued with them about the narrowness of their faith, assuring me that I would come to believe what they did when I was ready. At least they hoped so, as they just hated the idea of my being tortured for an eternity.

I wasn’t ready for Eckankar, or ready for EST and I’m still not ready for any organized religion that asks me to accept that it offers the only way. I’m not an only kind of gal. One of my favorite quotes from Buddha is that there are many paths to the top of the mountain, and this quote alone has helped me embrace qigong.

I’m also not one to suffer in silence. At the next break I take my sifu aside, and share my discomfort. He is a very reasonable man, and a reflective one as well. After a few seconds of thought he agrees that I have a good point. During the next class the word ready is stricken from the record. “Qigong isn’t for everyone,” he corrects himself. “Others have other paths and it is good to accept that.”

Yes, it is. My husband has agreed to practice qigong for thirty days and now that he is no longer being instructed he is beginning to show a little more enthusiasm. We’ll see. Maybe this is a path he will want to walk along with me, for awhile at least. I still hope so, but if not it is okay. He needs to walk his path.  I need to walk mine. You need to walk yours. We all need to let each other get to the top of the mountain using the route that is best for us.

How do your find your path? I think that you know it in your own heart. You just have to stop and listen.

 

For more on my own personal story of my Costa Rica qigong experiences please see
1. Embracing the Yin in Costa Rica,
2. Finding Forgiveness in Costa Rica
3. Breathing Deeply in Costa Rica and
4. Animal play in Costa Rica

If you would like to know more about qigong, please visit Flowing Zen
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