I Ching #22: The Traps of Adornment

Porte chinoise du zoo de berlin, Allemagne.

This post is #22 of 64 hexagrams in a series of posts about the I Ching, an ancient Taoist text that has many ties to the Tao Te Ching. For those of you new to this series, you may want to start by reading my post called “What is a Hexagram?” that helps to explain more about the general idea of the I Ching.


With all this talk these last few months of SoulSpacing, and adorning our homes with beautiful things, this hexagram was a pleasant treat. I especially liked Deng Ming Dao’s interpretation of the text in The Living I Ching. He explained how adornment of our buildings, our objects and ourselves is a cultural thing. We could use a plain bowl to serve dinner to our family, but dinner is more special when we serve it in our favorite bowls and our favorite linens, right? As Deng Ming-Dao warns us, adornment can also be tricky. We must not get too distracted by the fancy bowls or we will fall into the trap of adornment as well.

All around us, there are opportunities to create a sense of sacredness in our lives through special care of our surroundings. I recently read this article about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, where it seems that even how we fold things can hold beauty and meaning. There is an art to paying attention to our spaces, which can be a feat in itself. I’ve lost this awareness when I let the dust bunnies hold a gathering under my bed or allow piles to sit in the corners of rooms. But, like any practice in awareness, each moment is new and I can start again. It’s a never-ending process of deepening my relationship with my stuff.

The true beauty of adornment goes beyond new furniture or clean surfaces. A gorgeous hotel lobby does not hold a candle to a lovingly caressed garden space filled with plants and furniture that were hand-crafted and designed especially for that space by a gardener who spends every waking moment tending his floral crops and creating furniture in his garage by hand. The energy generated by such love of a space and care towards its beauty is palpable. We create this feeling of love and care in our homes when we do our SoulSpacing.

Sometimes the word “adornment” can be perceived as false and pretentious – resulting in a competition – a “Keeping-Up-with-the-Jones” battle. When I first wanted to study the SoulSpace book, I struggled with this idea of writing about my home renovations on a blog that is supposed to be “spiritual” in nature. Was finding new dish towels for my kitchen spiritual? I struggled with the justification for this. Part of me knew that it was a spiritual practice, but another part of me was worried about getting too caught up in the materialism of it all. It’s a fine dance.

It is all about the intention with adornment. In order to not fall into the trap of adornment, we must stay present to our intentions. Our intentions must remain pure as we work to make our spaces beautiful or we run the risk of creating a hotel lobby feel and this is not what we want. In our SoulSpace group, we had a conversation once about someone who had visited a friend’s home that was very beautiful but that lacked character. It had looked like it was designed for a photo shoot for House Beautiful but did not reflect the true personality of its owners. We discussed this, as there was an obvious problem in this situation that we were struggling to identify. Our stuff is an extension of who we are. One can be adorned with all the finery in the world, but what is the relationship between the inner person and the outer person? Are they congruent? If we follow the practices by Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, we will ask ourselves, “Do I love this?” with each of our belongings and feel confident that our surroundings truly reflect who we are at our best.

In the story of this hexagram, there was a man who approached a woman with white hair riding a white horse. At first, he seemed like he might be a bit suspicious but then the woman realized that he was actually a very nice man. His intentions were good and he was successful, but only because his pure appearance was paired with his good intentions. One cannot work without the other. Our lovingly hand-crafted spaces are much better than hotel lobbies because they are imbued with our love. This love is the key to adornment. The love is what makes the adornment pure.

As we look about our spaces or even as we look at our reflection in the mirror, what do we see? Is the story we are telling congruent with who we are at our best? This is the heart of SoulSpacing! Tomorrow, we are coming out of a month-long break from the SoulSpace Online Book Club and starting the book again from the beginning. It’s a really fun group. If it interests you, I hope that you will join us as we go through a deeper dive into our spaces to adorn them with our true natures.

What about you? What do you notice about yourself or your space? Does it reflect who you are or is there something that stands out as incongruent? Tell us about it in the comments.


  1. As you may know, a friend of mine recently passed away. Her memorial was on Saturday and the family invited everyone back to their home afterwards. That home is a true reflection of her. I’ve been in it many times and I can honestly say I’ve seen no equal in terms of a home as imbued with the owner’s spirit.
    Kelly L McKenzie recently posted…Lessons Learned Shoe ShoppingMy Profile

  2. Thanks for your always insightful perspective, Amy. I find space – and the amount I care for it – depends a lot on whether it feels like mine. I guess I wasn’t brought up in a way that allowed me to make my space mine (I always marveled at friend’s bedrooms where posters and stray items were permitted) so tended toward the barn then (had a great hidden fort in the hayloft no one knew about except my cat), which I added gardens to as it carried over into adult life. Sounds weird, I know, but with the exception of my office I designed then expanded to an apartment (painted a different color on every wall), I’ve never really thought much about decorating indoor spaces. You provide some great ideas to consider as I set off in search of a place I can call home.
    Nanette Levin recently posted…Driving into DarknessMy Profile

    • You bring up a great point, Nanette. When we are kids, our personal spaces may or may not be reflections of ourselves but I think it is interesting how you created a space in the barn to make it your own anyways. When I was growing up (and even today), my most special places are outside in nature.
      amy recently posted…I Ching #22: The Traps of AdornmentMy Profile

  3. Thanks for your thought provoking post Amy. I like what you said about keeping our intentions clear. Our homes are a reflection of who we are and a sterile space is not me. I like having my things around me, they make me smile. I probably could do an inventory and ask myself if I love all my things or if I can let go of some of them.
    Nancy Jambor recently posted…Attitude of GratitudeMy Profile

    • It is always good to be aware of what we love and don’t love of our belongings. The problem I have is that I have too many of them, so I don’t even have time to figure it out. But I am making time for it these next few months as we head back into another deep dive with SoulSpacing.
      amy recently posted…I Ching #22: The Traps of AdornmentMy Profile

  4. I love the reflection that shows up in our spaces of our true inner self. Although I have moments of frustration and sadness in the process, I have those in life too and I can see in my current space all the work I’ve done…all the growth I’ve experienced over the last few years and that is amazing. I definitely see adornment as a process of creating sacred space rather than keeping up with anyone or doing something for any other reason than feeding my soul and providing comfort…soul comfort around me.
    Michele Bergh recently posted…Time to Get Your eCourse Completed!My Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge