I Ching #26: Great Restraint




This post is #26 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. If you are just starting this series, you may want to take a look at some of my other posts on the I Ching.



When you are accomplished, there is no need to prove yourself. You should move forward, i.e.: “cross the Great River” as it says in this hexagram of the I Ching. This hexagram is represented by Heaven under a mountain. Although mountains are strong, Heaven is all-encompassing.  If Heaven is contained within the boundaries of a mountain, there takes huge restraint to hold it in.

This restraint can have many faces. Perhaps someone you love is behaving recklessly and you are challenged by their behavior. A person of great restraint holds their tongue and lets the other person work through their own challenges. Another possibility is that someone is rude to you. Although it may be tempting to be rude back to them, a person of great restraint will not fall prey to the easy response of returning like with like.

In many of the variations of this hexagram, there is the suggestion to “cross the great river”. In the days when these hexagrams were first written, and even now in certain corners of the world, crossing a great river is a dangerous undertaking. River depth can be unpredictable, even when the river area is known. To “cross the great river” in modern terms is to undertake something difficult and unpredictable. The advice suggested by this hexagram is that you should go forward with the crossing if you have prepared yourself with great restraint.

People of virtue practice the qualities of virtue every day. Another suggestion made by this hexagram is to “not eat at home”. In Chinese culture, it is a good omen to share your meals with others when you have been fortunate. Eating at home signifies keeping your good fortune to yourself and this is not a good thing.

We all have been put here to accomplish great things – to cross great rivers – in our lives. If we are fortunate, our job is to share the good things we’ve learned and to bite our tongue when we know more than others in some areas. Everyone’s rivers are different, but you can be sure that we all have them. What is your great river? What is it that you are here to do? Be bold today. Take this sagely advice and move forward.


  1. Amy, your writing is deeply effective. I’m glad your heaven is not being contained by a mountain.
    kimberly recently posted…Today’s 5KMy Profile

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