I Ching: Hexagram # 18 – Decay


Oh my.This next hexagram is a doozy! And, of course, perfectly fitting to the work that we are doing in our SoulSpace group!

When I started the SoulSpace Online Book Club, I was a little concerned about the relevance of sorting through all this stuff in my house and how this might relate to my blog topic, the Tao Te Ching (or, in the bigger picture, to the Tao in general). As it turns out, the I Ching is reminding me this month that all of this is connected. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about spiritual topics like studying an ancient text or if we are talking about cleaning out our closets. All of these things relate to my practice of the Tao.

In this hexagram, the lesson is about how “inertia and indifference can lead to decay” (from Wilhelm translation, 1950). Have we not seen that inside the inner depths of our closets? Or the back of our drawers in the fridge? It also talks about how “rigid traditions can result in decay.” We have found this in our possessions, left to us by those passed, that we are now finding it difficult to part with. When I read this line, I thought of the rigid traditions of keeping stuff. Some have shared of being encouraged to keep gifts and cards, furniture from extended family members, childhood items to be kept for our children’s children… these are traditions that do not need to be continued. We can continue them if our hearts want this, but we must not be held to these traditions.

If you are not sure what a hexagram is, read my post that explains what it is.

The work is getting deep here with our spaces. I can feel it. We are purging all these things and at times it frees up our energy and at times we feel stuck. Tonight is one of those times that I feel stuck. As Hua Ching Ni puts it, in his translation, “A place that does not receive air becomes decayed and rotten, thus we have the image of corruption.”

The ideogram for this hexagram is a bowl with worms in it eating decayed matter. Does that not totally describe some of our spaces we have been clearing this week in the book club? He goes on to say that “corruption has already manifested and can no longer be ignored.” So many of the people in our group have said that they NEEDED this group. There is a sense for me that I had to do something about my space. It was choking me.

At one point, Kim mentioned something I thought was interesting. She said, “I have emotional ups and downs with the releasing and I notice that when I tire I tend to put things back and not release as easily. This is so interesting to be conscious of the process. I re-read today (in the book) that we need to connect with what we’re letting go of so that it will be a conscious letting go and we’ll know the reasoning. I took from that that if I do it too quickly, I may then unconsciously want it back. Weird but kind of cool too. Demanding that we stay aware.”

I went back to find this line after reading this hexagram because it spoke to me of what is being asked of us here in this chapter. As we are releasing this stuff in our homes, we must use caution. Be conscious as you go through things and let them go completely so that they do not return.

According to Hua Ching Ni, “Patience, gentleness and tact are essential when correcting past mistakes, especially when loved ones are involved; otherwise disturbance and destruction will ensue. Since the present contains positive as well as negative accumulations of the past, one must be very careful when correcting past errors not to destroy the positive effects.” This was quoted directly out of this hexagram’s commentary by Hua Ching Ni! Wow.


I will finish this post by retelling a story that is written in the commentary of this same I Ching book. An emperor had heard of a very special rose garden. His own garden was the finest in the land so of course he had to see this special rose garden for himself that everyone was raving about! So he went to visit. As he walked around the garden, there were no roses! He was disappointed! Then, he spotted a gorgeous rose. It was the only one in the garden. He fell in love with it and decided to name it the Queen Rose. Was this really a special rose? No. It was just like any ordinary rose, but all the rest had been removed so this rose stood out as special.

What do you think of this hexagram’s lessons? Tell us about it in the comments!


  1. Oh yes Amy – this IS the perfect hexagram for our SoulSpace work this week! And I really have to say I love how you’re combining you’re deepening your study of the I Ching as you work on creating your SoulSpace. This feels like such a perfect reflection of who I see you as – always refining and bringing into wholeness.
    Deborah Weber recently posted…Starry-Eyed WondersMy Profile

  2. Great piece! Such thoughtfulness around this topic and the art of letting go. I know it’s true for me that when I get tired the process is much harder for me.
    Michele Bergh recently posted…Living Inspired By DesignMy Profile

  3. Amy, in my comment on Hexagram 17 I wondered how this #18 would fit in with your situation. Your explanation here is a great answer.
    Louis Weltzer recently posted…SONG OF THE WEEK – THE DEVILMy Profile

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