I intend to post on here every new moon.
If you’re not sure when that is, check the lunar
calendar and countdown below.

See you then!


countdown to the the next new moon on Saturday, November 18th at 11.42 a.m. (GMT):

Comment here about any of the posts below if
you'd like to! I look forward to hearing from you :)

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If I have a guiding principle in life, it’s death

Illustration from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

When I first came upon Carlos Castaneda's series of books as a teenager, I was struck by the revelation of using the awareness of death’s inevitability to lend depth and focus to life:

Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you're about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you're wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, 'I haven't touched you yet.

Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan

This awareness has stayed with me, as an abiding gratitude for the gift of life: one reason I sign my artwork with a turtle image is in honour of the old Buddhist story about how extremely rare it is to be born as a human. The possibility of this happening is likened to a blind turtle living on the bed of a vast ocean, who only surfaces once every hundred years, just chancing to put its head up through a single wooden ring floating, tossed by the wind and waves, on the surface of the water.

As well as the grand awareness that one day we must shuffle off this mortal coil, embracing change and growing into our being on a deeper level relies on continually dying to who we have been.

Esoteric astrologer Elizabeth Jones recently paraphrased an insight on this theme from a profound but anonymous teacher of hers:

What happens when we experience a kind of death within? In a spiritual context, a death is a movement from a certain level of involvement in your personality, to a new level of connection to your soul. In the interim, it requires entering a void ~ which we may be uncomfortable with, because we don’t have any sense of what the next form will look or feel like as we enter it.

And Steiner makes a similar point in An Outline of Occult Science:

It is precisely the knowledge of the supersensible that can shed clear light upon the beautiful words of Goethe: "Nature has invented death that she might have abundant life." Just as there could be no life in the ordinary sense of the word without death, so can there be no true knowledge of the visible world without insight into the supersensible. All knowledge of what is visible must plunge again and again into the invisible in order to evolve.

When I was asked to illustrate Emma Gillespie’s beautiful song inspired by the death of her young friend, The Story Goes On, then, I knew this was a project I truly wanted to put my heart into...and it was a joy to work on. It was all shot and edited in Scotland this spring; some at Rennaldburn’s clear waters, but much of it on the way to the Skye ~ and on the otherworldly island itself.

As Emma does, I hope that it will help give solace to those touched by death in their life.

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    Below are two previous blog ventures:
    the button will take you to fifty-odd posts
    I made on Tumblr from 2015-2016 before
    I returned to the way back here…

    …and beneath is trial no.1; my first posts
    from 2014, made en-site as I tried to construct
    a blog page from scratch ~ before I realised
    life could be easier than that :)

    November 27th, 2014

    Becoming Visionary Mini out soon!

    by Shen

    The counter on my Kickstarter project for creating a prototype version of my
    Zhouyi deck has just switched from counting the days left 'til it finishes
    to counting the hours, so this is clearly a somewhat belated post!

    My only excuse is that I'm not aware of anyone reading this blog yet,
    so writing on here at the moment is a bit like having a private
    journal I'm pretty sure is very well hidden :)

    It's exciting times on my kickstarter page (which stays
    up 'forever') though ~ there are some great comments on
    there, and I'm really touched by all the support I've been given.

    I don't think I'm being too optimistic in believing I'm going to reach
    my thousand-pound goal, as I'm only just over £100 away now!

    If my optimism is justified, this means that I'll shortly
    have some handmade, limited edition mini decks for
    sale to you on returntotheway, which I'm thrilled about.

    More news about this soon ~ but for now I just wanted
    to get this basic post up before going to bed.

    I'll just illustrate 'going to bed' with an unpublished kids
    book illustration I did years ago because...well, because
    it's my website and I can put what I like on here!

    Especially while no-one's watching :)

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    September 14th, 2014

    Asking a Big Question

    by Shen

    Note added 22nd September:

    Though I knew the subject of this post on
    what the Zhouyi thinks about the idea of an
    independent Scotland would soon be old news,
    I spent some time putting it together as I think it gives a
    good example of the Zhouyi's response to a Big Question.

    It's also a reminder to you to keep a record of
    your 'old' questions
    both big and small, as looking back at readings after it became clear
    which way the issue you were seeking clarity on actually panned out is
    a great way to become more familiar with how the Oracle works. (Though
    in this case, of course, there's no way of telling since it didn't happen!)

    Additionally, recording readings is a valuable tool to help you to
    honestly track your own shifting focus and intent, as by observing
    the questions you chose to ask, you get a mirror into which
    issues were at the forefront of your consciousness.

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    Scotland from the Mathew Paris map, c. 1250

    I usually find political topics the last to engage my passions ~
    but as a part-English person with a vote in this historic election &
    todays news being that the result is now 'too close to call', I felt the
    urge to share another perspective: that of the Zhouyi, who I
    asked these questions of a couple of weeks ago as
    I was trying to make the best decision.

    When I did the readings, I was completely undecided, so
    wasn't trying to skew the response to what I desperately wanted
    to be the right one. (Never a good way to interact with the oracle! :)

    The answer I got to the question 'What would be the
    result of Scotland becoming independent?'
    was earth-over-mountain: humility.

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    This was a particularly prized asset in ancient China, where people clearly
    hadn't got around to glorifying celebrity. And if someone was celebrated, they were
    expected to be demure about it and not keep track of their sum total of twitter followers.

    As the Zhouyi remarks, high mountains are worn down by the waters, and the valleys
    are filled up. It is the law of fate to undermine what is full and to prosper the
    modest. And men also hate fullness and love the modest.

    This is undeniable ~ but I've also had personal experience of getting this
    response from the Zhouyi to wake me up to the reality of my humble identity
    as a Very Unimportant Person. (It was in answer to me asking about asking
    Eckhart Tolle to write the forward to my book and, in this context,
    meant "Get real, girl, that ain't happening anytime soon.")

    So, back to Scotland's reading: the second line was changing,
    with the guidance that modesty comes to expression.This tells us that
    when a man's attitude of mind is so modest that this expresses itself in his outward behaviour,
    it is a source of good fortune to him. For the possibility of exerting a lasting influence
    arises of itself and no one can interfere.
    (not even England.)

    Apart from containing a caution for Scotland not to become arrogant if given power and autonomy,
    this clearly speaks to its undeniably humble position at the moment...and for a few hundred years.

    The power of this transforming second line changes humility into rising, wood under the earth.

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    This indicates work as hard as that undertaken by a shoot pushing up
    through the ground ~ but promises great success as a result, promising a
    direct rise from lowliness and obscurity to power and influence.

    This made the situation abundantly clear to me: beyond any focus on
    the many and varied issues involved, what was being highlighted was the
    spirit of the issue as a deep desire for change which needs to be honoured.

    Curious for the first time about the details of Scotland's 1707 union with
    England, I found that 'Sir George Lockhart of Carnwath, the only member
    of the Scottish negotiating team against union, noted that "The whole nation
    appears against the Union" and even Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, an
    ardent pro-unionist and Union negotiator, observed that the treaty was
    "contrary to the inclinations of at least three-fourths of the Kingdom".

    Public opinion against the Treaty as it passed through the
    Scottish Parliament was voiced through petitions from shires, burghs,
    presbyteries and parishes. The Convention of Royal Burghs also
    petitioned against the Union and not one petition in favour of
    an incorporating union was received by Parliament.

    On the day the treaty was signed, the carilloner in
    St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, rang the bells in the
    tune 'Why should I be so sad on my wedding day?'

    Threats of widespread civil unrest resulted
    in Parliament imposing martial law.'


    I was now becoming fairly convinced ~ but also did a reading to cover
    the 'better together' option, which at that time was looking more likely.

    I got heaven under water, waiting, which I call gathering strength.

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    This is about not rushing into things, of letting them unfold at their own pace,
    just as we cannot schedule blessing rains to fall from the sky. But though the
    second line was also changing in this reading, it has a very different feel here:

    'The danger gradually comes closer. Sand is near the bank of the river, and
    the water means danger. Disagreements crop up. General unrest can easily
    develop in such times, and we lay the blame on one another. He who stays
    calm will succeed in making things go well in the end. Slander will be
    silenced if we do not gratify it with injured retorts.'

    To me this brings to mind a situation like that of a family in which
    the teenage daughter, though legally old enough, is told she's forbidden to
    leave home as she's not ready yet: you canimagine the rows, the door-slamming,
    the mutual feeling of unfairness and being misunderstood.

    If it's a 'no', the issue, having been raised, won't just go away ~ and not just
    in the barely-still united kingdom, as other provinces which have been denied
    independence, like Catalunya, have been reminded of their claims.

    This 'no' reading changes to water over fire, fulfilment: the one gua
    in which every line is in the right place (each yin - broken - and yang -
    unbroken - line having correct and incorrect placements.)

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    In a way, though, this is not as good as it sounds, as the Zhouyi, forever mindful
    of the developing seeds of coming situations, tells us that the natural way for perfect
    balance to evolve, unless one is relentlessly mindful, is into total imbalance.

    The water over fire shows us the image of a kettle boiling over
    a fire, picture of homely harmony ~ if the fire doesn't burn down
    too low or reach up too high, the water doesn't boil dry or boil over.

    To conclude this long post, I have to disclose a vested interest:
    just before I did my readings, my local postie asked which way I was
    leaning, which at that point was more towards the staying together option.

    He responded with horror, and said he'd buy me a chocolate bar if I voted yes.
    This arrived promptly with the next post with an official delivery note:

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    It's not about the chocolate, though. More about the fact that, as
    Kevin Bridges points out, as a proper foreign country we could get
    our very own time zone, six-pin plug sockets, currency based on
    the smackyarooni and a royal family chosen by lottery.

    It has to be
    aye :)

    What do you think of the Zhouyi's view?

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    August 27th, 2014

    moving into movement

    by shen

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    I've just created a playlist on youtube
    to act as a sketchbook for me to share
    the journey of working on ~ and playing with ~
    Becoming Visionary: re-creating an enchanted
    world with the transformative power of Zhouyi.

    So if you have any video requests, let me know!

    My intent with this is to follow the
    suggestion I give in chapter one of
    imperfect action being better than perfect inaction.
    (Read the whole of chapter one here :)

    In this spirit, I made this first video-sketch
    after being inspired to record a song-sketch
    about a little yellow bird I saw, absorbed in eating
    thistle seeds by the burn behind my house.

    I would have loved to have filmed him too (I later
    found he was a siskin) but I was too engrossed
    in relishing the moment and writing the song!

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    song for a siskin

    I’m sitting alone not lonely on harebell hill
    Wondering if I’ll touch the heart but knowing I will
    A tiny yellow bird is pecking at thistledown
    Sending it flying all around me, there’s no way to frown
    While a yellow bird in August sunshine is plucking thistledown
    And the burn it flows so sweetly as the grasses sway upon the ground
    Shaken by the gentle breezes blowing all around
    And the endless blue above me is filled with thistledown


    When I was seven I ran after thistledown
    Called it catching wishes as I cupped my hands around
    The fragile faerie form inside holding the wish I’d found
    Then I’d open up my fingers, hear a joyful silent sound
    As my wish danced with playful winds who tumbled it around
    Sent it soaring high then gently drifting down
    Those were the days when I wished on thistledown
    But with all the magic in me then, there’s no alchemy I’ve found
    That equals being enfolded in the wishes liberated now
    By a tiny yellow sunshine bird adoring thistledown


    Oh yes: you may be wondering what all this has to do with the Zhouyi.
    To which the answer is: Directly? Nothing at all. Indirectly? Everything.

    One of the things I love about this mysterious path is the way that it's
    expanded my conception of myself, supporting me in questioning my
    assumptions of who I thought I was and allowing me to go beyond them.
    (In this example, realising I didn't need to limit myself to being a visual artist.)

    I hope you can find this freedom and fulfilment within the Zhouyi, too.

    Or, of course, you may find something entirely different, just as profound
    but which I didn't think of mentioning as it hasn't been a part of my journey.

    If anyone reading this has begun their own explorations with
    the Zhouyi which they'd like to share, I'd love to hear them.
    And if you'd like to share something but just not quite
    so publicly, you can send it to:

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    August 22nd, 2014

    the door is round and open

    by shen

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    In Becoming Visionary, I quote Rumi’s poem The Breeze at Dawn:

    The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
    Don’t go back to sleep.
    You must ask for what you really want.
    Don’t go back to sleep.
    People are going back and forth across the doorsill
    where the two worlds touch.
    The door is round and open.
    Don’t go back to sleep.

    …but for some time I have been going back to sleep,
    irresistibly pulled deeper into the alluring and sheltered Dreaming world.

    This morning, though, woken by my cat jumping into bed with me before four in the morning
    and purring like an engine, I decided to get up. Looking at a floor strewn with paperwork, I was
    vaguely wondering where to start creating a bit of space inside when a rising golden crescent
    moon, perfectly framed between the trees, took my breath away and called me out.

    Somehow, more than I’d ever been aware of before, all the constellations
    harmoniously echoed the shadowed shapes of the horizon, reminding me of the
    extraordinary book The Star Mirror by Mark Vidler. (“At the dawn of the new millennium
    the brightest stars of the sky are coming into unprecedented alignments with the highest mountains
    on earth and forming mirror images with sacred sites around the world.

    This night, they seemed unprecedentedly aligned with my humble high dale.

    Above the sleeping valley, which overflowed with luminous
    moonlit mist like a chalice held in offering, a line of light ~ one of
    the last of the Perseids meteor shower ~ pierced the darkness.

    Where the two worlds touch felt tangibly,
    sublimely present ~ right here, right now.

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    May 14th, 2014

    blissful beltane

    by shen

    The dawn chorus is at its peak and
    all of life is in full abundant manifestation,
    with the Beltane full moon tonight
    (lunar countdown here).
    Life is sweet.

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    Sticking to the abundant manifestation theme,
    I’m excited to announce that each of the Zhouyi’s
    sixty-four hexagrams, or gua, now has its own page!

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    Much doing things sixty-four times still needs to follow
    so that the name, a quote, links and more are all on there
    too, but at least each gua now has space to grow into.

    Rather than identify all of them by name on the sub-menu
    (of the ‘oracle cards’ page) I reckoned it was more user-friendly
    ~ particularly if you want to look up a reading from elsewhere,
    in which case the name and number could well be different ~
    to identify them according to the trigrams, or ‘primary gua’
    which make them up, as these never change.

    (Apart from when they change into each other, of course,
    which is a main feature of the Book of Changes ~
    but that's another story for another time :)

    Therefore joy, for example...

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     ...is tagged as lake under lake.

    I'll be working on expanding these
    gua pages in the following weeks.
    (later note: er, make that months)

    For today, have a blissful Beltane!

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    That the Sabian symbol for this Scorpio full Moon is
    Crowds Coming Down The Mountain To Listen To One
    Inspired Man
    is very apt, as this is also the most
    sacred Buddhist festival: Wesak, anniversary
    of Buddha's birth, death and enlightenment.

    A potent way to honour this day is to focus with
    renewed dedication on one's spiritual aspirations
    and practise, including simple kindness to others.

    The rewards for such efforts are said to be
    immeasurably magnified not only on the day
    of the full moon, but throughout the whole
    of the sacred, merry month of May.

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    Buddha the Conquerer by Nicholas Roerich, 1925

    If you can't fit in hours of practise this Wesak,
    the esoteric tradition teaches that Buddha returns
    to Earth for eight precious minutes at the moment of
    this full moon, and that this is the most potent time in
    the whole yearly cycle to be receptive to spiritual
    attunement ~ and to chant the powerful
    Great Invocation:

    From the point of Light within the Mind of God
    Let light stream forth into the minds of men.
    Let Light descend on Earth.
    From the point of Love within the Heart of God
    Let love stream forth into the hearts of men.
    May Christ return to Earth.
    From the centre where the Will of God is known
    Let purpose guide the little wills of men—
    The purpose which the Masters know and serve.
    From the centre which we call the race of men
    Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
    And may it seal the door where evil dwells.
    Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.

    I have to admit that, though having been taught this
    many years ago, and resonating with the energy and
    spirit of the words as a whole, I haven't used it as a
    practise, as I got stuck on my resistance to the line
    "and may it seal the door where evil dwells."

    This, for me, evoked imagery of a cellar door to
    a dark room full of malevolent, disowned shadow
    forces who, when someone unsealed the door (as
    inevitably happens in fairy tales) would burst out,
    madder and more malevolent than ever.

    Writing this blog reminded me that the gift of
    the Invocation remained unused by me: there had
    seemed no way around it, as I couldn't put all of my
    heart into something which didn't feel wholly right ~
    and making any change would have felt sacrilegious.

    Then I came upon an entreaty ~ by the spiritual teacher
    known in esoteric circles simply as the Tibetan ~ for "a united
    use of The Great Invocation
    on the day of The Wesak full moon."

    This mentioned that "All whom you can reach in the countries of the world
    must be instructed and helped to spread the use of the Invocation in their
    own language,
    and with the wording that will make it acceptable..."

    With this encouragement, I decided to pen a version that evoked no
    resistance in me ~ that I could happily use ~ and came up with this one:

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    This is my Beltane/Wesak offering, and what I'll
    be invoking as the moon becomes full tonight.

    What would be your most heartfelt, uplifting
    offering and invocation? I'd love to know.

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    the integration of LiSe's interpretation

    by Shen

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    Lise Heyboer

    I am honoured to announce that LiSe Heyboer, author
    of the beautiful and profound site, Yi Jing, Oracle of the Sun,
    has let me know that she is happy for each of my gua images
    to have a direct link to her interpretation of the Yi Jing.

    LiSe's interpretation is only available online: as she says,
    the ability to change things on a website, rather then them being
    bound into a book, means 'it really is the book of changes, in all respects.'

    There is much wisdom and insight in her words, which are clearly
    based on a deep, loving and long-standing connection with the Zhouyi.
    Her approach is also inspired by imagery, rooted as it is in her
    understanding of the ancient ideograms of the Yi Jing:

    “What I love most about Yi are the Chinese characters.
    Every one of them is a painting, a landscape, or a story.
    Nothing is severely defined, they are open,
    like feelings, or like images in dreams.

    It is also what I like most in your website,
    the dreamlike images which leave the space wide open.
    I think getting an image as an answer is much better than words.

    In China,the Yi Jing is filled with images, but in a translation
    they get lost. A character has to be squeezed into one word,
    as if you try to narrow down a painting to one word."

    To access LiSe’s interpretation for each gua on the oracle cards page,
    just click the ideogram (a symbol which represents an idea)
    beneath it ~ like this ideogram for lake under wood/wind,
    known as inner truth, which takes you to LiSe's
    insights about it on Oracle of the Sun:

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    Do you resonate with LiSe's interpretations?
    Have you found any other interpretations you'd like to share?

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    © shenpen chökyi 2013-2016