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I ching

Jian (Obstruction)

I Ching Hexagram 39
Jian (Obstruction)

Action: Innovate

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 64 Before Completion: Prepare

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 38 Opposition: Accommodate

Adversity is how life
unleashes your excellence from within.

You cannot teach a man anything;
you can only help him to find it within. – Galileo

Reading at a Glance: Jian is composed of the Mountain and the danger presented by the Abysmal. Keeping Still on the Mountain doesn’t mean wisdom and enlightenment are a destination or a place to hide from life. Enlightenment is a perspective of openness as the world changes around us. Also, the path ahead will always pose challenges and dangers so it does no good to believe that conflict or difficulty can come to an end. Conflict is the driving force of change and how you approach it determines your success. The hidden influence of Before Completion also suggests a similar message. Obstruction suggests preparing in advance for Innovations. The underlying cause of Opposition revealed how diversity and uniqueness were kept intact during union. In Jian we must bring diverging energies together so that both are transformed. In a world that is not stagnant and always growing, evolution is the rule. Regardless of the Obstruction it has come to teach you about a new approach or a new perspective. The image of someone limping with cold feet reveals how we fall out of circulation with the path or the constant flow of change. We may have a sense of danger and get cold feet, but the feet only grow cold because we stop moving. Sometimes the Obstruction is in the mindset and Keeping Still to observe what events are revealing, you can see the situation differently. Sometimes the Obstruction is on the path because we have wandered away from ourselves. During a time of Obstruction the only real blockage is an unwillingness to change. Anything that comes to block your progress is simply life’s pursuit of a better way. Yes, circumstances may be frighteningly unfamiliar, but there is also great promise of excitement as the old way transforms into a new way.

cracking ice in river

Danger, opportunity

and the cracking of ice.

This path

of closed eyes -

fulfillment falls like rain.

“Through opposition, difficulties arise in the form of obstruction.” Behind you is the Mountain of Keeping Still while ahead of you is the Abysmal Water. Without delving below the unknown aspects of this situation, you cannot proceed.

Opposition is the universal face of change. It leads to innovation and harmony, although union will eventually give way to renewal. Life brings elements together to explore a higher unity, but in time, it also comes to separate what leads to stagnation.

In nature, elements are brought together to encourage growth. When one is alone, the elements that will bring about change will be left to internal alchemy. Self pity is pitted against optimism. But is an optimistic attitude dependent upon external events? Or, is your mysterious mirror so polished and without judgment that you can still meet life with optimistic acceptance? When we are thrown back upon ourselves through Jian, we will discover the answer.

Whether in your personal or professional life, all that appears to block your forward progress is life’s pursuit of a better way. You can curse circumstances and apply your will in a futile attempt to ward off change. On the other hand, you can allow the obstruction to reveal how you might achieve movement in more innovative ways. If you want to get across the Water, you must explore a new way of doing so. Like anything else in the natural world, the path of your evolution is only limited by your unwillingness to move with the changing time.

“Acting from knowledge of the constant, keeps one impartial;” you meet with no difficulty because you do not see it as such. You can observe a world that is becoming, where everything must become stronger. Adversity is simply how life unleashes your excellence from within: something ‘out there’ will make you grow ‘in here.’

You may encounter difficulty, although by remaining still, you will discover the ‘new way’ where the obstacle becomes an opportunity to expand. “Obstruction means difficulty. The danger is ahead. To see the danger and know how to stand still, that is wisdom."

Keeping Still, the obstacle is transforming and you need only learn to see it differently. Jian portrays someone limping, where cold feet have impeded circulation. Cold feet suggest fear and impeding circulation indicates that something is causing a blockage to the natural flow. Rather than flailing about in the waters of stagnation, allow the current to lead you.

The master said: “The path that leads one to encounter further obstruction becomes the only danger.” Obstruction is always a clue that a change in outlook is necessary. You may be limping along a path of extreme resistance, when a different route might be more appropriate and easier.

Like the Chinese image of crisis, which combines danger with opportunity, there is always the danger of continuing, or the opportunity to change direction. You may perceive obstruction as a barrier to your forward progress, but it is also an opportunity to regenerate your ability to climb higher. Our faith in life must sometimes be tested if outworn patterns of thought need to be transformed. Faith is a fire of abundance that rises within regardless of the circumstances we meet.

In Jian, wisdom rises from stillness and the obstruction leads you away from the path of danger. It is only dangerous because it is unnatural to believe that anything can withstand the forces of change. In this situation, you will discover why “those who go against the Way meet with constant difficulty.” The Way is a path of openness.

You can change direction, do what is expected of you, or become still to explore if proceeding on your chosen pathway is correct. If the path before you remains blocked, seek the help of someone knowledgeable enough to guide you.


Obstructions that paralyze = movement is necessary. Because the Mountain of Keeping Still refers to a mindset and Difficulty as the Abysmal remains unchanging before you, the Obstruction you face is something that can’t be changed until you change the way you approach it. Chances are the Obstruction is specifically appearing insurmountable because it isn’t real. In nature Obstruction gives way with time, but if time hasn’t loosened it, this is all the more reason to turn within and examine how your thoughts are the only real Obstruction. Is the path a correct one? Is your own fear operative as Obstruction? You can remain frustrated or step back and see what the Obstruction can teach you about yourself.

Line 1:

Going leads to obstruction = coming meets with praise. Changes to (63) After Completion. The difference between going and coming is expectation. Coming feels like an invitation where going can be associated with fear, escape and sadness. After Completion suggests knowing the cycles and how to wait for the proper time to advance. In this way Obstruction is a timing indicator showing that the time is not right. When meeting obstruction invite dialogue without being defensive. Your willingness to see all sides of a misunderstanding meets with praise.

Line 2:

The king’s servant is beset with obstruction = it is not his fault. Changes to (48) The Well. The Obstruction is a perfect opportunity to pull deeper from your inner resources which couldn’t have happened otherwise. It may seem like there is no choice in the matter but to confront the obstruction head on. The situation is not easy but the cause is greater than just personal ends and your integrity is at stake.

Line 3:

Going leads to obstruction = therefore one comes back. Changes to (8) Union. You may need to wait to see if the situation will reverse itself because pushing forward is futile. Coming back or retreating allows those who depend on you to recognize the value of the relationship. Use this time to fortify unions and alliances. Revisit the goal to see if a change in strategy might allow for advancement.

Line 4:

Going leads to obstruction = coming leads to union. Changes to (31) Influence/Wooing. Going leads to obstruction while coming back brings union. The idea of Wooing is how we attract people because of who we are not by chasing or selling ourselves. Going through difficulty shifts something within that allows others to recognize it is good to follow you. Perhaps you realize the importance of a relationship because of the threat of loss.

Line 5:

In the midst of the biggest obstructions = friends arrive. Changes to (15) Authenticity. It is normal to feel alone when first pioneering change. Often others don’t understand why you would change the status quo. The closer you come to success, the more it seems opposition and competition become overwhelming. Because others begin to see the importance of what you are building they come to your aid. Getting to this point may have been the greatest challenge you have ever faced but once helpers and supporters rally to your cause the way forward moves towards a successful outcome. If you need help, don’t be too proud to ask for it.

Line 6:

Going leads to obstruction, coming leads to good fortune = it furthers one to see the great one. Changes to (53) Development. The master said: “When great responsibility is about to befall one, life appears to confound all undertakings. Thereby it stimulates the mind, toughens the nature and improves all deficiencies.”By proving one’s tenacity in the face of Obstruction one becomes a vessel for distinguished service. You have the choice to give up or to become the great one. By joining forces or examining what is working for someone else you may find a solution to any difficulties.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 39 unchanging Hexagram 39.1 Hexagram 39.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 39.2 Hexagram 39.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 39.3 Hexagram 39.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 39.4 Hexagram 39.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 39.5 Hexagram 39.5.6 Hexagram 39.6