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I ching

Kǎn (Abyss)

I Ching Hexagram 29

Kǎn (Abyss)

Action: Relinquish

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 27: Nourishing Vision: Nurture

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 30: Clarity: Persist

If you cannot change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails and let it guide you.

For the benefit of the flowers, we water the thorns too. – Egyptian Proverb

Reading at a Glance: Kǎn reveals how we explore a path even when it feels dangerous. Whatever your question, there is an element of needing to go deep below the surface to uncover what is really happening no matter how frightening. The idea of Nourishing Vision can also lead to staying away because of fear. In every hero journey, just when success is on the horizon, the nemesis reappears. Will we fight or flee? Will we allow the challenge to teach us something? Will we continue to Nourish Vision in unhealthy ways? We are told not to Persist in an old way even when we might not understand the new way. This is similar to the dark night of the soul where life seems to engulf us in confusion and we give up hope. Can you honestly look back and not see the meaning for any challenges you faced? The situation is highly charged, but like the hero, going through the danger is necessary to discover who you are, what you really need and what you are capable of accomplishing. In hero myths one often discovers that the nemesis is actually a teacher, sometimes even a parent! In this case, the dangerous flow of water that has engulfed you will lead somewhere beneficial if you just relinquish control. There is great power and realizations to be obtained when confronting fear in the deep waters of the unconscious. The current of events can be overwhelming like a deluge, but there is a benevolent aspect at play which is seeking to set you free. Along with the dangerous abyss you must descend into, we see an image of a cap with wings signifying one who teaches others how to transcend difficulty because of actual experience. You might rise above the danger with the faith that all is unfolding as it should. You can also choose to allow the situation to lead you deeper into your own psyche and emotional dynamics. Using humor or escapism to mask the danger won’t work. The winged cap isn’t a toy and doesn’t magically appear so you can just rise above or hide from difficulty. It requires work to achieve enlightenment. However you decide to proceed, after a time of meeting the Abyss, you will become more sincere in your outlook. This is what is meant by ‘if you are sincere, you will meet with success.’ Kǎn is a time of testing. Clarity as the underlying cause can be a message that an old outlook can no longer serve the new person you are becoming. Nourishing Vision as the hidden influence can remind you that even when the way forward seems to threaten your idea of safety, energy is working deep within to transform your confusion into clear vision. Kǎn is the keeper of the night self and embodies that part of us that knows exactly who we are and where we need to be. Trust the process at play in your situation and pay attention to your dreams. Even nightmares are a positive sign that authentic power is being returned to the psyche. The hidden or Shadowed side of life is every bit as important as what you see by daylight. This is the ultimate hero’s journey of self discovery. If you can awaken to how you project the past upon experiences, you will discover that fear is a fertile garden, and once transformed, becomes that place where dreams are planted to become reality.

snowy river flowing water in moutains and sunset

And the freedom

of dispersion:


energetic elixir.

Scatter your fog.

“The water flows uninterrupted toward its goal.” The Abysmal Water is above and below, revealing a flooding ravine that suggests danger. While life coaxes you toward gentle transformation, you can refuse, although events will take you there anyway. If you are swept away by its current, you will discover how life opens you to self discovery.

The master said: “What is tightly held in the arms cannot slip loose,” but when the waters are raging, you will let go. Sometimes it is only through the Abysmal that your arms are opened and your hands are set free. Whatever remains, will return you to sincerity, while deepening your connection to life.

Without trusting in the flow of events, the situation becomes threatening, but only in proportion to the disparity that exists between the necessary transition and your fear of going there. When you recognize the things that you cannot change, you discover life's power to lead you. The path is frightening but a commitment to move forward and jump into the flow leaves no option of turning back.

Faced with the devastation of the old way, you are pulled back into life's greater current. When the storms set in, you will realize how much energy was wasted in worrying about each, and every squall. In the image of a dangerous gorge that draws water downward, Kǎn also portrays wings and a cap. Your thoughts are given wings that can either trap or release you. Identifying the barriers that you construct to ward off change, recognize how nature’s power to dissolve them will come in equal measure. Therefore, discard the need to interfere with something that demonstrates greater wisdom in returning you to balance.

All that is required to achieve wellness is the freedom to move. Kǎn can reduce all of life to its most fundamental and simple aspects. How liberating!

When the Abysmal pulls you into its flow, the Way is made clear again. You can cling to the floating debris of an outworn way of thinking, but will find that it is useless in your new way of approaching the world. Although it rises in rain, water has a tendency to flow earthward, and is the image of remaining grounded and natural. All that remains after the Abysmal will be your deeply profound connection to life.


Danger repeated = it is the will and not the way. Critical Mass precedes the Abysmal and shows how outer events or inner structures that required renovation end in danger if nothing is changed. With the Abysmal unchanging, an inner attitude has become dangerous but sometimes this is just the energy you put into worrying. You may find yourself in danger time and time again because you are not changing your compulsions. The situation may not be as bad as you think but you are making it dangerous because of an unhealthy attachment to it. It can show unchecked depression that needs to be dealt with if you are always feeling ‘down’ or ‘trapped in a pit.’ The message is to stop being a victim and blaming events for your frustration. A change in daily routine which allows even for small accomplishments will work wonders on your self esteem. Once you make changes to the inner world, the outer world mysteriously changes. This is the beauty of allowing your paradigm to flow in the Great River of life. What you are afraid of isn’t as frightening as it appears. A dangerous situation has stabilized and won’t get any worse.

Line 1:

Repetition of the abysmal, one falls into a pit = misfortune. Changes to (60) Limitations. Without changing your propensity for making the wrong choices, you dig yourself deeper into a pit. Playing it too safe and not taking chances can be as debilitating as rushing recklessly into danger. Set healthy boundaries so that you can walk the middle path. Don’t sacrifice intimacy because of fear. If what you are doing and thinking is getting you nowhere, set realistic and obtainable goals, no matter how small. The pit is only a cycle of self defeating limitations in thinking.

Line 2:

The Abyss is dangerous = strive to attain small things only. Changes to (8) Union. There are many things in life that can appear threatening. The fear is the same whether it is related to romance or job prospects. The message is to recognize the danger but not allow it to overwhelm you in a way that makes you quit. Progress can be slow like water meeting a dam that eventually swells and overflows. Obstacles reveal your sincerity about moving forward. Small advances over time will allow you to overcome your fear and succeed. The change to Union bodes well for any difficulties you may currently be experiencing in a relationship. However, if you can enjoy the simple things, the situation may become more fulfilling.

Line 3:

Advancing and retreating, danger everywhere = clinging to a rock so you don’t fall into the abyss. Changes to (48) The Well. Escape isn’t a possibility when presented with danger in this situation so it is better to wait it out. You may feel that you need to act but that would only increase the danger. Many false starts only undermine your confidence in meeting difficulty. A solution will show itself if you can be patient. However, you must acknowledge the part your beliefs are playing in difficult situations. The Well shows the reservoir of the unconscious and its waters must be clear and flow freely. In the midst of a confusing situation you can rest but you will need to keep pushing forward because turning back is not an option.

Line 4:

Wine, food and vessels brought in through the window = no blame. Changes to (47) Oppression/Exhaustion. You are being held back and may even feel imprisoned, but don’t make the situation worse by dwelling on what is lacking. A calm and thoughtful approach through clarity of mind will help you overcome all that you fear. Return to the basics and appreciate the simplicity of having your basic needs met. The window suggests getting a clear view of what is going on and then proceeding with calm acceptance and patience. There is an element of gaining assistance at play perhaps through criticism that will help you in your growth. You may be giving in a relationship where what you offer is not being recognized. The simple joy of sharing with others may be all that the situation can offer you at this time.

Line 5:

The abyss is not overflowing, it only reaches the rim = no blame. Changes to (7) Army. The danger has passed and the situation will return to normal. However, you might examine whether the danger was created because you attempted more than you were capable of achieving. Follow the path of least resistance and tame your ambition. The Army is a disciplined mindset that allows you to achieve balance.

Line 6:

Bound with ropes in a thorny prison = for three years no gains, misfortune. Changes to (59) Dispersion. The illusions that led you into danger have trapped you. In this situation someone has become immoveable and there can be no gain. There may be a disillusioning process required before you will find your true path again. When hurt deeply or ashamed of behavior, one retreats to protect themselves. Dispersion is a positive message that the cognitive dissonance that creates illusions must be dispersed. Be willing to see the truth of the prison you have created for yourself. You may need to let go and move on.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 29 unchanging Hexagram 29.1 Hexagram 29.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 29.2 Hexagram 29.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 29.3 Hexagram 29.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 29.4 Hexagram 29.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 29.5 Hexagram 29.5.6 Hexagram 29.6