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I ching

Shi Ho (Biting Through)

I Ching Hexagram 21
Shi Ho (Biting Through)

Action: Discern

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 39 Obstruction: Innovate

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 48 The Well: Inspire

To keep others down,
you would have to live your life on your knees.

Honest differences are often a sign of progress. – Mahatma Ghandi

Reading at a Glance: Oftentimes we feel that life is unfair. However, if we look at the natural world there is nothing resembling justice. Nature merely evens out its extremes or removes blockages to achieve balance and this truth will eventually come to light in the situations that you face. You are a part of nature. If you have attached yourself to illusions of right and wrong that block your forward progress, Biting Through will dispel the illusion. Unless growth is in the equation, life tends to re-organize by breaking things down. Ideas that foster separateness or boundaries blocking renewal or union need to be ‘chewed over’ or presented through experience until the illusion is transformed into clarity. The Well as an underlying cause can suggest living too much in the inner world leading to a time for your debut, whether or not you are ready. You can create a false sense of reality and believe it is real. Obstruction as the hidden influence shows that any blockage will come down. Discernment is how the truth has to be given careful consideration even if you’d rather not face it. The focus on the mouth in this hexagram encourages clear communication. If there is something to be said to another then speak up. If it is real, it will endure and truth spoken is the only cure. If you are expecting clarity from another, it might not be forthcoming. This is because they may feel too severely judged by you. The best way to communicate during a time of Biting Through is to put personal agendas aside to truly understand the needs of the other party. Clarifying roles and boundaries might be in order or you may need to simply be there for someone while they figure out their own confusion. Biting Through can lead to union but you must have a willingness to listen. This is not about sacrifice however. The other party’s needs and sense of purpose must align with your needs and sense of purpose. Often when exploring another’s intentions, the answer shows unavailability because of an immutable truth or law that blocks union. A prior commitment such as marriage or an incompatibility of age or lifestyle can obstruct progress. The truth is more important than wishes when receiving Biting Through. It is time for you to see the truth in this situation and until you do so, your progress may be blocked. Open to the possibilities that can emerge after the truth is clearly recognized.

forest fire

The truth

cannot be silenced.

It is the child

ever asking:


“There is something between the corners of the mouth: the image of biting through." The master said: “when the firm and yielding are distinct from each other, when the high and low move separately; when anything reaches its extreme, it must turn back.” Lightning precedes Thunder and similarly, the Fire ignites the Arousing Thunder to illuminate how balance is corrected. What is missed by vision is reinforced by sound. Balance and truth is nature’s only focus. By Biting Through difficulty ~ you can speak honestly about what has disturbed your sense of balance.

Anytime varying pressure systems collide, or when lightning crosses the expanse of sky to ground itself in the earth "the high and low incline toward each other.” Whether something is hot, cold, high, low, empty or full, energy is exchanged as life pursues a state of balance. In this situation something is out of balance so emulate how nature finds harmony, even while it honors differences. Real success should be a win/win situation for all. Differences fine tune collective strengths and provide the roadmap for productive growth.

In the natural world, justice is how the high is brought low so that the low can be lifted up. Life does not demonstrate retribution; it merely seeks balance and improvement. Biting Through is a foundation of impartiality that allows balance to be restored. Harmony must sometimes come without justice. If justice is held to be higher an impasse will continue.

Speak up ~ you have nothing to lose. At the same time, you need to look honestly at what another is, or is not saying or doing. Perhaps you are not listening? Only you can know the truth of whether a situation can achieve union or dissolution by allowing a clarity in perspective. Biting Through can be a message about realizing that hopes and wishes cannot withstand not being supported by the observable actions or words of another.

“When two sides raise arms against each other, it is the one that is sorrow-stricken that wins.” The voice of the oppressed is woeful and has lost value in living. We see how their voices are heard through violent acts of frustration. Nature is a profound teacher in the way that all things remain equal, although they are not the same. When opposition emerges, change is already taking place. It is better to follow the course of where the changes might lead. By letting go, you find your proper path. Whatever you believe you can only get from another ~ you already possess.

Shih Ho is the image of teeth biting through what is blocking communication. “Leveling out is going two ways at once.” Going two ways at once describes how you succeed through a win/win situation where all parties are served.

A free economy is one example of how the natural way is not always the obvious way. It works because it allows ‘what is’ to take its own course, unimpeded by unnatural restrictions. View the situation to see how success does not have to come at the expense of loss. At the heart of the difficulty, the solution has already begun to manifest itself so open to it.

All things are equal in the eyes of nature; equality is a level playing field for life’s diverse creatures. It is unnatural to think that one way is the only way. The master said: “the owl can catch fleas at night but cannot see a mountain during the day. This is because different things have different natures.” Do not measure others with a common denominator. When you observe nature, you will discover how Biting Through allows life to move beyond all obstacles. Whenever fireworks or arguments arise - understand that the storm is unearthing assumptions to unblock communication. Its sole purpose is to release the obstruction of illusions, regardless of where that might lead.


Nature is impartial = its only purpose is growth. This is a message that the need for clarity is not being recognized or acted upon. Perhaps you don’t want to rock the boat or prefer to go on believing that you can live in illusion. When a demand for justice over-rides a need to simply move on, only you will suffer. You are not being punished. You may be over-idealizing the situation or taking an easy path that can only lead to the Obstruction of your own growth. The situation is not hopeless but the outcome must clearly serve all involved. The need for clear communication and a sense of establishing boundaries is paramount. In many cases Biting Through unchanging is a message to wait because more information is coming. If you make a decision in haste you will miss out.

Line 1:

Feet bound and immoveable = learning something for the first time without fault. Changes to (35) Progress. While attempting to get at the core of a situation you have become stuck. An impasse may be occurring with another. Since this is the first time a grievance has occurred, the punishment or response is light. This restriction has the effect of slowing you down. Progress shows that in time you will move forward and chalk this up to a learning experience.

Line 2:

Biting tender meat and submerging the nose = without fault. Changes to (38) Opposition. Another is holding the position of power and causing restraint. Perhaps you have been unfairly judged. You are only seeing the obvious in this situation and need to look deeper. While you may have done nothing wrong, your actions have aroused Opposition. Perhaps you stood your ground and regret it. There is more to this situation than meets the eye so blame can be a smokescreen that covers up a deeper issue. Noses can ‘be out of joint’ and time is required to heal the misunderstanding.

Line 3:

Biting dried meat and encountering decay = humiliation, but without fault. Changes to (30) Clarity. The matter at issue is an old one and will keep resurfacing until Clarity is achieved. By attempting to change something it arouses a spoiled attitude. There may be a sense of humiliation playing out rather than seeing the lesson as a learning experience. Clarity as the Clinging can be a situation of co-dependency. Resolving this situation will take some effort and patience to change button pushing into mutual synergy.

Line 4:

Biting through dried, gristly meat and encountering a metal arrow = laborious persistence brings success. Changes to (27) Nourishing Vision. A difficult situation feels like punishment because it is persistent and difficult to understand. This situation is an old one, but biting through it will provide rich nourishment. The punishment enables fault to be made clear, and by doing so, relations can improve. You are being taught by punishment to have more appreciation for what you have taken for granted. Success comes from understanding what you did wrong. The situation is not as gloomy as it appears and contains a silver lining if you can Nourish Vision through the trial presented.

Line 5:

Biting Through dried, lean meat and getting a yellow arrow = don’t push too hard. Changes to (25) Innocence. Although there are not many alternatives, a decision is still difficult to make. One is ready to make a lasting change that will have ramifications so a cautious attitude is required to face a complex issue. Innocence is a way of starting over so don’t push too hard or expect past solutions to work. The yellow arrow can be how one learns to walk the middle path between extremes, learning to overcome judgments and not losing oneself while interacting with others. There is a great learning opportunity in this situation.

Line 6:

Neck confined in a cangue with covered ears = nothing learned. Changes to (51) Shocking. You are not willing to learn from the situation and may be forced to learn the hard way, perhaps through an unexpected and rude awakening. You fail to take responsibility for why the situation has you stuck and your inability to listen or grow from the experience may lead to unwanted consequences. The cangue is a type of punishment, perhaps words shared in anger and quickly forgiven even when there was truth spoken you dismissed. The cangue allows you to pretend everything is fine, except others can clearly see you are punishing yourself and not facing your disempowering situation. In this case, the Shocking event can be to help you unburden yourself from your inability to face the truth.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 21 unchanging Hexagram 21.1 Hexagram 21.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 21.2 Hexagram 21.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 21.3 Hexagram 21.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 21.4 Hexagram 21.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 21.5 Hexagram 21.5.6 Hexagram 21.6