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I ching

Sun (Decrease)

I Ching Hexagram 41
Sun (Decrease)

Action: Evaluate

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 24 Return: Go Back

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 31 Influence: Woo

What is unobservable in this world is gestating in unseen form.

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else;
and for everything you gain, you lose something else. –Emerson

Reading at a Glance: It is said that Tao appears to move backward. Life moves inward and outward in fixed rhythms and it is time to turn back and evaluate. There is a period a flowering followed by decline although what appears to be turning back is really turning inward as life continues to move forward. Decrease is the only way to Increase because what is full cannot be filled anew. The underlying cause of Influence revealed a time focused on the world around us. However, the hidden influence shows this to be a time for Return, gestating, planning or turning inward. Trees are made stronger through pruning where over watering a plant would kill it. Decrease can still be a principle of growth even when the message is to do less or remove. You may need to cut back on one area of your life in order to direct more energy toward another. The message of Decrease suggests finding strength by removing the superfluous. Sun is the image of offering something freely in a ceremonial vessel to make a sacrifice in some way. Amazing benevolence is how you let go to discover what is rightfully yours. You may need to give up something you feel is important as a commitment to conscientious growth with another. Businesses often use a time of Decrease to expand. If sales are down, distribution channels can become an opportunity to market new products. Those who understand the cycles know that Increase will follow Decrease and will use the time to fortify the foundation or to examine what is working and what is not. Whatever you may lose during a period of Decrease will pave the way for something else. Nature shows us that Decrease is not a negative event. It is simply how it continues in its forward movement even while appearing to move backward.

fall tree leaves in sunlight



from pruning and drainage -

by what

is taken away.

“Through the sudden release of tension, something is sure to be lost. Hence follows the image of decrease.” Just as there is a beginning to the time of flowering, there is also a beginning, which ushers in a time of decline. At the height of summer, autumn is imperceptible and yet the decline has already begun. The sage is aware of the moment when phenomena begins to change, and knows that “what ebbs outward flows inward.” When you model nature, you will discover how life’s energy remains constant.

The idea that ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ comes from the conservation law of physics. It states that the sum total of matter and energy in the universe cannot be destroyed; it can only be transformed. Einstein showed how mass could be converted to and from energy. Like the particle collisions that transform energy into mass, we see how what is unobservable can still exist in unseen form.

The master’s skill in forecasting impending events often made their followers think they were magicians. The great master had merely followed long enough to trace the outline of change apparent in all transforming phenomena. During winter, life dissipates in the observable world to bring new life to the unseen world below. Decrease is not a negative event, but merely the shifting of life’s energy.

Whatever you may lose paves the way for you to open to something else. It is the natural order of the universe to return to a starting point or cyclical beginning. If something develops in its extreme, it will revert into its opposite condition. Sun is the image of offering something freely in a ceremonial vessel. As the Lake rests below the Mountain we discover how stillness or a thoughts without striving makes the universe surrender. There is nothing pushing back on us to make us open. The unseen potential of Yin becomes accessible when you recognize decrease as pathway to increase, or new growth.

The master said: “Things are sometimes increased by being diminished and at other times are diminished by being added to.” In viewing experience, try to see that all things are equal. What may be decreasing will open you for new opportunity. You cut away unnecessary growth and the plant grows stronger, while over-watering would destroy it. There are times when decrease or ‘letting go’ is necessary for healthy growth. Observing the shifting of energy in the natural world, if something is receding in its observable manifestation, it is because unseen energy is gathering somewhere else.

When you “approach the shape that has no shape,” you move away from judging experience by the obvious. Someone with riches may have lost their ability to appreciate the simple things; another faces loss and discovers the treasures of rebirth in the face of death. Whether it is phenomena transforming energy on the earth, or the closed doors ‘out there,’ which lead to an awakening ‘in here,’ in the great circle energy is always conserved.

In both the inner and outer landscape, “what ebbs outward flows inward” and “what ebbs inward flows outward.” When you disown energy ‘in here,’ it takes shape as an opportunity to discover it ‘out there.’ When you encounter a barrier ‘out there,’ it will give definition to the rising wall ‘in here.’

The conservation of energy takes form in the image of snow on a mountain. During winter, snow is conserved in the hills above, so that the snow pack can sustain the population throughout the coming year. The flowing water or energy of future rivers remains in an inanimate condition that demonstrates how nature does not destroy, but conserves and transforms. Sun asks you to begin to discern the subtle way that this is occurring around you.

“There is nothing constant in the universe. All ebb and flow and every shape that’s born, bears in its womb, the seeds of its opposite.” This is the fundamental way that the Yielding becomes Firm and the Firm becomes Yielding. To follow the way of nature, when you yield you become strong; when you are strong, you are more able to yield.

The vast majority of life forms are insects and their longevity on this planet suggests that they will outlive us. Their profound ability to adapt is what makes life’s most fragile creatures it’s strongest. Life never leads you into crisis; it leads you into a season of change. When decrease appears, recognize how life turns you back to fortify you. In this, you will discover abundance and joy even during a period of decrease.


To the mind that is still = the entire universe surrenders. The Joyful Lake is repressed by the weight of the Mountain of Keeping Still. This can show that emotional responses are out of balance to the changing events. By increasing what is below one exacerbates what is above. Frustration, anger or blind enthusiasm will not change the situation. You may need to find the stillness suggested by the Mountain and find the grace to let go. Imbalance is usually the reason that Decrease would appear unchanging. However nothing in the situation will change until your attitude changes. Being resentful, expecting something different or holding onto the past will only blind you to emerging opportunity.Don't spend beyond your means and realize that giving can also take away another's power. In unchanging form, Sun is a message that Decrease of some sort may be necessary in this situation although you are pushing blindly ahead. Remember the master’s words: “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders." In unchanging form, this hexagram can suggest a time of seeing through the illusion of scarcity to understand that less is more.

Line 1:

Finishing quickly and leaving without blame = examine its effects. Changes to (4) Youthful Folly. One is in a hurry to complete something to move forward. It is important to examine what is left undone, diminished or left behind in this haste. Sacrifices between people need to be a balanced give and take. Consider what may need to be decreased in this situation and whether you are actually taking by giving. Ensure that giving to others does not diminish their power or merely fortify your power.

Line 2:

Without decreasing oneself = one increases others. Changes to (27) Nourishing Vision. Consider whether sacrifice for another diminishes your dignity or compromises your principles. The situation allows you to hold to your integrity while still giving to another. Sharing with others brings real fulfillment.

Line 3:

Three people journey and lose one = one alone finds a companion. Changes to (26) Controlled Power. You may need to examine companionship to arrive at a proper synergy. Three can create a triangular dynamic of jealousy and intrigue. Even if you have to go it alone you will find those of like mind.

Line 4:

Decreasing one’s faults = others come and rejoice. Changes to (38) Opposition. Anytime you meet contention among others, it is good to examine the part you play in the conflict. If you can look within and see a heart that is not tainted, others will joyfully join you.

Line 5:

Others are benefiting one = Ten oracle readings don’t lie, supreme good fortune. Changes to (61) Inner Truth. Because of your steadfast integrity, the way opens and great fortune rewards your Inner Truth. This is a very auspicious line showing that the work you have done to be honest and generous to others will be rewarded. A time of good fortune is emerging after testing.

Line 6:

Increase the self without depriving others = one takes a job but loses a home, auspicious. Changes to (19) Approach. You move forward knowing that balancing your own needs with those of others sometimes requires a sacrifice. In that, you are of service but lose the safety of your home or paradigm. Those in the service of humanity often put their ego needs and comforts aside as they become a vessel for higher good and wander from place to place. The self is increased because we become one with others and our being is magnified. This line is auspicious because you are in service to the truth of the moment. This openness and willingness to serve leads to great opportunity and others Approach you with trust. Sometimes this line appears when moving because of work opportunity.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 41 unchanging Hexagram 41.1 Hexagram 41.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 41.2 Hexagram 41.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 41.3 Hexagram 41.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 41.4 Hexagram 41.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 41.5 Hexagram 41.5.6 Hexagram 41.6