I Ching is the ancient Chinese manual for divination, where 64 hexagrams are used to answer whatever question you might have regarding your past, present and your future.
The I Ching is one of the world's oldest oracle; it's a book of Chinese wisdom; it's the accumulated experience of over 2,500 years of diviners and sages, and beyond that of unimaginably ancient oral traditions; it's the voice that has been offering people help and wise, genial guidance for generations.
The I Ching as you generally find it today will be a collection of texts - a brilliant mixture of imagery, advice, philosophy, and poetry - divided into 64 'chapters'. These are the 64 hexagrams, which are a pile of six lines, either broken or solid.
When you consult the I Ching, you build up a hexagram line by line according to the results of coin tosses or one of the other methods, such as sorting yarrow sticks.
You are pointed to a particular collection of texts - and, if one or more of your six lines is in the process of changing from solid to broken or vice versa, then there are line texts to read, and the second hexagram that's formed after the lines have changed. A hexagram isn't just a convenient chapter heading - it's also a very simple, elegant picture of how the energy is flowing through the situation.
I Ching means 'Book of Changes', and change is constant throughout the book. The hexagrams are not so much static pictures as ways to move: Creating, Receiving and sustaining, Beginning, Learning, Waiting, etc....
What can I achieve with the I-Ching?
This is a far better question than 'what can it do for me?' The power actually is to bring about change that stays with you. The I Ching is simply an oracle: it answers your questions. Its answers bring you into contact with something fundamental and unchanging, but at the same time absolutely, vividly connected to your present situation. It brings deeper insight - and that in turn empowers you to make changes for the better.
Many that utilize the I Ching report that it helps to bring harmony to relationships, and deepen and strengthen spiritual practice, reassuring or challenging as the need arises. It's also been known to guide lawyers through important cases, offer very practical business advice, and help with investment decisions. This may sound like an extraordinary range of subjects, but consider that we possibly respond in this way only because we have lost the connection between everyday life and spiritual practice. The I Ching restores this - which is one reason why it is so constantly stimulating and challenging to consult.
In practice, I have found that most people value the I Ching for its ability to help in their relationships and business. Its answers are extraordinarily sensitive to the nuances of human interactions - in business and friendship as well as love. Used with sincerity and respect for the other person's privacy the I Ching can bring greater understanding of the other person's feelings and how the situation looks from their perspective. You can be better prepared for the challenges ahead, and negotiate current problems successfully.
Future Insight with the I-Ching
What the I Ching does - and this is an enormous help - is to tell you what challenges and opportunities you are likely to face if you take a particular path, and how you can negotiate the obstacles you meet. This is the opposite of 'fortune telling'. Being told what will happen, as if your own choices had nothing to do with the outcome, is deeply disempowering.
The I Ching tells people what effects their choices will have, and helps them to develop strategies to achieve their goals.