I Ching Hexagram Interpretations

39: Temporary Obstacles

Temporary Obstacles

Are temporary obstacles blocking your way? In the course of trying to reach a goal or fulfill an ambition, obstructions will invariably present themselves. This is not always a bad thing. Obstacles, difficulties and even setbacks that are eventually overcome can become assets. Without irritating grains of sand, oysters would never make pearls.

The obstacles pointed to are not permanent, yet they are in the way for now. As when a large boulder falls in the road, the best course of action is usually to go around it, rather than to try to move it out of the way. Temporary obstacles need to be seen for what they are — temporary — and should not be allowed to take on too much significance.

A positive aspect of even the most difficult obstacle is that it can cause a person to turn inward, gaining greater depth of character and self-knowledge. While the ignorant bemoan their fate and seek to blame their problems on others, the wise seek the cause of the problem within themselves. Through this type of introspection, obstacles become a means for personal growth and self-discovery.

Without air resistance, no plane would ever fly.

If you are facing temporary obstacles, try not to be too concerned. Obstacles are a part of achieving every goal and every undertaking. Setbacks and reversals can affect morale, but keeping up self-confidence in the face of obstacles is part of the successful solution to many problems. Obstacles of short duration are best handled with a yielding attitude. Go around a large boulder; don’t put your shoulder to it.

Changing Line Interpretations

Line 1 (bottom line)

The way ahead is blocked; the time is not right for direct action. Retreat, reflect on the situation, and wait for the right moment to overcome the obstacle. When confronted with a threatening roadblock, it is a mistake to forge ahead blindly. Look for an opening, or a detour around what is in your way, but also wait for the right time to move.

Line 2

Normally, if a large boulder is blocking your road, you are better off to find another road. The one exception is when duty or previous commitments demand that you face the obstacle directly -- that is, you try to remove the rock. Even if confronting the obstacle suggests a personal risk, duty and moral obligations must be honored, for personal integrity is a resource that is hard to replenish.

Line 3

When one is in a position of responsibility or leadership, caution must be exercised when confronting an obstacle. A wider array of needs and consequences needs to be considered. Rash decisions and actions in such situations bring misfortune. Nevertheless, a leader must remain firm and decisive once a course of action has been set. Keep your priorities in mind. Those who rely on you will be happy to see you have put them first.

Line 4

Big obstacles often cannot be removed single-handedly. To move a large boulder that is in the way, many hands make light work. Do not confront a serious obstacle until you have gathered trustworthy supporters to help you. To move before your support is firm, in this case, would bring misfortune.

Line 5

In true emergencies, one should not wait to devise a cautious strategy or enlist the support of others before taking action. In such cases, immediate action precedes strategy, and your resolute spirit will spur others into pitching in too. Acting boldly when action is called for brings good fortune. At times like this, it is better to be 51 percent right in your efforts to surmount the obstacle than 100 percent wrong in by neglecting to deal with it.

Line 6 (top line)

When a difficult situation degenerates into a real mess, only bold, forthright action can bring success. This line points to the situation of a person facing an obstacle to progress -- and facing an obstacle from behind as well. There is no way forward, no going back. The situation is so complex there appears to be no way out. When this happens, you must redouble your efforts. Do your best not to worry much right now about the results. Look for help from others in positions of authority and power. When you find strong support, success becomes probable. Have faith in your own experience and you can salvage the situation. Good fortune awaits.