In Chinese the literal meaning of the word yin is shadow and the literal meaning of the word yang is light. The yin and yang symbol is often illustrated in black and white showing the greatest extremes co-joined in a balanced duality. The symbol is perfectly contained yet implies movement. It is supposed to represent the elements of nature, opposing yet not in opposition, rather interconnected. Human beings are animals and evolved from nature and have literal and figurative elements of shadow and light in their make-up as does everything in our world. This experience of contrasts is how we sense, and make sense of, ourselves and our environment. We see the difference between sunlight and shadows or we feel the difference between the warmth from the sun and the coolness of the shadows. These contrasts, and all the subtle ties between them, make for the profound richness of our lives.
Duality, then, is an essential and intimate part of all our lives. The yin and yang symbol, though it uses the visual language of extremes, really teaches about moderation, balance and the perfect compromise. So why are humans often immoderate, unbalanced and in conflict? The balance of yin and yang is perfection, heaven or “the pure lands”, yet there is always flow and flux to it.
Applying the theory of Yin and Yang to our everyday living is simple and rewarding. Recognizing the natural ebb and flow of our world will allow you a comfort in your current circumstances and in your future, while providing an illuminating viewpoint from which to see our Yin and Yang world.
In terms of your personal health, if you think of how you feel when you feel really well, you might realize you don’t think of wellness at all! Everything in your life just flows and moves seamlessly in harmony. Your body, mind, emotions, and spirit can adjust and readjust to the circumstances in your life. Relative levels of Yin Yang are continuously changing. Normally this is a harmonious change, but when Yin or Yang are out of balance they affect each other, and too much of one can eventually weaken (consume) the other.
Four (4) possible states of imbalance:
Preponderance (Excess) of Yin
Preponderance (Excess) of Yang
Weakness (Deficiency) of Yin
Weakness (Deficiency) of Yang
Inter-transformation of Yin and Yang -One can change into the other, but it is not a random event, happening only when the time is right.
There are innumerable combinations which allow us to become unbalanced. But is that lack of balance a lack of perfection? Or is it the perfection of a process that moves towards a larger view, a broader picture? We too often label the low points in our lives as bad and the high points as good when really they are both just different aspects of a fertile and fully experienced lifetime.
In life, suffering never is or has been the whole picture. If it were, we would have no means of surviving and certainly none of being happy. It is when we are seeing black, really imagining that all is hopeless and dark, that we can make the biggest fall of all into aggressive acts against ourselves and/or others. But before the act, come the thoughts and feelings, the reactions to the real and imagined pain in our present moment. Always there is the touch of light amidst a black background, but when we focus on the darkness and even add to the darkness, we blot out the one door out of our prison. Controlled by our imagination we think there is no door to freedom, to the outside. I’m convinced that the reality is that there is always a door available.
I’ve been looking back on some years of my adult life, I see now what I was unable to see then, that I was harboring, even cultivating, resentment towards these mysterious and challenging voices in my mind. I was full of questions and I chased the questions wanting answers like a cat chasing its own tail. Some of the questions were understandable, but others revealed my particular bias towards blaming them for my own ills.
I was self centered, self isolating and resentful, but I was also curious, thoughtful and basically non-harming. I started practice of gratitude and loving kindness towards myself, the voices and everyone. A little bit here and a little bit there while going in circles and falling backwards. And the balance was achieved-the balance between the feeling of negativity /pain /self blaming and the feeling of compassion /loving kindness towards myself. The flux and flow of yin interacting with yang has brought me to this place, a place where I can finally open the door.
If you can awaken your heart and mind together, you can let go of the grasping that causes you to suffer. You let go the blind attachment, blind quest to find/get something. When you do, all the problems, both real and imagined, start to fade away. You take what you need and leave the rest. When you understand, it is the attachment that causes suffering. It reminds you of what is most important in life and that is the heart/mind connection, compassion and wisdom in one, forever interconnected. The heart provides the checks and balances for the mind and the mind does the same for the heart. That’s harmony. That’s the yin and yang in balance.