The Tao Te Ching affirms the dynamic balance of yin and yang, telling us:
When some are called beautiful
The rest are seen as ugly.
When we prize one quality as good,
The rest becomes inferior.
Yet each extreme complements the other
Large and small,
Light and dark,
Short and tall,
Beginnings and endings
Bring balance to life.
(Tao, chapter 2)
Yet it's all too easy to forget this Tao wisdom these days when we're caught up in so much stress. Do we see balance, do we recognize the larger harmony of yin and yang? Probably not—when we see all the division and discord around us in areas from public health to politics.
We can forget the larger unity because when we're stressed, we see a challenging situation as a false dilemma with only two alternatives—either/or: right or wrong, all or nothing, win or lose. Actually, we live in a multidimensional universe—we are all individuals with different points of view. Yet how often do you hear people say, even on the news, "let's look at both sides of the issue?" Are there only two sides? Really?
In my Tao workshops, I ask people to center down with slow deep breathing, then ask them to find the larger pattern for each pair of opposites.
Let's do this now. Take a long, deep breath and slowly release it, finding your own natural rhythm. You can place your hand on your heart if you wish. Relax, focusing on your breathing--breathing in and slowly breathing out.
Now for each of these pairs, think of a larger whole, a larger concept that includes them both.
- Dark and light
- Open and closed
- Speaking and listening
What did you discover? Dark and light could be a black and white photograph, a zebra, the cycle of the day from dawn to dusk. Open and closed could be a door, a business, a mind, a heart. Speaking and listening could be a conversation, communication, or understanding. There are many possibilities.
The next time you find yourself caught up in an all or nothing false dilemma, take a deep breath, center down and remember the wisdom of yin and yang—not either/or but both and. Look for the larger pattern of meaning and you will find it—if not right away then later in a moment of intuitive insight.
I wish you joy in the process.