Inside Yin Yang

The Yellow Emperor said, “Yin Yang is the dao (the way) of Heaven and Earth, the fundamental principle of everything, the progenitor of myriad variation, the root of life and death, and the palace of spirit brightness.”

– Huangdi Nei Jing Su Wen (Chapter 5) circa 200bce

I had the good fortune to act only once in a Shakespeare drama during my amateur theatre days yet the process of learning the role gave me one very valuable insight into the writing that Shakespeare created. My impression until then was, I suspect, like that of many other casual observers; Shakespeare was over wordy and tedious. The experience of learning just one role and delving into the depths of the play was quite the opposite; I was amazed at how condensed the writing was, at how much emotion, experience and storytelling were packed into each line, each paragraph and each page. The breadth and scope of each play are enormous but are achieved by the characters being carefully crafted with minimal wording where each word in each line of the play conveys a depth of meaning beyond its common usage.

Similarly Albert Einstein’s simple formula e=mc2 summarises the most complex and far reaching theories that have redefined the laws of physics and other sciences extending our understanding of the cosmos and how it works. All this represented by five simple characters.

What have Shakespeare and Einstein got to do with yin yang? They demonstrate the same compression of meaning that I find in the Chinese “taijitu”, more commonly known in the West as the “yin yang” symbol. I was introduced to the concept of yin yang in the incredible book “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tsu, another example of verbal compression.

Now it is my intention to share with you some of the depth of meaning I have found in this apparently simple diagram.

The symbol tells me for instance that everything is interconnected yet nothing is permanent. There is also always a balance between things and events. As either yin or yang is at its maximum then the opposite is at its minimum. It represents balance, it represents movement, and it represents impermanence. It also demonstrates the middle path as a way to negotiate difficult situations.

Let us look at the components of the symbol.

This represents the yin in any situation, from its inception to its maximum state. Examples of yin include female, dark, black, north, water, negative, passive, moon, earth, cold, old, even numbers, valleys, poor, soft, and spirit.

The small circle in yin indicates that yin is not permanent and has the potential to become yang or be drawn into yang at any time.

This represents the yang in any situation, from its inception to its maximum state. Examples of yang include male, light, white, south, fire, active, positive, sun, heaven, warm, young, odd numbers, mountains, rich, hard, and form.

The small circle in yang indicates that yang is not permanent and has the potential to become yin or drawn into yin at any point.

The complete symbol through which we can ascertain the state of any form or situation. It shows us the complete picture of anything. The outer circle can represent the entirety of the universe or It can apply to the smallest cells of an entity.

We can only see the complete picture though yin-yang. It is the ultimate trinity of life.

I will provide a number of practical examples in this and later posts (follow my blog, see below) where understanding the mechanics of yin yang may help you in your day to day activities and understanding. It has become for me quite simply the guiding light of my life and provides for me a reference point in the daily progress of my life like no other. It is a pointer to all the answers.

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