In this post I’m going to talk briefly about the duality of yin and yang – one of taoism’s more recogniseable principles. Now, for some of you this might be old hat, but since many will be unfamiliar with the finer points of this traditional Chinese philosophical school of thought, please indulge me whilst I provide a very wee breakdown. The concepts of yin and yang represent opposing but constantly cycling properties spontaneously arising within nature – light and dark, hot and cold, masculine and feminine etc. Neither of these attributes is inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but when pushed to extremes they invariably disrupt the delicate balance of life. Bad joo joo.
Our culture has been in a bit of a yang funk for a while now. Dominant ‘masculine’ traits have been disproportionately favoured over their more subtle feminine counterparts. Assertiveness, rational thought, emotional detatchment and individualism have been prized over passivity, intuition, empathy and togetherness. Now is the time for the resurgence of yin. To revitalise our communities – and seed healthy, vibrant, progressive alternatives – we all have to get a little more in touch with our feminine sides (that goes for plenty of you ladies too – these qualities are relative, after all ;)).
Thankfully, this transition has already begun – it’s natural and inevitable. Once any wave reaches its apex – no matter how powerful – it is destined to fall into decline. We see it in the growth of Transition Towns, cooperative businesses, horizontally organised movements such as Occupy and a resurgence in interest in traditional spirituality. BUT, this shift doesn’t happen all on its lonesome – its reliant on folks like us to jolly it along!
So, here’s a few things you can focus on to help facilitate this shift within your own tribe. I’m by no means a shining example of these – my yang Hulk still rears its ugly head from time to time – but sing to this hymn sheet and I believe you’ll find, as I am, that these little ditties will soothe the savage beast:
Not all the time, of course, but learn to recognise when its best to hand someone else the reigns. From our earliest days, we’ve been taught to compete – to vie for supremacy – to fight for position as top dog. There’s a place and a time for this – but it’s in the trenches, at the eleventh hour. Most of the time, this sort of mentality is self-defeating. If you want to be the best that you can be, you need support – and that means learning from others and following their lead when they’ve got a good thing going on. Here’s a great TED talk that illustrates the principle – an oldie but a goodie.
Yielding, within this context, is not the same as giving up. Think of it more as a tactical readjustment. Meeting force with force is almost always counter-productive – at best you batter your rival into submission – wasting valuable energy, generating resentment and undermining any hope of reaching a mutually satisfying resolution. At worst, you’re the one who gets clobbered.
If you must engage with a ‘combatant’, remain calm and don’t challenge their authority directly. Instead, be sensitive to their frustrations and allow their aggression to run its course – it will burn itself out if given the room to do so. So powerful and effective is this principle that it is the cornerstone of numerous martial arts. Tai chi, bagua, aikido, judo and juijitsu all rely heavily on sensitivity and redirection in order to neutralise a powerful incoming force. If it can best a flailing fist, it’ll subdue a lashing tongue.
HOLD OPINIONS LIGHTLY
This is an age-old axiom emphasised by Buddhist teachers. Opinions are not rocks to be clung to through hell or high water – if you don’t adjust your grip from time to time you’re sure to come unstuck. Visualise them instead as stepping stones – maintain your current position until you find a more stable one – but don’t be afraid to make a leap of faith when you identify a potentially advantageous path. This is how you find your way to safer ground.
Even if you’re sure that you know best, take the time to guide others and allow them to come to their own conclusions. Forcing someone to concede defeat will only shake their confidence – gently coaxing them towards an inspiring realisation is empowering. If you want to form a strong, energetic, creative tribe, you need all of its members to feel empowered, valued and comfortable exploring their own limitations.
We’re all different – and that’s just as it should be – mankind has survived and thrived on the basis of its ability to form highly complex social structures. Think of your tribe as a living organism, comprised of a variety of specialised cells – each uniquely adapted for a specific purpose. Even if you could force everyone to grow to be brain cells – or big, sinewy muscles – they would be very little use without blood cells to nourish them or little liver guys to neutralise toxins.
Have the strength of character to know how you can best serve your tribe – and give others the breathing room to discover their own function within it. We can’t all be bold, charismatic alpha’s (at least not all the time!) but if afforded the opportunity to carve out our own niche, each of us will get their time to shine.
Don’t just march into situations blindly – take a deep breath and look at yourself objectively. Soften your voice, relax your posture, pause to allow others to speak. I’m not suggesting that you adopt a meek and timid demeanour – confidence is important; but a confident person doesn’t need to dominate others, they’re comfortable enough within themselves to give someone else the floor. Cultivate a strong sense of self-awareness, and modify your behaviour according to each given situation.
RELAX – YINOVATE!
Within the context of temperament, yang is battle mode – it’s defensive. That’s why its characteristics are so prevalent within our society – we feel unsettled, unstable, threatened – and react accordingly. There’s already an abundance of yang in the world – fire, force, rigidity. Reserve your yang for code reds – lower your shields and embrace the power of yin.
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