In Asian philosophy, the concept of yin and yang is used to describe how polar opposite and seemingly contrary forces, are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, are equal qualities and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only exist in relation to each other. Many natural dualities—e.g. dark and light, feminine and masculine, low and high, cold and hot— are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang (respectively). They interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system. Everything has both yin and yang aspects as light cannot exist without darkness and vice-versa, but either of these aspects may manifest more strongly in particular objects or beings, and may ebb or flow over time.
Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak, it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality: for example, grain that reaches its full height in summer (fully yang) will produce seeds and die back in winter (fully yin) in an endless cycle.
Yin and yang are bound together as parts of a mutual whole (i.e. you cannot have the back of a hand without the front). A way to illustrate this idea is to postulate the notion of a race with only men or only women; this race would disappear in a single generation. Yet, men and women together create new generations that allow the race they mutually create (and mutually come from) to survive. The interaction of the two gives birth to things. Yin and yang transform each other: like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall.
The inception of each organization or institution arrived within a thought, which moments before was part of the vast void or sea of unconsciousness (Yin); a place of mystery, receptiveness, openness, allowing that are essential in every aspect of life. The birth of every thought, idea, project, invention and organization are the gifts from this undervalued domain.
Most Westerners believe that it is our thinking, our reaching for, our interconnecting of thoughts that procreates and manifests – it’s the doing that generates what is (Yang), not the being (Yin). When we focus on the act of creation we may ignore the aspect of being without which life, corporation, financial and religious institutions wouldn’t exist (The Yin Factor). The womb is where inception takes place. It is where creation occurs, gestates and forms until birth.
The decline of our world powers and many of the structures that support the notion of human domination have been built through Yang-ness: Think. Build, Do, Grow. The absence of the Yin factor, ignoring it’s vital contribution to life has created such an imbalance that the inevitable is occurring – The Fall; and we are surprised, overwhelmed and unprepared!
This isn’t a bad thing. It’s part of the Universal laws of change. For an apple tree, from winters gift of rest, comes a life force in Spring that manifests as blossoms that over the seasons transmutes into fruit which fully ripens then falls to the ground, where, if not eaten will decompose and rot, nourishing the tree, while its own seeds will generate new life. There’s nothing bad about this cycle and we wouldn’t consciously want to change a thing about this; however the one-pointed focus on production and rewards has left us unconscious of the other essential half of the equation. We’ve ignored the necessary yin-ness of our being, pushing so hard that we’ve exhausted our resources, and just like the apple tree after creating its bounty, we too need winter to rest. We too need to focus our attention away from production and allow ourselves to be immersed in the experience of the fall, just like the apple at the moment of full impeccability, just like a fetus in the womb, just like the moment before a corporation goes public, something happens (Yinness – the great mystery), the fully formed organism has to detach from its source. The birthing process has completed itself and the fertile ground is ready to receive and engage with this new creation. Inevitably growth and decline and death are intertwined for every single entity, thought and institution. Those focused on the Yangness of life distract and deny the essentialness of the decline and death.
Steve Jobs’ life and death are a beautiful reflection of the Yin Yang principle. The quote that I’ve included in this piece reflects that wisdom of including the intuition, the knowing that resides in the fecund void. “Have the courage to follow your heart and your intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” His brilliance wasn’t born out of his intellect alone (Yangness), but was nurtured and nourished through his openness and receptivity to an illogical and irrational aspect of life (Yinness). His famous speech given at the 2005 commencement ceremonies at Stanford University encouraged listening to and embracing our own highest knowing, acting in our own highest good, for in doing so we are acting in the highest good of everyone and everything. Balancing our intellect with the heart and the soul – through which the Great Mystery reveals itself we will organically fulfill our life purpose and contribute in our own unique way to the unfolding of the Universe.
We want our lives, our projects, our creations and our business to come to their full fruition – and we expect that they continue to sustain that level of fruition, however we continually ignore that all things have a growth phase and a decline phase – Its true of Universes, Galaxies, Stars, planets, plants, animals humans and their creations. Engaging consciously with this reality will allow all of us to allow and except what cannot change and to cultivate the courage to engage with life in the way we can. We will rest in winter’s embrace, renewing ourselves while incubating unknown possibilities, which will contribute to the much needed balance of yin and yang principles required, as the paradigm shifts.