Western philosophies and value systems have a tendency to see things as black or white, good or bad, right or wrong, saints or sinners. That way of thinking has many benefits, especially when it comes to measuring things, but can also lead to conflict, tension, and polarization when it is about human relationships. Even so, I am not saying it is an incorrect way of thinking, but I want to introduce another perspective.
The Eastern way of thinking has a tendency to focus on the totality of things. It is more about the fluid balance between opposing forces, or Yin and Yang, which are seen as relative and not absolute. (Some examples of Yin and Yang are listed later in this article.) My intention is not to promote one way of thinking as superior to another. I simply want to explore alternative ways of viewing things. Even the very idea of Western culture and Eastern culture can be illustrated by the concept of the Yin and the Yang. The contrast is relative, but not absolute.
Now, I am going to list as many elements as I can think of, which can be loosely categorized under the Yin in relation to the Yang. Again, it is important to remember the contrast is not absolute but relative, contextual, and fluid. Or else we will be thinking in a linear, more one-dimensional manner again. Think of the contrasting elements as relationships between opposites, with each element having equal worth. Try to avoid placing more value on one side than the other.
Eastern value system Western value system
Pleasing others Pleasing self
The above are just some conceptual illustrations of the duality of the Yin energy and Yang energy. However, Yin and Yang are not absolute states. An object is neither Yin or Yang. It is only when compared to something else that we can say if it is Yin or Yang. For instance, a piece of wood is Yang (hard) when compared to a piece of bread (soft). But when compared to a piece of metal (hard), the wood is more Yin (soft). Everything has to been seen in CONTEXT. One side does not exist without the other side. It is not about choosing one side over the other.
Neither Yin nor Yang are “bad” or “good.” Those judgments do not apply in the natural world. What is considered “bad” or "pathological" is when Yin and Yang are completely out of balance. An out of balance system (a physical body, a couple, a family, a company, a country, a culture, a planet) can lead to sickness or increased suffering.
The Yin Yang 'S' shaped symbol represents the fluid flow of one energy into the opposite energy continuously. It is a continuous cycle. The dark and light spots on each side are an important part of the symbol. They illustrate that both Yin and Yang each contain the seed of the opposing energy within it to allow for the change to occur. This ensures the continuance of the cycles of change. Without those spots of opposing energy, there would be no cycle, no movement, no life.
Try to use the list above to gain insight on how we unknowingly get ourselves off balance by valuing and focusing too much on one side and diminishing the other side. As a result we intensify our conflicts, suffering, and struggles.
I have to emphasize that the constant balancing of the two energies is not easy. It is like two people on a seesaw. Before finding that balance, they have to spend some time swinging back and forth, compensating and overcompensating before reaching a state of balance. Then something changes on one side and they have to do it all over again. The conditions of being off balance, reaching balance, losing balance, and repeating is part of this fluid cycle. This article is to encourage us to be mindful of this constant balancing act.
It can be fun to pick a dimension/spectrum; examples, Power - Vulnerability, Change - Acceptance, Masculine - Feminine, etc. from the list above. Once you have selected a dimension, focus on how you might value one side over the other. Sometimes when you put too much attention to one side, the other side will find ways to get your awareness. The oscillation between the two sides creates music and stories in your life. You can gain insights to yourself and even discover blind spots doing this exercise.
I would like to invite all my readers to think about different dimensions on the list and give me some comments and feedback. I appreciate your participations and am looking forward to your comments.
P.S. When I searched for Antonyms for Power, I was unable to find words without intense negative connotations. I came up with Vulnerability because it is a quality I admire and respect.