This mosaic in the Missouri Botanical Garden shows the yin-yang symbol of Chinese philosophy, an ancient illustration of how apparently opposite or contrary forces are connected and interdependent in the natural world. The two parts also give rise to each other as they interrelate; they go together.
Physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept are found in many natural dualities from male and female, to light and dark, high and low, hot and cold, water and fire, life and death, and so on. All are actually complementary forces, interacting to form a whole greater than either part.
Everything in existence has both yin and yang aspects. Just as dropping a pebble in a calm pool of water raises waves and lowers troughs between them, and this alternating pattern of high and low points radiates outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm again.
The mosaic is made of pebbles and appears fixed though it too is slowly, imperceptibly and forever changing into its opposite ~ dust. This ancient symbol might seem purely decorative to us now but we need it more than ever; we need to really understand its meaning and significance.
In this dynamic, yin and yang are always opposite and equal qualities, with no good-bad distinctions or other moral judgments about either polarity. Using another watery image, yin and yang transform each other like an undertow in the ocean, where every advance is complemented by a retreat.
Western human culture has strayed far from this common ground. Instead we're skewed mainly on one side of the circle ~ promoting heroic solar extremes in our endeavors, whether in insisting that modern science will fix everything or in the new age obsession with abundant love and light for all.
We seem to prefer shooting for the stars and speeding through the galaxies of our minds, over sinking into the soft earth and deep water of embodied existence. If we celebrate the body at all we see it perfected and invincible rather than marked by life and impermanent.
Among the most graphic representations of this imbalance is our human manifestation of masculine/ feminine energies. Instead of seeking an internal sense of dynamic balance or flow as symbolized by yin/ yang, many are taking increasingly extreme stances with conflictual consequences.
Carl Jung has given us one way of working with this inner personal dynamic, that if truly understood and lived might help us to shift the outer manifestations of opposition that we are witnessing in so many ways around the planet now. It goes beyond gender differences.
Jung spoke of anima (feminine inner personality in men) and animus (masculine inner personality in women) ~ two anthropomorphic archetypes of the unconscious mind. He saw our collective unconscious as a part of the unconscious that transcends but is affected by personal psyche.
Most of us have a hard time trusting the possibilities inherent in this collective wholeness since contemporary culture continues to reinforce individualistic and sexist ways of being. Without fully recognizing it, we are influenced by these social pressures in so many everyday but jarring ways.
Sexual objectification of the feminine is far more prevalent than that of the masculine. 'Masculine' girls and women face much less social disapproval than 'feminine' boys and men, consistent with the ongoing thrust that favors the masculine way over the feminine.
Everyone wants to be a leader (read 'masculine' hero) while those who host ('feminine' functions of support and nurturing) are treated with far less respect. Though it seems clear that we can't all be at the top, can't all have it all, can't all live forever, we persist in behaving as if we can.
Exploring the concept of yin qualities ~ characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cool, wet, and passive and associated with water, earth, the moon and night ~ we might gain a sense of what is so fearful in this for a species that prides itself on its superior powers.
We prefer yang ~ fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive and associated with fire, sky, the sun and daytime. Too much of this and things start to wither and burn. In this emphasis we might see our species' actions reflected in climate change and the battle over resources.
These are my reflections for summer solstice (a word that means 'sun stands still'). Tonight I'll place a bowl of fresh well water in the center of my Medicine Wheel Garden to receive the blessings of the full moon. I'll pray for our return to sacred balance of inner feminine and inner masculine.
The above also serves as a preamble to a workshop I'm helping to facilitate in late September:
Returning the Inner Masculine & Feminine
To Sacred Balance
September 27 – 30, 2013
Beside the Little Buffalo River in Arkansas
The purpose of this workshop is to explore and begin to heal our sacred wounds as men and as women, and to come together to create dialog and cooperation towards re-balancing the masculine and feminine in ourselves and our culture.
It's a co-ed experiential workshop to include meditation, ritual, ceremony, shamanic journeying, dreamwork, mask-making, authentic movement, and solo time in nature, as well as deep sharing in same sex and mixed groups.
The workshop is FREE to the first 8 participants, with a modest fee for food and lodging. Please join us!
For more information Download the Sacred Balance Workshop Flyer
Sponsored by Yggdrasil – a school for visionary contrarians and a forest retreat for souls reinventing themselves, housed within a self-sustaining eco-village community, now being formed.