Y Is for Yin-Yang




Can it really be true—that these two “Y” words drawn from traditional Chinese philosophy are actually intended to be joined at the hip by a hyphen?

Apparently Yin and Yang—the two conjoined principles whose interaction influences the destinies of creatures and things—are really one. Each side contains specific observable properties or qualities not found in the other.

In fact, each defines the other by being all that the other is not: light and shadow, hot and cold, top and bottom, masculine and feminine. One completes the other. In fact, in Yin-Yang one cannot truly be without the other. Like true lovers.

Visually, the Ying-Yang is a circular symbol split in half so that each half looks like a sideways teardrop. The two sides are labeled Ying and Yang.

Ying is white with a circle of black in the bulb of its tear. Yang is black with a circle of white in the bulb of its tear.



There are many applications to this visual wisdom. In traditional Chinese Medicine human life is seen as an active physiological process. When the body is well and healthy, Yin and Yang are in balance.

It’s a great symbol of wholeness, and brings to my mind—especially today—the symbol for Heart, which also implies a centering and a balance (unless it’s broken or has an arrow through it!).

In fact, Sufi teacher Kabir Helminski in Living Presence: A Sufi Guide to Mindfulness and the Essential Self, makes this comparison of mind and heart:

“We have subtle subconscious faculties we are not using. In addition to the limited analytic intellect is a vast realm of mind that includes … intuition; wisdom; a sense of unity … creative capabilities; and image-forming and symbolic capacities. Though these faculties are many, we give them a single name with some justification because they are operating best when they are in concert. They comprise a mind, moreover, in spontaneous connection to the cosmic mind. This total mind we call ‘heart.’”

If our Yin-Yang is balanced and ouris whole and true, a great deal is possible in the world.

As Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, wrote: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

May our Yin-Yang steer us in ways that empower our hearts—as Rumi advises: “Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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