The concept of yin and yang appeared in China as early as 1300BC. It was found inscribed on oracle bones used for divination and referred to the movement of the sun and its changing aspect on the land. Literally translated yang was as the sunny side of the mountain, and yin was the shady side of the mountain. From the very beginning yin and yang were about change and relationships.
By the time of the Spring and Autumn period (770-481BC), and the Warring States period (403-221BC) a formal school of scholarly thought existed. The yin yang school focused on the observation of how yin and yang expressed itself in both man and the natural world. The cycles of nature were carefully recorded, and mathematics and astronomy were used to integrate them into calendars developed for agriculture, government and religious activities.
From these original ideas of yin yang came the I Ching or book of changes. While considered a divination system, it is also an attempt to formulate a mathematical model of all the possible varying cycles of nature. It is a binary tool that expresses the movement in in time through phases that people travel in theor lives. Time in this system is not the linear time of the west but cyclic and repetitive.
This model is represented by the 64 hexagrams which show various combinations of yin and yang represented by solid ot broken lines. Human beings travel through only 64 various expressions or phases of time in a cyclic pattern. Readings from the I Ching help one understand which phase one is in and their own strengths and weaknesses in the situation, depending on the variations and influences of the yin and yang forces.
Yang is considered the active principle, expressed as extreme heat, expansion, logic, sun, and male energy. Yin is the passive principle, expressed as cold, contraction, intuition, moon, and female energy. The ancient Taoists discovered that all things, both animate and inanimate objects, can be broken down into primarily yin or yang characteristics. However, even though everything can be assigned a basic yin or yang nature, nothng can be totally yin or totally yang. For some quality to have definition implies the existence of a contrasting quality. Much like the philosophical idea that in order to have good you must also have bad, otherwise it is not possible define good. Both good and bad must exist simultaeously. Thus even in the most yin or yang object, situation or relationship, there must be at least some element of it’s compementary opposite.
To work with yin and yang in life thee are four basic principles that need to be understood and incorporated into any action or plan.
- First principle is. that yin and yang oppose each other.
- The second is that they mutually create and depend on each other.
- The third is they change and grow in a cyclic and balanced manner.
- Finally, yin and yang transform each other.
On an intellectual level the idea of constant change is simple enough. In truth the nature of human beings is that they resist and resent change, so the first step is the most difficult. Accept that everything changes, not just with your brain but with your whole being. Then be willing to adjust your lifestyle to sync up with the natural cycles of yin and yang. After time doing this you will begin to have greater insight into the flow of things. This in turn will enable you to be more flexible and adaptable to the changes that come. While we natually long for balance and stability if we accept that balance is a temporary state that comes and goes with the flow, like that moment of slack water when the tide is neither flowing in or out. We need to be more like surfers who achieve their peak experience with a flow of subtle movements that harmonize them with the wave, recreating balance moment by moment. To do this in life requires the same practice and calm assessment as it does in surfing but it can make life as fulfilling as catching the perfect wave.