Yin and Yang

Lessons From the Garden #51:
“Yin and Yang”

A walk around the backyard brought me thoughts about the yin & yang of life… how you’ve got to take the “good” with the “bad.”

The day was balmy – over 70 degrees on the last week of January! The warm sun was a treat, but at the same time, I find it scary that our weather should be so warm this time of year. The daffodils were budding and the blackberries were leafing out – which is totally unnatural for this climate. I recall reading how this has been the warmest year since they began recording temperatures. Beautiful day… or global warming? The yin and yang…

Further on, I came across the debris left by a pesky dog in our neighborhood. He likes to take things – like toys, flowerpots, trash bags, and garbage from our compost bucket. He chews on them, and leaves the trash around the yard. Last week his owner cleaned up 2 such piles of trash from our yard and 1 from his own. I’d imagine, however, that he loves this dog, gaining affection and companionship from him. Hassle… or beloved pet? Yin and yang.

At this Valentine’s season, we can also remember the give and take of relationships. Having a spouse to call sure is helpful when the car battery dies… but of course, it’s less convenient for the rescuer than for one who is rescued. On the balance sheet of relationships, how many football games equal one night out dancing? At some time, we are each the caregiver and the one cared for. To get the goodies, we gotta give ‘em too. Yin and yang.

There was a great line in the movie “Oh, God” where God explains how he just “can’t make a front without a back, an up without a down, a good without a bad,” etc. As long as you judge one thing “good,” there’s gonna be its opposite, and the Dance of Duality goes on.

But beyond the place of just resigning ourselves to this duality, there exists the possibility of embracing everything, without the baggage of our value judgments. One of the best explanations was in the song “Beware What You Tell Yourself” by Summer Raven, written when she used to hang out with Ken Keyes and friends:

“When life didn’t please us, we made ourselves sad.
When we couldn’t control things, we made ourselves mad.
This kept up from loving what we already had.
What we want we call good, what we don’t we call bad.”

That last line is the crux of the matter. For instance, how you feel after this Superbowl Sunday depends entirely on which side of the stadium you’re on – whether you’re from Atlanta or from… well, wherever that other team was from.

I admit that I don’t succeed at staying out of judgment very consistently. I have pockets of clarity mixed with vast areas of stuck-ness, especially on the big things we like to label evil. For instance, the hurricane in Central America was pretty hard to feel OK about. Must innocent people die just to warn us of global climate changes… or to give us the opportunity to practice compassion? I really don’t know. But at the risk of sounding Airy Fairy about this issue, I will point out that we don’t know the really Big Picture… that’s God’s domain. I’ve got enough to deal with in my own backyard.

I do believe that the quality of my daily life is improved to the extent that I can stay out of judging the little things good or bad. And that’s the level where I have great power to change my experience of reality. Do I lose it when I see trash on the lawn? Do I kick someone out of my heart for a few precious minutes of my life, just because he left dishes in the sink again? Do I create anger whenever the traffic light turns red?

Every situation presents me with an opportunity for choice in how I will respond to it.  No, I might not be able to choose the situation… and I believe that many situations are God picking a curriculum for my spiritual studies. I can, however, always control the way that I will respond to what comes into my life.

We can go on chasing the good and resisting the bad, or we can seek to take dominion over our minds and embrace everything. When the yin and yang combine, they form a perfect circle of wholeness, of Oneness.


©1999 Lois J. Henrickson (Lytingale)


About lytingale

Musician (singer, piano, flute, etc), Songwriter/Composer/Arranger, Voice Teacher, Accompanist, Wedding Officiant, Writer.
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