I had always been extremely extroverted, an overachiever, a triple A+ personality type, extraordinarily (materially) successful (even in my early twenties), blah, blah, blah… I was very “yang”. However, my marriage to my childhood sweetheart was an absolute mess! My husband was uncomfortable with my increasing success… No matter how much I tried to save our marriage, sadly our marriage was lost…
As time went on, my personality seemed to only attract alpha (yang) males. However, once in a committed relationship, they did everything in their (mighty) power to snuff out my light, always wanting the limelight for themselves & expecting me to take a backseat to their lives. After a while I thought I must have been doing something wrong.
I thought that I simply needed to work harder at practicing unconditional love. I had been researching psychology, philosophies, physiology, eastern philosophy, religion…. And, as we often do when we are trying something new, I made a mistake – a BIG mistake. I mistook the idea of the “feminine principle” (yin) as all I (a woman) should try to emulate in the hopes of creating harmony in myself and in my relations with others (especially my partner).
The semantically complex compound word “yinyang” simply put means “opposites”. Exact translations of “yin” & “yang” separately are: “shady side of the hill” & “sunny side of the hill”. Yin (the “shadow” side) represents the passive female principle in nature (defined by Chinese philosophy as: soft, wet, flowing, dark, mysterious… submissive); yang, the assertive male principle in nature (defined by Chinese philosophy as: rigid, dry, solid, visible, evident… dominant).
I had found the Chinese Taoist yin principle: “be like water” very helpful in handling rigid business colleagues. The principle believes that water is stronger than stone (simply look at the grand canyon). When dealing with a “rock”, one must learn how to go around the rock, to wear it down, to reach one’s final destination/goal… It actually works very well. Not wanting another failed marriage… I thought maybe there is more to the power of the innate “feminine” principle & that it was certainly worth a try.
Since I had an extremely dominant male, I thought all I have to do to make our home harmonic is practice the yin principles. For the sake of peace, for the sake of my children, I’ll simply be the yin to his yang… I thought, “No one is perfect, so I should continue to try to love unconditionally – this time using the yin principles…” Surprisingly, ta dah! I actually found the Chinese Taoist yin principles to be very helpful guidelines in learning to love unconditionally. I was actually able to master unconditional love… I must say it gave me an inner peace and an ability to be happy like I’ve never known. My inner (mental & spiritual) life was now bliss. However, in time, it took a great toll on my physical & material well-being (my yang so-to-speak).
What was I doing wrong? “Such a great theory!” I thought, “Why isn’t it working?” I had a beloved Zen master (who sadly moved back to Japan), who told me for years, “Why are you trying to be a saint? You are not a saint. Stop trying to be one!” Zen masters always speak in riddles… so I never quite understood exactly what he was trying (repeatedly) to make me see. I would think, “I like being a good/loving person. What’s wrong with that?” Plus, I loved Zen meditation (a yin/feminine principle) – it was great for maintaining my mental well-being.
Later, I studied with a Sufi master (who is sadly back in Turkey), he would say (also repeatedly), “You have to be a warrior! You must learn to fight! Even Jesus was a warrior!!!” I never understood why a Sufi master would be referencing Jesus, but o.k. Whatever works I thought! But it didn’t work on me; I wanted to be as “loving” as I could be. Plus, I had never been happier, I loved being connected to my spiritual (yin/feminine) side – nothing bothered my inner peace.
Then at a New Year’s party. The hostess had hired a psychic as entertainment for the entire event. Everyone was letting her read their palms, cards or something… Anyway, late in the evening I finally acquiesced. I sat down and the woman looked at me and said, “You are a very loving person.” I can still feel myself swelling with pride, surrounded by a number of guests watching the “show”. Then, in front of all those people the psychic said, “No. No. Wait. You could be a very loving person, but you don’t love yourself. Until you love yourself, you’ll never be a truly loving person.” I was mortified! What a slap in the face. My swelled ego burst. I got the message this time – loud and clear!
How stupid I had been! The harmonic yinyang principle was never about separating yin & yang (the opposites). It was never about being a compliment to someone else… It was about being the compliment to my self – being everything (passive & aggressive, soft & hard, flowing & solid, shadowy & clearly visible, mysterious & evident, submissive & dominant…) all in one. Every person has to be a lover and a fighter. The key is to train oneself to know when (and how much of) each principle is required. The mastery is being able to do that well enough to use all of the principles in only a constructive way (that is what the dots in the symbol represent — when one aspect becomes so powerful that it is about to take away from/become destructive to the other — it is time to change focus/strategy) .
At first I was too assertive (yang without enough yin). Physically and materially at my peak, but my inner self was a mess. Then I became too passive (yin with not enough yang). My psychological and spiritual life blossomed – while my finances and body were devoured by my spouse. Now, I am able to know exactly when to be assertive and when to be passive, which is needed when & how to utilize just the right amount of both. Am I happy? You bet I am! Am I at peace? You know it. Do I know how to get my needs met without bulldozing others? Un-huh. Do I love myself? Yes, I do. Am I a loving person? I think so (but I might want to get the number of that psychic)!
An Interesting Side Note:
The earliest recorded English usage of Chinese Taoist/Daoist “yin and yang”, is cited in the Oxford English Dictionary as: 1671 – yet we are just now starting to understand their true meaning. Talk about being lost in translation!