Yin and Yang, Opposite Yet Equal

by Mary Mageau -

Endless discussions have been entered into and reams of paper have been filled trying to convince us that men and women are fundamentally separate from each other and will always continue to be. 

To make a point that the sexes are irreconcilably different and may never completely understand each other, it has even been suggested that both come from totally different planets – ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.’

Is this necessarily true or is it just another stereotype to which we are expected to conform?

We can readily observe that we inhabit a universe expressing itself in polarities or opposites such as: cold – hot, good – evil, darkness – light, male – female etc. 

It seems that two opposing but complimentary forces are found within all things. 

Also any aspect of polarity can be further subdivided. 

For example temperature can be perceived as hot or cold. The state of being hot can be further divided into warm and burning, while cold can become cool and frigid.

Within each spectrum there is always a smaller spectrum. The Chinese schools of philosophy and metaphysics have enlightened us about these aspects of polarity consciousness. 

The forces of Yin and Yang which they have identified have become another parameter within which we can view this phenomenon.

Yin in the Chinese language is translated as, a dark or shaded place. It represents the feminine element: sad, passive, downward looking, wet, nurturing and corresponds to the moon and night. Yin is connected to the three lower chakras and the signs of earth and water. 

Yang, from the ancient Chinese means, a sunny or light filled space. It is the brighter masculine element and encompasses the following qualities: happy, active, energetic, dry, upward looking and corresponds to the day and the sun. It is connected to the three higher chakras and its signs are air and fire.

The taijitu has become the traditionally recognized symbol for the forces representing Yin and Yang. 

Its elegantly simple design places Yang in the white area at the top and the dark aspect of Yin beneath.

The two are perfectly opposed yet totally balanced as they appear contained within a circle. 

Since earliest times the delineated circle has been used as a sacred space for ceremonies and rituals.

Circles seemingly move around continuously with no beginning or end on their circumference. This represents the idea of Yin and Yang flowing together in an endless spiral of existence.

As an interesting aside, the taijitu has also been used as a symbol to depict earth’s seasonal year.

Visualizing the symbol as a clock face, at the top (12:00) the white of Yang represents the longest day of the summer solstice while directly below it at 6:00 Yin’s darkest point marks the shortest day of the winter solstice. The space occupied by 3:00 identifies the autumn equinox and 9:00 the spring equinox.

The smaller circles or dots serve to remind us that there are always traces of one found within the other.

Light is always present within darkness, when for example the moon and stars illumine the dark curtain of night. Darkness is ever present within light too, as clouds can obscure sunlight and objects often create a field of shadow. 

Both states are necessary for the universe to fully blossom. Both states are required for the full union of the masculine and feminine to totally flourish. 

The exquisite balance that results when both the Yin and Yang qualities blend, are listed below.
• Without Yang nothing would come into being - without Yin all that comes into being would die.
• Yang is mental activity in its forceful aspect – Yin is the imaginative and poetic exalting the merely mental into the beautiful.
• Yang moves ahead with things – Yin is.
• Yang, in masculine givingness bestows the gifts – Yin, in feminine being receives, preserves, enhances and redistributes them.
• Yang constructs – Yin instructs.
• Yang implements – Yin compliments.
• Yang is strength – Yin is endurance.
• Yang is knowledge – Yin is the mystery that reveals itself and becomes knowledge.
• Yang is the discoverer – Yin lures toward greater discovery.
• Yang is the lover and therefore beloved – Yin is the beloved and therefore the source of love. 
Yin, the receptive, feminine, dark, passive force and Yang, the creative, masculine, bright, active force are descriptions of complimentary opposites. 

As this is never absolute but only relative, no one thing is exclusively Yin or Yang since each contains the seed of its opposite. 

Both states are interdependent as one cannot exist without the other. 

Yin and Yang are usually held in balance, for as one increases the other decreases. The imbalance however is also relative as the energetic excess of Yang, forces Yin to become more energetically concentrated. Thus Yin and Yang both consume and support one another.

Within the context of our present male/female relationships how can the qualities of both Yin and Yang unfold in a way that leads to balance and wholeness? 

A model of cooperative partnership will serve as the way-shower in our movement into the coming new age.

 The purpose of partnership is to create something greater that what we can create alone.

This needn’t imply any deficiency or incompleteness within us.

Since each of us is unique, with specific talents and abilities, in a true partnership we can create something meaningful together – something far greater than the sum of its parts. 

A partnership that offers an acceptance of who we are with an opportunity for personal transformation becomes the fertile ground for growing a lasting healthy union.

When we find this kind of partnership we are more likely to want to keep it, to invest in it and to nurture it. 

By experiencing the joy of working, living and loving in a cooperative and supportive partnership, where the different abilities of both members are equally valued, we harness the strength and power of union.

It seems today that our current gender systems emphasize our differences and suppress our similarities.

We feel alienated rather than united as our dying system of patriarchy has left us with a model of masculine dominance and feminine submission instead of one that features mutual interdependence. 

Because of our long inherited patterns of competition and power over others, many relationships today are like two halves that never feel quite whole. 

The whole will only emerge when we jettison the hierarchical black and white of duality consciousness

If we could embrace the model of cooperative partnership, within which both parties are freely allowed to be opposite but equal, we would then successfully rebalance Yin with Yang.

About Author: Mary Mageau is an Australian spiritual teacher and author. She was first introduced to the practice of meditation at the Benedictine Priory of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota. This simple tradition of silent, contemplative prayer (called Divine Listening by St Benedict) was recovered by the Benedictine Order in the teachings of the first Christian monks, - the Desert Fathers.  Mary was taught in the Buddhist and Indian traditions. Her classes are offered through the Queensland University of the Third Age and the Pine Rivers Community Education Program. Mary’s courses all focus on merging these two great meditation traditions - the contemplative paths of the West, with the classical meditation practices of the East.  Enquiries:

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