Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Way of Yin

Scott Bradley


Laozi suggests the way of the Mysterious Feminine, the way of water, the way of the valley as that which best harmonizes with the infinite openness of Dao. Each metaphor adds its own facet to this larger metaphor. The feminine speaks of an embracing inclusiveness and receptivity. Water flows, adapts, conforms, fills that which is empty. The valley accepts and receives; it is that to which all things naturally gravitate.

I am tempted to call this the way of Yin, but to identify it with one extreme of what is understood as a continuum seems somehow amiss even though Laozi himself seems to do so. Are there also ways of Yang? I think there are. The way of I AM, of the assertion of self as the expression of Self, seems to me to be more an expression of Yang than of Yin. Yet surely both ways integrate both principles.

Of the philosophy of Yin and Yang I actually know very little; I adopt and adapt them according to my needs. Certainly, I ascribe no metaphysical reality to them; together they provide a wonderfully helpful metaphor by which to better understand our experience of ourselves and the world, yet as with every metaphor we would destroy their value if we took them too literally.

I choose this way of Yin, the way of openness and emptiness. I agree with Laozi that this is the best remedy for what amounts to an over-abundance of Yang, the insular, imposing assertiveness of the egoic self. If choosing the extreme seems unbalanced, it is only because our evolved reality is already imbalanced.

Still, sometimes I think it might be interesting to pursue a way of Yang, to assert and defy, proclaim and stand proud. I think of this as the dark side of Dao. And if there were such a thing, it would be as valid as the light side. But though this might work for some, it does not work for me. The idea of I AM, for instance, assumes a content, a fact, an assertion that I am simply unable to embrace. Nor do I find helpful the yang-ish assertiveness of some, those who know, who must convince and impose, who seek to undermine the ways of others.

Yet, as I have said above, there is always the integration of both Yin and Yang in every way. The Daodejing is Yang, though it teaches Yin. I have described these posts as "committing Yang", telling you what I think as if it mattered. What matters, I suppose, is the affirmation to which it aspires.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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