Many years ago I learned about the yin-yang symbol and it immediately resonated with me. The balance of everything. Not that life is as evenly balanced as the symbol, yet the idea that with everything, there is another perspective or aspect that we might not think about or even realize. Initially for me it was that it wasn’t all black or white, that there is a lot of gray – the mix of the black and white. And even if it appeared to be one thing, it didn’t necessarily make it so.
Life is constantly changing, sometimes in large ways, more often in small ways that we might not recognize. We’re shifting sometimes from day to day. I know I will go through phases where a temporary collection of things that are piled up will just about drive me batty, while there’s other times that I can accept that it’s only temporary and also accept that it will get done in time. There’s a great organizing book that talks about this early on, the natural fluctuations that we all go through again and again over our lives – Making Peace with the Things in Your Life (review coming next week).
The extremes of black and white are on a spectrum, if we didn’t have darkness how would we know light. And vice versa. How often do we get caught up in thinking in terms of all or nothing? Consider your language – as this can be a clue, do you say things are always or never…? This is an extreme – how often are things “always” or “never”, if you would pause to play devil’s advocate? That’s probably why it’s called black or white thinking – it’s ignoring or discounting the gray between those two extremes. When we’re really caught up in this, we miss the pieces that would shift us back to the middle ground.
There’s also the idea that within each of these extremes, there is a part of the opposite. Although my understanding is that the symbol isn’t about positive and negative per se, this is part of how I look at this symbol. Even with the most negative experience, there is something positive that you can take away from it. On some level this ties in with what I said above, nothing is truly black or white – these are extremes. From my perspective, there’s always something you can learn from your experiences – if not about yourself, about someone else, or the situation.
I now wear a pair of yin-yang earrings at all times, an expression of my belief that we might not see the whole picture immediately, yet it’s there. This image is my reminder to look deeper, and to not stay in one extreme for too long. I was so fascinated with this idea that when I was searching for a cat to be company for the one I already I had – I picked an all white kitten, a good match for the all black one I already had. They were my yin-yang cats, a reminder that things balance and aren’t always what they appear to be initially.
It’s all about how we look at things. The perspective we take or more importantly how we challenge our perspective, looking for alternatives. And there is a balance to life – even if it doesn’t appear to be true at the moment.