Symbols have always fascinated me. And, the more spiritual they are, the more I'm drawn to them which has only intensified lately.
For a while, I was drawn to symbols involving Celtic knotwork, like the triquetra. My Celtic heritage may have had something to do with it. The touch of Scandinavian blood I have has triggered an interest in Norse mythology and symbols, like Thor's hammer.
My Shamanic leanings inspired an interest in medicine wheels and their various interpretations, which in turn inspired me to create my own with images my various spirit guides.
When I first began going to yoga, I was drawn to the Om symbol. The studio I attend has a beautiful piece of Om inspired art hanging above the teacher's platform in each the color-themed rooms. I made one for my bedroom.
Lately I've been fascinated with the yin yang symbol and the idea of dualities comprising and balanced within the whole.
The original meaning behind the yin yang is that two contrary yet complementary forces are working together to bring balance to the completeness of life. There can't be the dark without the light; the male without the female; the earth without the heavens. Yet, the most interesting aspect for me is that within each half of the circle there exists a bit of the other; a bit of the light within the dark, a bit of the female within the male, and vice versa.
While the concept revolves around the wholeness of life and society, I'm turning it inward as well. I can't exist in peace without the balanced dual aspects of who I am. I do have a dark side, not dark as in evil, but dark as in negative. I can be angry, down or depressed, as I'm only human. Yet, within each emotion exists the opposite-calm, upbeat, or manic. (I have yet to see the manic side of me, yet it's in there somewhere.) When I find myself in one of the dark moods, I can look for it's opposite to pull me out of the darkness. When I'm angry, I can find something to calm me down.
I also can't exist without both the masculine and feminine sides of me. I'd like to make this perfectly clear, this has nothing to do with orientation. In the yin yang, one side is identified as female and the other as male and each contains a bit of the other. Based on the original philosophy, the feminine side was also associated with emotion-the heart, and the male with logic-the brain. Again, each side has a bit of the other; meaning women can be logical and men can be emotional. Unfortunately, we are usually socialized against that part of the other side within us; men are socialized not to show emotion, women are socialized not to appear too logical in front of men. But, however we are socialized, those parts do exist within us.
A few appropriations of the yin yang in popular culture have caught my eye. I saw one of two cuddling cats silkscreened on a t-shirt; one in white, the other in the color of the shirt due to the negative space in the design. Another of my favorites shows two trees of life, with each tree growing out of its own side spreading its canopy into the other.
Another one that truly struck me had the rainbow colors in one half, the other half being black. Honoring the concept of the duality, I began to look at why this representation hit so close to home, other than the gay pride colors were represented. Looking first at the outward symbology, the two communities-gay and straight-comprise the greater whole, which in turn means both communities should work together to bring oneness to all, because if one is working against the whole, aren't they also working against their own wholeness by abiding in their darkness? To me, the rainbow circle within the black side represents the LGBTQIA men and women working within the straight community, usually in their jobs or with their families, like ambassadors. For example, I was a teacher for many years and the only gay teacher at my school for at least the last twelve. To me, the black circle within the rainbow half represents our straight allies who actively work for change, not just voicing support for their gay family members and friends.
Internally, I see myself walking between the two communities. Or, trying to at least. I acknowledge the straight culture I was brought up in, while honoring my gay identity. When I am in the straight community, I am still gay and seeing things through my own gay lens.
I also have a third interpretation of the yin yang.
It can also apply to relationships. I have come to believe that each relationship we enter is a mirror unto ourselves. We often find qualities in the other person that we admire or that frustrate us. Sometimes those qualities are what we don’t see or don’t like about ourself. I know I can have a tendency to get angry and snippy. Okay, I can get downright bitchy when pushed. I don’t like that quality in others, because I don’t like it in me. A friend of mine is a bit more outgoing than I am, which I admire, and wish I could be more like that.
While on a social level, we can’t control the entire community, we can only strive to do our part to work for equality. In a relationship, we have no control over how the other person reacts or behaves, only ourself, which brings us to the individual level. What do we do? I believe the key idea here is to maintain balance. We should maintain balance between work and play, spirit and ego, self and others. While it would be wonderful to maintain a positive happy attitude all of the time, it isn't possible due to life's ups and downs. In those times when we find ourselves a bit down, we can search inside for something to bring us back up.
Maintaining balance isn't easy.
We can at least try.
Maintaining balance isn't easy.
We can at least try.