All of life on this planet is based on Polarity. Sun and moon. Up and down. In and out. Yin and Yang.
In general, Western thought considers opposite poles to be one, or the other. Generally opposed, at times in conflict, and incompatible.
This is based in the logic that it either ‘is’, or it ‘isn’t’.
That seems to be playing out in spades individually, as well as collectively.
Sickness or wellness. Plenty or not enough. Republican or Democrat. Global warming or no such thing. Rich or poor. Borders or no borders. Pick a subject.
In another light, the consideration of ‘opposites’ from the Eastern premise of Yin and Yang is quite different.
It holds that opposites are BOTH itself and it’s opposite. Both/And rather than Either/Or.
Moreover anything could be itself AND it’s opposite because, using Yin and Yang as the example, Yin always contains the seed of Yang in it, and Yang always contains the seed of Yin in it.
I’m no scientist but I’ve read, thought, and experimented a lot about what this means in every day life. You know, where it matters, where the rubber meets the road. In that moment when the shiz is hitting the fan.
How does understanding polarity help where it really matters to us? Where’s the freaking treasure trove?
That’s the inquiry I’ve been living in for a while, playing with the tension of opposites in my own life and watching it in others.
Plenty of spiritual teachings talk about this alchemy as well.
Here’s the nutshell version of what I observe and experience.
Because energy is always in motion, and it is, when I get sideways of that natural flow, it feels off. Sometimes really off. Like putting a pencil in a fan. Or being pounded by a wave or strong moving current.
And because anything I’m observing or experiencing also contains the seed of its opposite, I always have a choice, or an invitation to consider a broader perspective.
So what does that mean? From what I can tell, there are generally speaking, these 5 aspects to any situation unwanted. These 5 aspects tend to fall into the 5 Elements* in this way:
- (Wood) Getting clear about where I am (i.e. upset, unhappy, unwell). I’ve got to know where I’m at in order to figure out where I want to go. This isn’t usually difficult to discover. It’s obvious when I’m upset, unwell, or unhappy. I need to be willing to admit that I am where I am and it’s ok to be here. If I won’t do this, there’s no clarity. I also locate where this energy is in my body and put my hand over that area to acknowledge it. To acknowledge simply means to ‘accept the existence of’. If I feel it, it exists. I’ve got to feel it to heal it.
- (Fire) Life is constantly expanding. As a human being, we feel that nudge to expand in the form of a desire, when we’re upset or unhappy about something, it means the time has come to be more. To become more than the cause of our upset. To evolve or expand past it. Because of it. The easiest way to figure this part out is to look in the general vicinity of the opposite of what I currently have (that I’m upset about). If I’m sick, I want to feel good. If I don’t have enough of something, I want plenty of it. If I’m anxious, I want to feel peaceful. If my head is cloudy, I want clarity. If I’m being lied to, I want the truth. If my fellow humans are being treated unfairly, I want respect, civility, and justice for all. Which also means, I want that in myself. So now we have ‘the issue’ and the thing that I want instead. Now we have two stones to rub together to make a fire.
- (Earth) Without the seed of its opposite, we’re shackled to one pole. We only have one stone, no friction, no movement, and no fire to create with. Most of us linger here to our detriment creating wretched resistance. I often feel this in my gut. It’s a continual stress response begging for mercy. The way to release resistance is to feed myself its opposite or my desire. This constant feeding is nourishment for catalyzing the new. What I don’t want + the seed or glimmer of what I do want is the compost and fertilizer for expansion, the blossoming. Any gardener will tell you that compost is ‘black gold’, it’s alive and teeming with all the organic material needed to cause life to grow. In a compost pile, it’s carbon and nitrogen that is creating the change. Carbon is the old, dry stuff and nitrogen is the fresher, green, still alive stuff. The ideal C:N ratio is 30:1. Check that out…We NEED 30 x more old stuff (our current issue) to 1 part new (our desire) in order to create gold. We NEED our old shit in good supply plus a glimmer of new to get what we want. That’s alchemy. The alchemy is happening as we hold the tension of opposites until the gold is ready and the seed sprouts. In other words, as I hold the thing I don’t want and the thing I want without getting my underwear up in a bunch, becoming impatient, becoming mired in the problem (which excludes my ability to hold my desire), then I have the perfect conditions for the birth (seed sprout) and arrival (blossom to fruition) of my desire. There isn’t any condition that can’t be composted. That is a law of energy.
- (Metal) Everything that you just read is what happens in a moment of time. Then comes another moment in which the same thing you just read must happen again. Then yet another moment arrives, then another. The stringing together of these moments is the movement toward the new. Some call it the journey. It’s this VERY movement and journey in which the transformation of the old into the new happens. Thwart the movement and journey, and the outcome stalls. Interestingly, most of us spend our precious Chi/Life Force/Energy toggling back and forth in resistance THINKING we’re doing the work. Really we’re just turning over the pile of old, dry matter, without any fresh, new mixed in, then we quit when we’ve got blisters, call it a hard days work, and quickly become frustrated because nothing is happening. This is where having the right recipe and not leaving out ingredients, and staying the course with the help of your guidance system, is vital to reaching your desire.
- (Water) This is when you begin to get a glimpse of growth, the seed that already sprouted in the earth is poking up through the surface inspiring hope and wherewithal to keep watering and allowing your desire/seedling to expand and grow into full blossom/bounty.
This is a process we do over and over and over, and on every subject. We don’t need to engage it for things that are already working, we simply keep watering the mature bounty. It’s the stuff we need to change, heal, and upgrade that we engage the process for.
For the record, I’m so-so at this process, but I’m getting better every day. I’ve still got lots to learn and discover, plenty to teach and share, and an unshakable knowing that in order to survive well, it must be engaged.
There’s only one boogie man on the path. Your mind. One of the best ways to take this journey is by way of a creative healing process. It cuts you to the chase, bypasses all the shit your mind will make up about where you are, who you are, why you can’t, yada, yada, yada.
A creative process is a brilliant catalyst for changing energy. Has been for all of history.
When I reference ‘creative process’ I’m not only talking about painting and poetry, I’m talking about creative solutions to EVERYTHING in your life.
On the planet today, wouldn’t you agree that catapulting past the gridlock of polarized bullshit would yield new ideas that include both/and. So nobody has to be ‘wrong’ and yet neither does anyone get to be 100% right. It’s both/and. Or we stay in gridlock, or we pretend we’re creating change, but it’s really just the other side of the same tired, old coin. Oh, snap.
Remember…The Tension of Opposites Leads to the Treasure.
The gold and treasure you seek is in the friction of the opposites held by you in order that the Creative Life Force can transform old energy into new. Boom. Alchemy at its best. Oh, and it’s the reason you’re here. In life.
As we all play with this, we can create the magic we’ve been aching for.
Cliff Notes: Where you are is perfect, include a view of where you want to be. Hold both in your awareness until you get there. Engage in a creative process to facilitate faster movement. It’s more fun. As Rumi said, “Love is the bridge between you and everything.” Learning to love the tension is a ‘thing’ worth practicing.
I leave you with this quote:
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless. Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is. ~ T.S. Eliot