The Yin Yang Symbol and You

Yin Yang symbol

The Yin Yang symbol represents Taoism and acknowledges that all things have a complementary light and dark side that are interconnected and, most importantly, interdependent.

Understanding Yin and Yang is a pivotal part of the Taoist’s journey as we contemplate the duality of all things and how that reciprocity is required to make a whole. The 24-hour period that it takes for the Earth to circle the Sun requires both day and night to be complete. There cannot be hot without cold, short without tall or ugliness without beauty. They complement one another and complete one another.

This duality is also found in you.

Are you a good person or a bad person? Maybe you answered that quickly or maybe you’re still thinking what an honest reply would be. After all, we don’t like to label ourselves in negative terms. We struggle with the notion that we might, in fact, have a bad side — one that is selfish, impatient, unkind or thoughtless.

Yet if we ascribe to a Taoist philosophy and affirm that all things in nature are comprised of Yin and Yang, of dark and light, it’s not possible to leave ourselves out of the mix. We are part of the Tao and the Tao is within us, both good and bad.

Many religions and personal philosophies search for loopholes when it comes time to answer whether we humans are both good and bad. “You’re not a bad person,” they say. “You are a good person who occasionally does bad things.”

So our good deeds make us a good person, but our selfish, impatient, unkind or thoughtless deeds are not reflective of our inner nature?

What would happen if we were to look at the Yin Yang symbol and see ourselves as part of the Tao rather than inexplicably outside of it? It can be difficult to admit that sometimes you are a good person and sometimes you are a bad person.

Life is rarely comprised of situations cut as clearly as black and white. That explains why, in looking at the Yin Yang symbol, you see a speck of black in the white and a speck of white in the black. This symbolism acknowledges that even when we do good things with the best of intentions, it may in the end have negative consequences for ourselves and others. On the other hand, when we do bad things, it may be exactly what must be done at the time, regardless of the suffering it causes.

Does that make it easier to see yourself in the Yin Yang symbol?

You are a good person. And you are a bad person. No one can be a pure manifestation of light and goodness alone because our actions are too complex.

If a soldier goes to war and fights for his country, he believes he is doing a good thing. Yet the family of the enemy he kills does not see his actions as good.

Admitting we are both good and bad gets us one step closer to being part of the Tao. It acknowledges we are part of a complex, dual system that offers no easy answers, yet gives us the latitude to find truth in our actions. Moreover, it helps us subvert the childish notion that we are good people doing bad things, as though we are incapable of owning our behavior and noting its purpose in the greater flow.

See yourself in the symbol of Taoism to understand and accept your own inner nature.


About Leigh

Leigh is an American Taoist philosopher, exploring how modern life and its problems can best be addressed with ancient teachings. She is also a doctor of psychology.
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