The Tolerance of Yin and Yang

By The Spiritual Explorer | Published 16 September, 2014

Dear Spiritual Explorer: I see a lot of people wearing yin yang jewelry.  What does that concept of yin yang really mean? Aster P., Washington, DC

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Yin Yang Necklace

Dear Aster: I find it necessary to mention that we also carry a Yin Yang Necklace in sterling silver which I like because it is both exotic and simple at the same time, reflecting the yin yang philosophy here.

There are many examples ad ways to describe the concept of yin yang.  One of the simplest I have found is that while the symbols seem to be opposite to each other, yet it is in their melting and finally coming together that is remarkable.  The concepts of black and white, good and evil, red and black, all seemingly opposite, stand almost in conflict with each other.  The idea of yin and yang is that yin eventually turns into yang and yang eventually turns into yin.  It is more of a concept of polarity than opposition.

What I have always found undesirable in traditional religions is their tendency to see the world in very black and white ways; instead of viewing gradations in culture and concepts, some wish to stuff differences into categories of good and evil or black and white, restricting harmony, broadmindedness, openness, thus fostering anger and hatred in many cases.  Fundamentalism is another word for that particular kind of view.

When I was 17 years old I would watch philosopher and teacher Alan Watts on television.  Dressed in a white smock, he would draw on this board in a very graceful way, describing the interplay of yin and yang in the world. One of the things he taught was how western thought had a tendency to view things oppositionally and fundamentally.  He said that when a westerner viewed a tree, he or she would see the tree as a separate, discrete item; however, an easterner would see the tree as part of the grass, the sky and the air, thus opening one’s imagination and view.

Yin and yang perspectives are not just limited to cultural views.  Yin represents the feminine, more passive aspects of things such as the moon, darkness, quiet, and receptivity. Yang is more masculine reflecting penetration, the sun and contraction.

When I studied macrobiotics, all food was describe in terms of yin and yang also.  Sugar and drugs were considered yin; and meat and some kinds of grains were considered more yang.  However, even in considering those items, gradations were considered. So salt, which most people would consider yang, might have some yin qualities if minerals were added.  So the yin and yang concepts were never absolutes. There was more breadth of awareness and more flexibility and relativity as consciousness and awareness should be. This is also reflective of a basic  philosophy that allows for difference and tolerance.

Thanks for writing. Spiritual Explorer

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