Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Unification of Opposites

Thanks for checking out my blog. The following essay is an excerpt from my forthcoming book on Alignment Yoga:

The Taoists have that elegant symbol of how opposites intermingle to create each other - what we call the Ying-Yang symbol. I first encountered this symbol during my wanna-be skater-punk days in the late-70s.

Like many suburban boys, I glorified all things removed from suburbia. The only problem was that I had to ask my Mom to drive me wherever I wanted to rebel. There was a skateboard shop in downtown Scottsdale (Arizona) that stocked all the newest, most rebellious skate wear. It was imperative I get there, as it would be impossible to rebel without the proper accessories. (and what if I wasn’t wearing what the other rebellious kids were wearing?) On arrival I was overwhelmed by the possibilities; decals, clothes, wheels, trucks, blanks, etc. My eye was grabbed by the logo for Town & Country Surf Designs. I was so captivated, I bought a handful of their decals and left – mission accomplished! Soon this simple decal was found adorning anything I came near; my notebooks, skateboard, laundry basket, etc. Nothing was safe.

It was only years later I realized their logo was the Ying-Yang symbol. Its understated elegance struck a chord that’s stayed with me to this day – how opposites wriggle their way around to create each other. Yoga is an effective laboratory to experience what the Taoists were expressing in this timeless symbol.

Non--dualism is the realization that opposites are a trick of our mind. If there's the sparkle of divinity within me, and the same sparkle is within you, then we’re all manifestations of God. If we’re all God, then nobody is not God. It’s really quite simple to understand – it’s just difficult to integrate. There are no bad people, just the same as there are no good people - there are just people. There is not bad weather and good weather – just weather. It’s a tremendously liberating concept.

I’ve found the best results integrating non-duality come through the body. Let’s say, for example, that somebody tells you to stand up from the chair where you’re sitting. Our mind says up, but did we "do" up? No, most of what we did was down. This corresponds precisely to Newton’s 3rd Law of Mechanics, or what we commonly state "for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction." While Newton may not have been advocating non-dualism, his theorem sure underscores the idea. Coming back to our standing example, when we conceived of getting up, our mind automatically began pressing our feet into the ground. Our feet pressed the ground so convincingly, that the rest of our body rose. Thus, what really happened was primarily a downward movement that created its opposite – an upward movement. Down created up.

This is an energy flow we consistently explore in Alignment Yoga; we focus on how down-creates-up as it underscores our commitment to grounding, as well as exploring the experience of non-dual thought. Please check back for a video demonstration of how to explore the unification of opposites via common yoga asana.

2 comments:

Jeff said...

Scott, I've had some revelations lately re unification of opposites based on studies of the Yoga Sutras we were doing at the Himalayan Institute. I think I finally get what the gunas are about. It always seemed like such a weird way to categorize existence. Basically tamas and rajas are yin and yang. That's the clear and perennial wisdom. I think satva is their unification -- the unification of opposites -- and what a cool model of the universe. You have in the universe the essential dynamic of the vrittis (tamas/rajas)and in addition the category of their mastery or cessation (nirodha)in satva. Unlike the western, scientific model of the universe, which poses a rather cold and pointless play of opposites, the yogic model adds a third category: meaningfulness; illumination and consequent wisdom. It's a nice way of expressing the Asian worldview that the point of life is exquisite balance in the present(the stilling/unification of opposites), rather than the linear trajectory of the western world view from primitive inferior toward some ever more amazing glory out there in the far distant future.

Jeff

Serenity Now said...

Another great read that resonates so well with what I have been exploring in my body, as well as my mind state and emotions. Jeff's response is very interesting as well, so thank you Jeff. The ah-ha moments that appear ever so often are so very amazing and exciting!