Oct 24 2004


To keep yin and yang clear means to discern the difference between weighted and unweighted, between balance and imbalance, heavy and light. As the parable goes, the lo han (wizened men, arhats) were commenting on the passing of light over a hill, and designated the shadowed portion yin, and the lit portion yang. The hill did not change, but the experience did: on one side, one could be chilled, shaded, circumnavigated or sheltered, while on the other, warmed, blistered, signaled or spotted. Of course, all that can be achieved in one can be achieved in the other by alternate means, and all that manifests in one will eventually appear in the other.

To navigate in the dark, one must use the stars as a guide, and to navigate in the light, one must use the pronouncements of the earth. To survive, one must perceive the difference and allow that contrast to point the path. Just as the change from light to dark and back is gradual and periodic, so must the strategy and tactics of the traveler change – even if one is standing still. The light and dark will move without you.

To choose to navigate via the stars during the day is to choose the path most of resistance, difficulty, and fruitlessness. To choose the path of least resistance, to let the environment show you the path, precursors excellence. The journey will be easier, travels happier, experiences richer. This is not to say the world is only roses and butterflies, but that when surrounded by danger, the ability to discriminate yin from yang and step accordingly will allow one easiest egress. To others, this may look as if that person is simply lazy and lucky. It is simply that the effort was directed the most efficiently, leaving the muscles free to smile and dance while walking midst danger. And to appreciate that which the danger has yielded.

This should not be interpreted as apathy, or that one isn’t developing and evolving – quite the contrary, one is evolving at the most natural of paces. Nor is it that one is blithely ignorant of the world – again, the contrary. Awareness is paramount to both the enjoyment of the journey and the ease with which it traveled. To be aware of the environment, one must employ the most rigorous examination of one’s self and surroundings.

Despite the requirement of awareness, it is not sufficient. To act, to walk the path that no one else can, requires maintaining the clarity between yin and yang. To not muddle that which has been perceived, to not bind one’s self with oneself. At times, a smile and caress is appropriate, at others, austerity and strength. In other words, it is the physical, mental, and spiritual attention to detail, the waxing and waning relation of the self and the world, the action and non-action of accordance, that allows one to appear to float unharmed along one’s path as other fight against the current.

As my Sensei might say, “freedom is the fruit of discipline.” Without the capability to carry out an alternative, there is no choice, only the illusion of choice. With the ability to kill, one can save a life through mercy. Without the ability to kill, one is only deceiving the self – and is entering into danger, confusing yin and yang. Discipline is the tool that endow us with our ability to maintain yin and yang through action and non-action.

Appreciation of daisies grown through cracks in a decaying sidewalk. Observance of the overly long leash on a coiled pit bull. The hesitation of the heart when approaching a lie. The self telling the self when it’s doing something it knows it shouldn’t be. Recognizing when the self isn’t listening.

Then stepping in consonance.

This clarity allows us to be invincible as warriors, erudite as scholars, and delighted as children.