Tag Archives: Yin Yang Theory

Climax is Only Half Way of the Journey

Mount Rainier from the Silver Queen Peak
In the Yin Yang theory, everything – every process, every transformation, and every object – has both a Yin and a Yang aspect. The Yin and Yang energy roles represent different qualities: Yang energy manifests outwardly, and tends to be aggressive, dynamic, initiating and expansive. Yin energy reflects inward, and tends to be subtle, responsive, unseen and withdrawing.

The highest level of Yang energy is the reaching of a goal or climax. The completion of Yin energy is the return from Yang’s climax to its point of origin. Climax is like reaching the top of a mountain, but the energy cycle is not whole without the Yin journey from the mountain top back to the base. Since Yang is dynamic and expansive in nature, it needs to be balanced by an element of restraint or control (Yin energy). Since Yin is naturally reserved and contained, it needs to balance by the quality of unblocked openness (Yang energy).

This pattern is vividly illustrated in sexual relationships and is a good model for sexual encounters. Men tend to focus on manifestation, and, once a climax is reached, their journey is complete. For women, however, it is essential to go through the whole process; the second half of the journey is as important as the first. Just as in a symphony, the music leads us along a journey, lifting us up, and then bringing us back at the end. The symphony doesn’t stop at the third movement, nor should a sexual encounter.

Carrying expansive energy, men should exercise control over themselves during love-making. Carrying restrained energy, women should allow themselves to let go. When men control themselves, they can more easily delay their climax. When women allow themselves to be completely free and unrestrained, they find it easier to reach their climax. In this balanced way, together, the male and female energies can achieve a climax with a greater feeling of union and wholeness.

The same pattern can again be seen the life span of a person. In the course of any life, there are Yin and Yang phases. However, generally speaking, the phase of growing up, studying, entering society, having a family, establishing oneself in a profession or career, achieving goals, and reaching the highest point of achievement or climax is the Yang phase of life. Often, success is defined in terms of the accomplishments of this phase of life. But the Yin phase of life which follows is just as important.

For many people, retirement from work is retirement from life. It can even become a matter of simply passing time until they die. Small wonder, then, that people can have a hard time handling retirement.

Actually, “retirement” may be a poor term to use. It is better to think in terms of settling into the Yin phase of life, perhaps even a Yin career. In the Yin phase of life, energy and physical strength may not be as intense as during the Yang phase, but mental maturity, emotional stability, and cultivated values can come to play a much deeper and more rewarding role. The breadth of view and wisdom of the Yin phase can make it possible to do more, and do it differently, than one could during the Yang phase, even if its achievements are not as obvious.

Former U.S. President Carter did not stop working when he stepped down from being President; he continued to work effectively in many different directions without the need for public recognition. The renown and much loved actress Audrey Hepburn spent the second phase of her life as a special ambassador to UNICEF. Bill Gates, after retirement from his climactic achievements at Microsoft, is devoting his time to a Yin career in educational and health charity projects through the Gates Foundation. Retirement from one’s career is the completion of the Yang phase of life, but it is the beginning of the flowering of the Yin phase of life.

Many people manage the Yang phase well, but do not consider that the Yin phase needs management. They do not see that they bring to the Yin phase the skills and maturity they have gathered during the Yang phase. After completing the Yang phase, instead of turning inward, many simply burn through what they have achieved, waste what they have accomplished, or gradually slip into a kind of decay, falling apart like a house that isn’t maintained.

A successful life means a successful Yin phase as well as a successful Yang phase. The Yin phase may not be as dynamic or exciting, as forceful or as openly recognized by the world as the Yang phase, but it has different kind of fulfillment. One can donate his time and energy to family and society without thinking of material compensation. There is plenty of time to read and chat with friends; there is leisure time to appreciate reading, traveling, and enjoying coffee, tea, or wine; and there is time to turn inward and discover the inner joy of meditation and Chi-energy cultivation.

So, delete the term ”retirement” from your vocabulary, and live a successful Yin phase of your life!

Apple, the FBI, and the Five Element Theory

Apple vs FBI 2The FBI’s war against Apple’s strong iPhone encryption has recently been much discussed in the United States. The FBI ruled that Apple must help to see what’s on an iPhone that belonged to one of the shooters involved in the mass killings in San Bernadino, California.

The FBI wants Apple to create software that can defeat the encryption of the phone. Apply wants to avoid creating such a tool, arguing that, once it exists, it will threaten the security of all iPhone users.

The two sides are embroiled in a conflict that will have repercussions in the future on the way Internet companies handle encrypted communications, and on legislation to regulate encrypted devices and services.

Public opinion is divided. Some say the FBI is right while others side with Apple. The FBI is right to want access to information that might help with a high-profile investigation of suspects linked to terrorist organizations. Apple is also right to defend its security and to argue that weakening encryption is not the way to go.

Whatever intellectual merit the arguments may have, from the point of view of the underlying natural laws, the FBI, in other words the government, will eventually have the upper hand, and Apple will have to yield or find a way to compromise.

At its highest level, natural law is described by two theories: Yin-Yang Theory and Five Element Theory.  Natural law is the highest governing principle in the universe; whether or not we are aware of it, we are “controlled” by the patterns of natural law.

5 Element TheoryEverything in the universe is always changing, is involved in unceasing transformation. The patterns of change follow the Five Element Theory. The theory use the material substances of metal, wood, water, fire and earth as metaphors for the different processes of change. These fundamental modes of change are illustrated in the diagram. In other words, these physical substances are not just used for their physical properties, but represent all possible modes of change and transformation.

The theory has a built-in structure by which the different modes of change enhance and restrain each other, in the process of seeking equilibrium, as described in Yin-Yang Theory. This means that each element relates to the others both to nourish and be nourished, to restrain and be restrained.

Because all manifestation is change, all events and situations can be analyzed in terms of the Five Element Theory –  to everything social, educational, or political, from war to resolving conflict, and from developing a business to creating systems.  And it also applies to the conflict between Apple and the FBI.

Apple, and all internet companies associated with intellectual work, such as Microsoft or Google, belong to the Water element.  Water is related to intelligence, flexibility, change, and flow.

The FBI, as an agency of the government, is characterized by its exercise of power to support and control. It belongs to the Earth element. According to the Five-element diagram, Earth controls (restrains) Water. This is true for all internet companies: when they come up against governments, it is always a matter of the relationship between Water and Earth.

This has already played out in many familiar cases.  We can see this in Microsoft’s 2001 antitrust encounter with the US government and in its recent $732 million fine by the EU commission. Similarly, Google has had problems with the Chinese government, and it has recently lost its appeal in a Russian anti-monopoly case.  These are all examples of the normal cycle of Earth restraining Water.

In nature though, sometimes there are abnormal cycles, such as Reverse Restraint and Over Restraint. In Reverse Restraint, instead of Earth restraining Water, it is Water that restrains Earth –when water overwhelms the earth, it creates a flood. . The Over Restraint occurs when Earth makes water disappear, or limit its flow. When this happens, Water will not nourish Wood which is the element that represents growth.  When Wood is weak, the economical growth of the country slows down.

Right or wrong, logical or irrational, this is how the energy of change in the universe proceeds.

Thus, in the conflict between Apple and the FBI acting on behalf of the government, the outcome is very clear.  According to the normal cycle, Apple will ultimately be controlled by the FBI, the government, and the courts.

It’s important to prevent control that leads to an over-controlled situation. When Water is over-controlled, it cannot nourish the Wood element, or economic growth.  Thus, when the government exercises its power, it has to be careful. If not, economical problems could arise from uncompromising over-control.

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On Following a Spiritual Path

莲花 lotus (1)We often hear people say that they want to be on a spiritual path. Often they are people who have achieved worldly success but do not feel fulfilled. Or they may be people who are struggling, and hope to escape from the burdens and frustration of ordinary life.

This commonly involves following a spiritual or religious teaching, studying, meditating, praying, attending various “spiritual “retreats, practicing yoga, qigong ,or energy healing, turning vegetarian and so on.

Such practices do help to provide some peace of mind. But people who follow them are often not clear about the fundamental reason for their dissatisfaction, pain and suffering. But without understanding the cause, it is often hard to find a complete cure.

From the point of view of yin-yang theory, the problem stems from the lack of yin-yang balance in one’s life. According to yin yang theory, the ideal state of living is yin yang balance.  Looking outward is yang, looking inward is yin.

Most people follow an outward-looking path, pursuing knowledge, wealth, fame, physical pleasure, something tangible and visible.  It is much less common to turn inward toward things that are less tangible:  a life of reflection, tranquility, warm-heartedness, and compassion.

The core of any spiritual path is turning inward to create yin-yang balance. In other words, turning away from looking for answers from the “outer” world, the world of things, of possessions, of social recognition and attainment.

We are frustrated by life to the extent that we expect the world of outer attachments to be completely satisfactory, to be the only thing we need for happiness. It doesn’t matter whether we are hoping to find happiness in pleasure, in ownership, in control, or in recognition from others: hidden underneath this expectation is the idea that only what is part of the outer world can make our lives worth living. In addition, it means that we are often depending on other people’s approval.

To be on a spiritual path is to turn inward, regardless of the specific practice. It is not a matter of doing something out of the ordinary.  Many regard being on the spiritual path as following some particular lama, guru or spiritual leader and making spirituality as part of their public image, without actually turning inward for reflection, as so many celebrities do. This is spiritual vanity. This is still a pursuit of turning outward.  A spiritual path is not a matter of running away from the outer world.  The key is to pursue inward search to balance outward pursuits.  The key is to balance the yang and yin attitudes.

Human life is human life: it is always necessary to deal in some ways with all its inevitable features. There is no way for people to live without being human. In the Diamond Sutra, Buddha tells his disciples that there is nothing to attain, that all methods of trying to reach Buddhahood are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, and a shadow.

When a Buddhist follower asked a Zen master, “What can we do, since we still need eat and sleep?” The master’s answer was, “When it’s time to eat, eat; when it’s time to sleep, sleep.” There is no other way of living.

Taoist teaching tells people to “follow nature”.  The Tao Te Ching says, “Mankind follows Earth, Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows the Tao, and the Tao follows Nature. The term “Nature” means “the way thing are” on any level of existence.  Reflected in the physical world, the characteristics of nature are easy, simple, and economical.  When we live in an easy, simple, and economical way, we are walking on a spiritual path. To be on a spiritual path is to turn away from leading lives that are complicated, difficult and wasteful in body, energy, and mind.

While we are living in this human world, we play roles; we serve functions, as parents, children, brothers and sisters, friends, teachers, doctors, workers, businessmen, engineers and so on. What we do is the path we are on.

To be on a spiritual path is to do these things in a spiritual way: in other words, in a way that connects inward, rather than just grasps outward.  We are always on a path.  To walk with attention that deepens into the heart and wisdom is what makes that path spiritual.  When we do this, the path becomes easy, simple, and economical.  That is what it means to be on a spiritual path.




Square Table vs. Round Table

Is it better to have a round or square dining table?” In feng shui consultations, this is a frequently asked question. Naturally, which is better has a lot to do with the space; the surrounding furniture, the family structure, and the setting one is trying to create.

In consideration of any work, we always begin with the fundamental principles of yin and yang. What is dynamic and mobile is yang, while what is static and stable is yin. Hence, round shapes are yang and square or rectangular shapes are yin.

In applying Yin-Yang Principles, there are two considerations: Resonance and Balance.

According to the Principle of Resonance, if you are trying to create a yang environment you would use a round table. For a yin environment, you would use a square table.

In China, round dining tables are favored, while in the West, rectangular tables are more common. At a Chinese party, everything takes place around the dining table during dinner. This can be seen through the dynamic communal eating, the shared lazy susan, the host serving everyone and trying to push guests to eat more; people trying to out-drink each other, and everybody talking to everybody. This loud and lively event is very dynamic, very yang. A round table resonates with this situation, and it makes sense to use one.

In the West, a party begins with formal dining. People sit around a rectangular table, converse quietly with those who are immediately nearby, rather than with the whole table. More often, one helps themselves to food rather than being served. The atmosphere is more formal and calm, more yin. This resonates with the energy of a rectangular table. Funnily enough, Chinese parties often end when dinner is over, while Western parties begin when dinner is over.

For a small dining area, for efficient use of space, if the table has to rest against a solid wall, it’s better to use a square table and push one end against the wall. Since round tables resonate with yang energy, they are used in more open spaces. A square/rectangular table is more stable and calm, and good for long conversations. A round table provides a more dynamic atmosphere, and is better for fast chitchat. If you want your visitors to stay long, sit around a square table, otherwise, use a round table.

The shape of the table should also be taken into consideration when operating a business. Understanding resonance with space is important for business. For example, in a fast food restaurant, it’s good to use more yang features. These include more round and circular forms, as well as open and bright spaces. These yang characteristics affect people to eat quickly and leave quickly. On the other hand, for fine dining, people often wish to take their time to enjoy the food and conversation. In these situations, it is better to use more yin features, such as rectangular tables and dim light.

Balance is the other principle one must consider. It refers to the balance of yin and yang. In this situation we mean the balance of round and square tables. Even for a fast food restaurant, if all tables are round, the quality of the place becomes too yang, which is not ideal. Similarly, in a fancy dining setting, an excessively yin quality means that there is not enough flow in the setting.

Coffee shops like Starbucks use a lot of small round tables because they have solo customers in mind. With this type of set-up, there doesn’t seem to be any “empty” seats. Also, those having coffee alone don’t feel—or appear to be — lonely.

In environmental psychology, the round table is much more comfortable and informal for individuals, as well as groups of people, to sit at,” says Starbucks executive Rubinfeld. However, this is not necessarily true. It very much depends on why people are sitting there. Too many round tables could be excessively yang, and incite a restless, unstable feeling. If all tables in the room were round, the atmosphere will be very dynamic, but chaotic. Any sense of restfulness or comfort will be missing.

The key is balance, the balance of yin and yang. Whether a design should be weighted more in the yin or yang direction, is based on the nature of the business. But it should never be extreme. A restaurant may want to try to provide a comfortable atmosphere, but not so much that customers feel so relaxed and comfortable that they hang around forever.

The shape of a table is not only important for dining, it is also important for a business office. It affects efficiency and creativity.

Once I was invited to consult with an airplane company about the design of its new headquarters. I recommended using more yang features, such as round tables and more windows for spaces designated more for discussion and brain storming. For spaces designated for formal discussions, ceremonies, and signing of contracts, I recommended using rectangular tables and having fewer windows.

In summary, in any design, it is important to follow the highest guiding principles of Resonance and Balance with yin and yang.. And remember, the precise application of these principles depends on the effect one is trying to achieve.

Shan-tung Hsu
Blue Mountain Institute


Flag of Ukraine

map of Ukraine

The recent unrest in Ukraine over its president Viktor Yanukovish backing out of a trade deal with the European Union, prompted one of my students in Kiev, to ask me about the national flag of Ukraine. How does the flag of Ukraine reflect the fate of the country? The flag is composed two equal sized blue and yellow bands. Originally, yellow on the top, now it is reversed and blue sits on top. Does this make any difference?

As we know, any successful company in the world has a good logo; such as, Apple computer, Facebook, Google, Nike, Mercedes Benz, and Twitter, to name a few. Likewise, any strong country in the world has a good flag design.

The most common national flag design is the combination of colored bands in either a horizontal pattern (German, Russia, and Netherlands) or vertical pattern (France, and Italy). Flags could also have different design patterns such as the flag of USA, England, China and Japan.

Good design is reflected by the color combination and the form of the pattern. For the flag with color bands, ideally it should have a three-color combination such as the flags of Germany (black, red, yellow), France and Russia (blue, white, red), and Italy (green, white, red). If there are only two colors, it should have three bands such as the Austrian and Canadian flags. Three (either color or band) represents a Yang number with more dynamic energy. Two (color and band) is a yin number. It is static and has less momentum such as flags of Libya, Monaco, Poland, and Indonesia. (Indonesia, in spite of its largest population and big territory, does not play any important role in the world stage).

Ukraine’s national flag of blue and yellow was officially adopted for the first time in 1918 by a short lived Ukraine People’s Republic and then was restored in 1992. There were times when yellow was on the top and blue was on the bottom. There are some who argue that maybe it’s better to have yellow on top instead of blue. The real issue is that it has two-colors and two-bands. Both are Yin in number (even number), and the lack of Yang energy from the numerology in the flag reflects stagnation, conflict, and indecision for the fate of the country.

Good design follows Natural Laws; Yin Yang Theory and Five Element Theory. From the Five Element theory point of view, Blue (Wood element) and Yellow (Earth element) are in direct conflict. What is more, even though Wood controls Earth, the light blue is a weak Wood, which means it does not have a strong control over Earth. This reflects stagnation and indecision. Also, from a Yin-Yang theory point of view, Blue is a yin color, Yellow is a neutral color, thus the flag energy also leans more toward yin. The flag of strong and rich countries such as USA, China, Russia, Japan, German, France, Italy, Netherland, and Canada all have the color red, the Yang color, in their national flag.

Ideally, Ukraine should add a Yang element in its flag. This can be done by simply adding a red band to the flag. If there is a concern of being too similar with other countries, it can also consider inserting an emblem, of which reflects the historical and cultural identity in the center of flag to bridge the Blue and Yellow colors. But make the blue, a darker blue for strength.

To change a national flag is not an easy task. It will require much national debate. However, all manifestations begin with a simple thought of a simple person. Time will come when people’s energy will change, to a stronger energy and inspire the change of the flag, for the better future of the country.

Shan-Tung Hsu, Ph. D.
Blue Mountain Institute
Seattle, Washington USA