To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die…
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance…
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak…
Ecclesiastes, New King James Version
Have you ever experienced a state of grace, utter magic where everything just flowed? Everyone you called was in, everyone you solicited wanted to buy. What you did worked, and you did what works. Everything seemed without effort. Every action was a dance. Your life was utter play!
What caused it? Can you hold onto it? How can you bring it all back again? These are the questions that have haunted me for decades.
Ancient China offered the world a view of creation as a single organism, everyone and everything is alive and conscious.
Everything is in circular motion, going on with intricate patterns. Everything turns into everything else. You can’t have good without bad, light without dark, joy without sorrow.
As masterfully expressed in the Tao Te Ching, we see the continuous fluctuation between the masculine and the feminine principle.
The masculine contains the feminine, and the feminine contains the masculine. You can’t have one without the other. In fact, they are forms of each other.
Yin is the feminine principle, which is identified with the dark, the receptive, the open. It was derived from the hidden side of a mountain behind the sunlight.
Yang is the masculine principle, which is identified with the bright, the active, the controlling. It came from the bright side of a mountain directly illuminated by the sun.
Both Yin and Yang were like dancing shadows, the one eventually turning into the other, depending upon the time of day.
Yin and Yang are represented in the national flag of South Korea, much like two intertwined fish. The more elaborate version people see today is a circle with two dancing fish, one black with a white eye, and the other white with a black eye. They are interdependent, mutually arising, demonstrating what Thich Nhat Hanh calls, interbeing. The two are one.
Yin / Yang is the perfect expression of polarity. Our universe is expressed by opposites: you can’t have love without hate, beauty without ugliness, knowledge without ignorance. It is in the nature of things that the one characteristic is defined by the other.
The central metaphor in the Tao Te Ching is water. Water is Yin, the feminine principle, which, given enough time, can actually wear down a mountain. As Heraclites put it, “You can’t step into the same river twice.” The water is constantly moving, even though the defining pattern remains.
You never want to push the water. With a rubber raft, you can have a blast flowing down the rapids. However, it would take you a day to go a few feet up against a fast current.
This is much like surfing the waves, much like skiing down a mountain slope. If you maintain your balance, you achieve mastery. You are in perfect alignment with the way things are. Even sailors can steer the ship against the wind only by tacking, by using the wind to take the boat in the opposite direction.
The flow can be experienced energetically, in realizing what wants to happen, and getting in step with it.
Visionary leaders are masters at this, which is why they make history. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Holocaust-survivor and world-class researcher in positive psychology, popularized the flow out of his original investigation as to what enabled people in a concentration camp to actually make it through.
It correlates with finding meaning in the here and now, being totally into what you are doing, no matter what it is.
People into the flow often experience the state of grace. They are intrinsically motivated. They are irresistibly fascinated at what they do to the point of enchantment. They are not easily distracted. They are unconcerned by success or failure. They lose all self-consciousness, as well any sense of time.
When we think of flow, we can’t help thinking of Steve Jobs at his best, who did a type of Zen meditation two-hours a day, and made of computer technology a work of art.
While being in the flow is never given on-demand, it seems to occur more frequently with people who are open and receptive, and who don’t feel the need to grasp for it.
It happens when it happens. It happens for as long as it happens, and then it goes away…until it comes back again.
It offers a sense of completion and perfection that offers incomparable fulfillment, whatever your stage in life.
Key to this is the feminine element of Yin. Western culture has been traditionally masculine in orientation, enamored with power and technological control for centuries with the intent to dominate. Written into the American State Papers is the right to “pursue happiness,” which implied self-determination and freedom.
A blind spot until the last several decades is that women are, in many ways, more powerful than men, because they rely less on being overt, and more on being subtle.
Very often, women outwit men in love and war. Likewise, those men who are powerful, especially in persuading or leading, are in touch with their feminine side.
For example, in sales, it is vital to be aggressive, knocking on doors, cold calling and getting the word out. However, mastery in sales, especially in closing, involves a feminine approach, which works by suggestion, rather than raw assertion.
You take a very low-pressured approach, stepping into the buyer’s shoes. You even go so far as to negative sell, meaning that you suggest the opposite of what you intend to get the buyer in touch that he really wants to have it all.
For example, you see a well-healed couple comes into your dealership looking at Toyotas, but leaning toward the high-end model. You draw their attention to the gorgeous new Lexus on the other lot, but suggest it is overpriced and may not be suitable for them at this time. Or course, he ends up springing for the Lexus. While this is funny, it is also very effective.
It is the flow (or play) of Yin and Yang energy, and your going in and out of both constantly… as well as consciously.
It is important to realize that, although everything is in flux, there is an order of being where there is just THE ONE. THAT is Who you and I are.
The key is to have a beginner’s mind. Continuously be open to new possibilities. Celebrate life (facing every day as if for the very first time), knowing that you are, in truth, that out of which it forever flows.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets