Coping with Change
Photo Source: Pixabay
It’s important before I write on any religion that I make clear my relationship with religion. I have passionately studied world religions and philosophy my entire adult life. I was raised Catholic; however, I do not practice any religion formally. I utilize and take great comfort from the many faiths and wisdom traditions throughout history and have the utmost respect for people of faith.
If I had to wrap up Taoism in just two words, I would pick everything changes. Everyone knows the yin yang symbol. The symbol depicts the ultimate balance of light and dark, masculine and feminine, and opening and closing. The feminine is moist, dark, quiet, and closed. The masculine is light, dry, open, and moving. It’s important to immediately note that in this case, masculine and feminine do not mean men and women. Everyone has a balance of masculine and feminine properties. We all have a dark side, an open side, a light side, and a hidden side.
It is the dynamic tension between yin and yang—masculine and feminine—that puts all that is in constant flux. The heavens and the earth are continually changing to keep equilibrium. Equilibrium is the state of all that is. Yin can never win over yang and vice versa. If yang gets too intense, know yin is coming. If the dark persists for too long, light will come. In Taoism, the perpetual movement and return to equilibrium is seen much like we in the west view physics. We do not take the physical laws of the universe personally. Gravity doesn’t pull us or things to the ground, sometimes painfully, because gravity has a personality and gets upset at people, places, or things. Likewise, in Taoism, the perpetual adjustments of yin and yang to create an equilibrium is not out of some kind of personality with desires, acts of revenge, or rewards. Instead, Taoism views change as a fact of life or as a physical law of the universe. The practice of Taoism is really part physics class and part survival training. A Taoist spends a lifetime studying the natural phenomenon of this ever-changing universe, including our ever-changing bodies, careers, and relationships. Additionally, in Taoism, one spends a lifetime learning how to best survive, manage, and thrive when the universe goes through one of its often-painful corrections to rebalance yin and yang. Below are a few strategies great Taoist sages have recorded to help us during times of correction. Whether the change is cosmic (think asteroids crashing, planets dying, and stars being born), worldwide, national, local, or deeply personal, in Taoism, the only thing you can depend on is that things will change. Sometimes that’s awesome, and sometimes it is heartbreaking.
Modesty is ALWAYS the best strategy. Taoism holds modesty as its highest virtue and arrogance as its lowest trait. The modest live modestly. So, when change comes, good or bad, the overall effect is minor. The modest do not suddenly believe they are gods if they have a financial or career boon. Likewise, the modest do not freak out if they lose. They never presume they are the fastest on the field or the smartest in the board room. Ironically, the modest often win in life because their modesty leads them to train harder, study longer, and remain levelheaded in loss.
Stillness is extremely powerful. Stillness allows for observation, contemplation, and gathering of strength and wisdom. Bad situations can become dangerous due to a hasty reaction. Stillness can let the negative element fall of its own weight versus continuous conflict and entanglement. In Taoism, stillness is like a savings account you fill with wisdom and energy you can use later on. So, unless change means an immediate life and death situation, try your best to respond to change with stillness. You will have much less stress and chaos in your life.
Accept that the state of reality is that everything changes. It is the ultimate strategy in dealing with change. Loss and gain, health and illness, war and peace—are always in flux and will always be in flux. One of the most common types of Taoist parables deal with the perpetual balance between yin and yang and how no matter how hard humans try, they cannot escape this truth.
Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.
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