I ponder the pendulum, how once set in motion it swings back and forth, around and around, sometimes pulled inward, sometimes pushed outward, and how life itself is like this pendulum.
Michio Kushi the founder of the East West Foundation and a proponent of the macrobiotic lifestyle says: “Macrobiotics focuses on the dynamics of yin and yang in daily life. Yin is the name given to energy or movement that has a centrifugal, or outward, direction, and results in expansion. Thus diffusion, dispersion, expansion, and separation are all yin tendencies. Yang, on the other hand, denotes energy or movement that has a centripetal, or inward, direction, and results in contraction. Fusion, gathering, contraction, and organization are yang tendencies.” *
I set my intent a long time ago to study the Middle Way, the Tao, seeking greater harmony with my environment. For the past several years I’ve been engaging in adopting a macrobiotic lifestyle, for its principles of yin and yang and harmony with nature are exceedingly appealing to me. Having at times throughout my life been vegetarian and having always sought diet-related balance, the macrobiotic theory is both familiar and timely for me personally, but I find its principles especially poignant as we face the situation of our planet. And so, when I read Chuck’s last blog regarding Tamas, Sattva, and Rajas, it all made perfect sense to me: the pendulum, the Middle Way, macrobiotics, life itself.
Kushi says: “Everything in the universe is constantly changing. Each day we experience the result of this unceasing motion as night changes into day, activity changes into rest, youth into old age, life into death and death into rebirth. An understanding of the changes that govern our lives and the natural environment, and a recognition of the interrelationship between opposite yet complementary tendencies within these changes, helps us to achieve harmony in our bodies and minds.”
And so, for the past few days, as I ponder the image of the pendulum, the yin and yang in all of nature, the Vedic principles of Tamas, Sattva, and Rajas, a song runs repeatedly through my head. Part of it goes like this: “Oh would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar, and be better off than you are, or would you rather be a pig!”
I first heard this song as a child when watching a Little Lulu cartoon. It was one of my favorite cartoons, and yes, I always preferred the part about swinging on a star, but I could not get away from the image of the pig rolling in the mud. The shift in the melody from a high note to a low note as the cartoon shifted from Little Lulu swinging on a star to the pig is significant.
The synchronicity of these two images, the pendulum and the song about swinging on a star, arriving together do not escape my notice. Here we have the same image, the realities of life that we are all presented with every day of our lives, as we swing between the opposites. It’s impossible to escape the yin and yang of life, the Tamas and the Rajas, for we would not be in harmony with nature if we did not flow with what comes to us. Kushi says: “The forces of yin and yang are the most basic and primary, and are found throughout creation. All movement, formation, change, and interaction can be understood in terms of a basic yin and yang equation.”
We could not survive if we did not allow ourselves the experience of all of nature. Life itself is impossible without air, but too little air leaves us dull and unhealthy, while too much breath leaves us lightheaded. Sometimes we need a lot of breath to get through a situation, so on occasion excess of breath is necessary. For instance, a runner needs to breathe more vigorously when hitting a challenging terrain and this is good, but once the challenge is conquered a return to a calmer though still slightly heavier breathing pattern is appropriate when running. In our every day walking life, however, more normal breathing is appropriate. We all need sleep, but too little sleep leaves us dull and listless. On the other hand, if we were to sleep all the time we’d end up equally compromised, ending up as stagnant and inert beings with little incentive to return to life. Sometimes, however, more sleep is appropriate, just as sometimes more breath is appropriate. A return to normalcy, to the Middle Way, however, once the occasion for excess has passed, is necessary.
I see life as a swinging pendulum, energy in motion, and I swing with it, going where it takes me, making choices as I go, constantly being aware of choosing appropriately, considering my behaviors, my food choices, what and whom to engage, and how best to use my energy in order to remain in harmony within myself, nature, and the world without. This is riding the pendulum, deciding what feels energetically right for me, the person I am, in this body I reside in on a daily basis. Sometimes I go into excess and when I do I know that there will be an equivalent balance in the opposite direction. If I eat too much carrot cake, for instance, I might feel the loss of energy associated with the drop in blood sugar as the effects of the sugar wears off. This is the principle of yin and yang in action, the swinging of the pendulum, and as Kushi says: “In everything there is a front and a back.”
I try to keep these things in mind as I go about my daily life, noticing how my own pendulum swings, how it reacts to my environment, to my inner desires, how I may be momentarily drawn in one direction, but if I wait a little I notice how I swing away from that desire rather quickly. Sometimes a pause is all it takes, that split second before the turn of the pendulum, a slight hesitation before it swings in the opposite direction. I know that as it swings I will have new things to encounter, new desires might arise or not. Calmness and balance might ensue, agitation or worry might ride the pendulum with me for a while too, but eventually I get to the place of knowing that everything I encounter is okay. It’s all part of nature, of yin and yang, Tamas and Rajas; accepting what comes to greet me is all part of the Middle Way, being in balance, in Sattva.
The intent of my personal spiritual practice has long been in learning how to flow, how to allow for the swings of the pendulum without greater attachment. I have learned that though it swings this way now, it will swing in a new direction soon enough. And so, I am in harmony as I swing, though always seeking deeper meaning, deeper connection to my natural state of being, to my environment, to the people in my relationships, to my inner work. This is life. It is enough.
Riding the pendulum,
* Quotes are from The Macrobiotic Way by Michio Kushi.
And here is Little Lulu swinging on a star: Youtube video of 1944 cartoon.