Sunday, November 28, 2010

Understanding Change: Heaven, Earth and the Cultivation of Virtue

Just like an on and off switch that can control the complexities of electricity, so too can the practices of sincerity and humility deal with the complexities of life's changes. (Yi Wu, Book of Changes and Virtues,1998) Sincerity is the virtue of yang energy, Heavenly energy. The moving, Heavenly, metaphysical, subtle, sincere, the easy, the transformative, the bright, the spiritual, the vast, Heaven gives life to all things. Humility is the virtue of Earth energy. The resting, Earthly, phenomenal, accomplished, humble, simple, changing, dark, physical, specific aspect of change, Earth; these give shape and substance to all things. The Book of Changes. or the I Ching, outlines the movement of yang and yin change. Studying the principles of yin and yang change and observing the principle at work all around us allows us to deepen our insight into the subtleties of any situation. Observing these changes around us means remaining aware of, attentive to, open to, flexible with the movement of change through the phenomenal world.
Observation is the key to experiencing these two principles and their dynamic interaction. The better we learn how these two principles complement and harmonize each other through observation, the better able to use, practice and cultivate them we will become. When we see their timely response around us, we can imitate and emulate them.
In some situations we should use soft, indirect methods. In others we should be firm and direct. One example from Chinese Philosophy is ‘making our mind easy’, in which we need to stop and use non-action, ‘before speaking’, which is a form of acting, moving outward: In this case speaking the active, the sincere, the yang energy is only done well after cultivating in a yin way, stopping waiting settling, through non action. So in this example we can see yin and yang complementing each other. Superior people use these methods, these principles appropriately, according to the time and according to their position.
Superior people work to emulate Heaven, in its giving of life to the various positions. They observe the Way of Heaven, its virtue of giving life, and they bring it to their own position. They use gentle methods to open the Way for life to enter into all positions. Superior people observe the metaphysical at work in the phenomenal as they observe movement and rest, the original and the end, the changes, the subtle beginnings, the spiritual and the transformative, and learn to have true understanding. This understanding informs their experience, enriches their lives and inspires timely action. Through observation they catch deeper and more subtle beginnings. As they learn the principle of change they become better able to respond appropriately thus restoring and continuing the originally good, harmonious principle. They work to remove obstructions and become adept at opening the Way for this harmony to continue far into the future. Superior people observe, and then return to themselves, return to the original, to the source and connect with Heaven. They work to open the Way of Heaven in the world, spiritualizing and transforming all things.
Superior people continuously return, reevaluate, and reexamine, themselves. They constantly rejuvenate their connection to the Way to avoid deviation and continue their work. Through practicing their own proper way superior people harmoniously benefit all things. They observe the phenomenal to understand and enlarge the Way for the metaphysical. Through observation and investigation superior people can see the pattern of the Earth. In one example, we can understand the pattern of the Earth in the seasons. Everything comes out of winter into new life, working producing, moving at a greater and greater rate expanding into the peak of summer before returning again, slowing down and resting in the stillness of winter. We too need this rest, this stillness. We need to allow the old to fall away, to return to simplicity and contemplate the source of life before going out and gradually expanding again. Superior people are able to empty their thoughts. They decrease thought and decrease action, returning to the space ‘beyond thought’ and ‘beyond action’, allowing the original source to arise into prominence in their consciousness. In this way they contemplate the original, the oneness that permeates all things. Once they return to this principle superior people can again observe it in all forms with a purer perception. Emptying their minds, emptying their perceptions, they return to the source and open their view of the spiritual in the world, in all forms, as well.

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