Seasons change; the old leaves shed and the new ones crop up; winter gives way to spring and spring to summer and just when the scorching sun is beyond our endurance, the dark clouds rumble along and we survive these ever-changing, never stagnant seasons.
And so it is with our life. The phases of our life can easily be classified into favourable or unfavourable. The nature of our problems and the source of our unhappiness or contentment may vary but what remains constant is its cyclical nature. And yet, when we are passing through a phase, favourable or unfavourable, we assume it to be permanent. This causes us to lapse into either despair or complacency.
Our despair leads to frustration and anxiety while our complacency leads to arrogance and excesses. And one fine day, just like that, things begin to change; darkness gives way to dawn and dawn moves towards dusk. This visibility of light at the end of the tunnel helps us cover the rest of the ground in hope. It brings with it immense relief and gives is the strength to carry on.
As for those who are moving towards the dark tunnel and find themselves in a no man’s land, the change brings with it unrest and a shaking up of the very foundation on which our life runs. Since these phases are cyclical in nature and only the nature of our problems differs each time, we need to know as a rule of life that no phase lasts forever. Like the seasons, whenever our situation reaches its extreme, it is bound to turn around and change.
The Chinese illustrate this idea through their “Diagrams of the Supreme Ultimate”, which is also the grand leitmotiv of the Chinese culture. The diagram is a symmetric arrangement of dark (yin) and bright (yang). It is not static but rotational and shows the cyclical movement of the two forces of nature. The two dots in the diagram symbolise the idea that each time one of the two forces reaches its extreme it is bound to turn around and become its opposite.
This belief has given them the courage and perseverance to ride out their unfavourable phase and made them cautious and modest during their favourable one.
The Taoist sage, however, believes that knowing the impermanence of the favourable and unfavourable one should not resist the flow but adapt one’s actions to it and strive to maintain a sense of equanimity through both.