inner reality

“If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight, let yourself be crooked.”
Tao te Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation)

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Newton’s Third Law of Motion

There is an important aspect of reality I’ve struggled for a long time to articulate. It’s something taught in my Tai Chi class, but it’s implications go far beyond physical movement.

It starts with lightly swinging your arms.

If you swing your arms without thinking about it, it feels like you are doing nothing and not working very hard. In fact, it’s likely relaxing for you.

However, if you accidentally bang your lightly swinging arm into a wall, you will experience the level of external force it is actually exerting via the amount of pain inflicted.

If on the other hand you try to exert power through your arms – such as to throw a punch in your first karate class – all the energy that normally flows outward gets caught up in the tension of effort, so it feels internally as though you are hitting very hard, only to externally have very little impact.

What this implies goes deeper than the important teaching that the less hard you work at something the more effective your actions become (already addressed in my blog and e-book). It actually demonstrates the life lesson that things feel internally like the opposite of their external expression.

This is because, per the yin yang symbol (shown above), everything contains it’s opposite. When we do something, it is as the weight of one end of a stick going down so the other end can go up. When we allow for the opposite of what we want (downward motion), we gain upward momentum.

To give an example, think of someone in a hurry. The internal feeling is rushed, while the external action is slowed down or even stopped. If the hurried person consciously slows down, by deepening her breath or taking a moment to stop and count to 10, it allows her to physically move at the speed she wants.

There are two very important implications of this awareness (more, actually, but this is a limited format):

The first is for daily life. Usually we try to feel like our actions are doing what we want them to, but such a stress of focus puts the weighted end of the stick on the outside world. The result is we experience internally the lifted sensation of what we want, only to feel like life fights us at every turn when we try to make it a reality.

For this the solution is similar to someone in a hurry slowing down. It’s someone who wants to lose weight allowing himself to be overweight and loving his body fully as it is. By allowing the experience of what you don’t want, you both remove the suffering of the situation, and the inertia around its changing. When you no longer fear being overweight (or poor, or lonely, etc) the actions for changing it become effortless.

The second implication is for relationships with others, especially challenging people. Per this rule, the predator mindset is experienced internally as a victim, and is so focused on how others have hurt it it doesn’t perceive how it hurts others.

In turn, others feel victimized by their interaction with this person, which brings up the point that our actions foster the internal experience in others that we feel most in ourselves.

This awareness can help cultivate compassion. If an interaction with someone leaves you feeling insecure, unwanted, or hurt in some way, it can be viewed as a communication of how the other person feels all the time, and not a personal attack against you.

This can help you let go of any anger or resentment at how others have hurt you (essentially ending your own predator tendencies), and respond in ways that are useful.

I’m in no way suggesting one stay in relationships with hurtful people or try to save them, but by recognizing that their actions are driven by a pain that has nothing to do with you, it can speed your own healing and allow you to be a greater force of love in the world.

Once you own the awareness that the internal and external balance each other, and so are experienced as opposites, the ability to access your full power becomes as easy as lightly swinging your arms.