Ancient Chinese philosophy teaches that forces seemingly in opposition to one another are inextricably bound together. The Chinese refer to this concept as the Yin and Yang of life, which is represented by the black and white circular graphic shown below.
In simplified terms, Yin and Yang teaches that there is value in opposites. Without having experienced darkness, we would be unable to appreciate the sunshine. Without cold, heat would be less meaningful. Were there no evil in the world, there would be no distinction for goodness. And without sadness or depression, there could be no joy or happiness.
I am intimately familiar with this concept. Whenever I experience a period of extreme happiness in my life, it is inevitably followed by a period of depression. In recent years this has happened less and less often and I suspect that’s because my definition of happiness has changed. I used to believe that I needed to be deliriously, uproariously joyful, that anything less did not qualify as happiness. I was constantly in search of a paradise where life would be perfect.
My views are different these days, or perhaps it is my understanding that has shifted. I now believe that true happiness has more to do with contentment and constancy than delirious joy. When I am content, there is a smoothness about my life, as if I am floating. I neither desire things nor struggle with my ego. When I am in this space I feel connected with “all that is.” I feel that I am on the right path, doing what I am meant to be doing. And that is exactly how I have felt for some time now. But as with all things, nothing lasts forever.
For some reason, this past weekend I descended into the depths of depression. For two days I was surrounded by a blackness that felt like despair. I suspect it may have had something to do with Thanksgiving, but when this hits me there is no reasoning it out. The only thing I can do is sit with it and try not to feel sorry for myself. I try not to be hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. I meditate. I call my friends. I do whatever I can to make the mist rise and just continue to put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing. I finally conquered the gloom this time by going to the beach and walking along the beautiful white sands of Siesta Key for a couple of hours Saturday afternoon. I brought my camera along and shot some photos of an amazing sunset. Just look at the photo below and you will understand. My depression didn’t stand a chance against that kind of beauty.
I’m OK again. I’m content again, which means I am happy. Now I just need to stay even, so I don’t suffer another round of highs followed by lows. Then again, that’s the nature of Yin and Yang. Perhaps it is necessary for us to occasionally suffer through darkness in order to appreciate the joy.