The heart of a human being is no different from the soul of heaven and earth. In your practice always keep in your thoughts the interaction of heaven and earth, water and fire, yin and yang.
We are constantly told what to think and how to act by society, as it imposes “traditional” ideas. Even when we confront them, we are in a way recognizing and validating these ideas as “traditions” that must be challenged. Yet, what happens when we realize that what we believe are “traditional” ideals are really modern concepts and inventions with no real practical application. We are then free from even accepting them.
We see this constant reinforcement of how men must be masculine and must shy away from anything that could be considered effeminate, in the same way that women are bombarded by ideals of femininity and must avoid acting in a way that could be considered “butch.” We are also told that these are the traditional gender roles, roles that must be challenged if we want to achieve gender equality by removing gender ideals.
But what if I told you that the actual traditional ideal is that everyone has a masculine and feminine aspect to them, irrelevant to their biological sex.
Yes, I am going to give you today a short history and philosophy class. The term feminine and masculine, just as manhood and womanhood didn’t even exist in western culture till the late 14th century. Before that, people where simply defined by their role within a society. Yes, there was a distinction between men and women, but mostly defined by the idea that women procreated and men defended. This becomes rather important in a society when half of the population of the known world just got wiped out by plague and war.
It wasn’t till mid-20th century that the idea of men being exclusively masculine and women being exclusively feminine came about. Before that, all men and women where considered to poses both, masculine and feminine aspects. It was actually promoted to find a personal balance between these two sides within a person. The most evident and obvious example of this ideal is within the notions of Yin and Yang.
Yin & Yang describes how apparent opposite forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in both nature and man. They give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another in their duality, be it light and dark, fire and water, or simply male and female. We have to note that neither is viewed as good and the other as bad, but simply two sides of the same coin.
Yin and Yang are thought as complementary, rather than opposing, forces in a dynamic universe in which the whole is greater than the parts. Everything and everyone has both Yin and Yang aspects:
Yin being negative, passive, and the feminine principals of nature, represented by the moon.
Yang being the positive, active, and the masculine principals of nature, represented by the sun.
(Note that negative and positive in this context have nothing to do with good or bad.)
This duality and balance between the masculine and feminine aspects of a person was actually something sought out and promoted… till someone thought it a good idea to create even a greater rift between men and women around the 1950’s.
Does that mean that women and men were equal before this time? No, and that is the reason why we fight so hard to promote gender equality. But gender equality, or any equality should never be about sameness.
What this means is how if we are able to understand that we all have a feminine and a masculine side, maybe we would be a lot more open minded to the idea of empathizing with each other, and we could actually be able to break down the barriers between the genders. Maybe men could actually realize that they can understand women, and women could actually realize that they can understand men.