The Biology of Duality

cc image by Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

cc image by Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

Reflections on Chapter 2 of the Tao Te Ching:

We experience beauty because of ugliness.
We experience good because of bad.

Similarly, existence and non-existence give rise to one another.
Difficult and easy,
Long and short,
High and low,
The music and the silence.
All cannot exist without the other.
They are two sides of the same coin.

This is why the sage lives by non-action, teaches without words.
All around her, the Ten Thousand Things are created, yet she claims no credit or reward –
So that Tao may flow through her and last forever.

I love duality. It is life’s way of giving us a kick in the butt just when we think we’ve figured it all out and can sit back and enjoy our superiority. It is the natural way… or should I say, the human way. Let’s take good vs. evil for a moment. Which side are you on? Well, I guess that depends on the moment, but so many times we take a side and camp out there and judge the other side.

It is part of our biology to judge.

I love Byron Katie’s way of dealing with judgment. “Turn it around!” she says. If you have a judgment against someone who is clearly WRONG, turn it around and create a statement of the opposite. For example, “She should have picked up her socks.” becomes “I should have picked up MY socks.” This is such a great tool for learning to pay attention to our judgments. When we turn it around on ourselves, we notice two things: 1) we are usually just as guilty, and 2) it doesn’t feel very good to be judged negatively. Lately, I have been listening to Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is on Audible. As an unexpected surprise, she used the actual recordings from her talks with participants to record the book so it is even better than the printed book, in my opinion. (The book is really a collection of her talks and her “work” with participants at various seminars.)

While listening to this book, I am  thinking of the people in my own life and how I have judged them. It seems that, the more an experiencce upsets me, the more likely it is that I have a big lesson to learn from this experience and growth is often not easy. It forces me to take a long cold look in the mirror at the mistakes that I have made and forgive. Forgive myself for making mistakes and forgive others for doing whatever they do that upsets me.

One of the things that I love about duality is how it makes ALL of it OK. If we’ve gone down some deep and lonely path, it is all OK… it all just IS. The bad things make us want to be good and the good things make us want to be bad, so we shift around a bit. Where would tall be without short? Where would fat be without thin? Each needs the other in order to exist, so spending a lot of energy trying to eliminate the opposite is an exercise in futility. Instead, appreciate the balance of the two. If you are fat, appreciate your thin. It is there. If you are thin, appreciate your fat. It is there. We are all one entity, one pulse. On, off. Light, dark.

As an exercise for this week, pay attention to your inner barometer. If you find yourself getting upset about something, look inside for what lessons you can learn from the experience. What is this emotional trigger trying to teach you about yourself and your own behavior? Try and stay in a place of gratitude for the lessons offered, and for having the ability to be present for yourself. There is a lot of value in that.

Check out Chapter 2 of the Tao Te Ching, which this post is based on.



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  5. I loved this Amy. Love how you are teaching me to pay attention and go inside the lesson when something challenges me. And it seems that there are rarely shortage of opportunities to be learning from. Blessings! xo
    Suzanne McRae recently posted…Nominated with a few Awards recentlyMy Profile

  6. Great post you have given me alot to think about.
    Athena Brady recently posted…Athena Brady’s Book Reviews December 2012My Profile

  7. I have spent my life in meditation, using Tao Te Ching and other disciplines. The writings you do are very valuable as a way to dig deeper and feel it more. Thank you for your insight.

  8. Oh, Amy. I’m back and starting at the beginning, and looking forward to what I’ll learn as I go through this over the next several months or years, hitting a new chapter every Tuesday. It’s making me feel like there’s hope for me, that I’ll eventually get to the point where I relax into life and go with the flow more. That is my goal. Thank you again and again for showing me this way to go through the book – one little morsel at a time over the course of many moons.
    Liesl Garner recently posted…Easy, Now, Grasshopper!My Profile

  9. Hello Amy, I am a newcomer and I have just re-discovered the Tao Te Ching for the first time in 20 or 25 years. How different it seems now, and it is starting to make more sense after a bit of life experience! I love what you write! And yes, duality – don’t you just love it and hate it! I am trying to develop an equanimity, stoicism and awareness, in holding the opposites, and feeling into what is between and beyond them, whether it is yin or yang, especially in these times when we can feel so strongly polarised.

  10. Hello Amy,
    I am just beginning this project and want to thank you for making it possible. I have listened to Dr Wayne Dyer, Wishes Fulfilled, and am thankful for the life teachings he passes on. He caused me to search the internet regarding the Tao Te Ching, where I found your site. I have so much to learn and will use the rest of my life in this personal pursuit of “being”.

  11. I am new to the study and it is certainly not easy to understand when just starting out! I completely understand the idea of duality, and the need for recognizing it and the useful practice of not judging. However, are we never to let anything upset us, and continue to allow negative or inappropriate behavior towards us by another person? Any insight on this would be very much appreciated!

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