The image of yin and yang is more than a symbol. “The Bhagavad Gita speaks of dualities. To the degree we are attached to the positive, we are attached to the negative,” says Radhanath Swami.
In India and China, dualities, as seen in yin and yang, are prevalent in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Consider the yin and yang in Yoga. Yin Yoga versus Yang Yoga (Power, Ashtanga or Vinyasa). Changing diet based on day and night, or spring and fall. Being in sync with the elements in your environment, and within your body and meridians/nadis.
In today’s society, we don’t pay much attention to the dualities surrounding us. Possibly because we are focused on our deadlines, busy lifestyles, and future goals. Art is a great stoplight to get you to re-focus. Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo are among my favorites. I appreciate not only the colors and shapes they painted, but the messages
Diego Rivera‘s larger-than-life-size paintings were commissioned by the Mexican Government, Henry Ford, and the Rockefellers, among others.
He was very conscious of dualities, in part, because he was a twin. Diego’s brother, Jose Carlos, died before his second birthday. Birth order makes a difference. The space from a lost child doesn’t disappear. Dualities are found throughout his legacy of art. Consider his portrayal of the U.S. and Mexico, Indigenous and European, modern versus traditional, capitalism as opposed to socialism, progress for betterment juxtaposed against inventions that destroy.
Sapha Arias is a Houston-based yoga teacher. At the 2016 Texas Yoga Conference, she led a workshop about the divine feminine. She respects Diego’s focus on dualities. Recognizing the yin and yang in everyone, Sapha encouraged men to participate in her Goddess workshop.
“Within our very selves, there exists the duality of male and female not as separate entities simply because of gender but united as one within each person regardless of which the shape of our bodies. One can never declare oneself to be 100 percent male or female because within each of us, both energies reside in different measures and we continuously chose to tap into one side or the other as we move through our day-to-day.”
Those male/female dualities can also be seen when looking at images of Diego, and his wife Frida Kahlo. While Frida most frequently dressed for the cameras or the easel in traditional indigenous attire, she had a soft spot for men’s wear. She honored the balance between feminine and masculine.
“Creation itself was built within duality. From dark, light. From nothing, a massive expanse of existence. It is impossible to renounce one part of the two without completely obliterating the other,” adds Arias. “When we are in a state of creativity, vulnerability, and tenderness – a state in which we can both, give and receive freely – we are within the sacred female energy within us. And, when we are in a state of action, we are in the realm of the sacred male. Therefore, we are all in a state of constant flow, a state of permanent vibration that keeps us moving from one side of the dual-energy to the next and this is a beautiful thing.”
Diego went beyond dualities, to show the opposite elements and life forces in his work. Those are part and parcel of Anahuacalli, his dream house in southern Coyoacán, Mexico. Light and dark. Day and night. Cold and hot. Heaven and hell. North and south. East and West. Earth and wind. Fire and rain. For example, the first floor is very dark, heavy, and oppressive. The upper floors feel lighter in color and atmosphere. This was deliberate. The dark cold represents the underworld. The light reminds us of the heavens.
“Without destruction, there is no creation. Without death, there is no life, and without gratitude, there is no discontent. This is the simple nature of things and it
is important for us all to remember not to demonize one or the other but to embrace the truth behind the very essence of the universe so that we may grow from this understanding,” comments Arias.
Diego’s European and Indigenous bloodlines were another aspect of duality. Proud of his indigenous roots, he incorporated native elements in his architecture. Each of the four corners of the house he built represent the four compass points. He also included the elements and their respective indigenous gods. For example, Tlaloc the rain god and Ehécatl the wind god.
Again, Sapha Arias on dualities: “If we are able to recognize the sacred dualities within, we are then able to realize the whole world resides within the same frequency and we are then able to learn from both dualities in full. We are able to rejoice in the moments of peace and weather the moments of turmoil. It is in this way that we expand, grow, and ultimately become one with it all once again.”