Archetypal Images and Symbols I Use in My Practice
“We have learned so much… there still remains much to learn. We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps” -Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
The Yin Yang symbol is my personal symbol- one that I use both as a logo for my practice, and as a psychoeducational tool with you in therapy sessions. As my personal symbol, I find that it helps to remind me to always seek balance. Yin Yang Symbolism originated in the Taoist Spiritual Tradition (pronounced “DOW-ist”)
If you reflect on the symbol for a moment you will notice: Opposites exist simultaneously. The following reading may help your understanding:
From Patricia Monaghan’s The Goddess Companion: Daily Meditations on the Feminine Spirit– October 3rd… she quotes from a Chinese Ode, 2nd Century BCE:
It is possible to receive the truth, though it cannot be given. It is so tiny it can hold nothing, yet it is boundlessly huge. Keep your soul on the path away from confusion, and it will always find its way to the truth. Bring the male and female within you together, and hold them within yourself through all the long night, and you will be ready to receive all wisdom.
The union of opposites is at the base of many philosophies and religions. Whether it be called male and female, yin and yang, the inner light and the transcendent divinity- such dualisms must be overcome in order for enlightenment to be achieved.
We live in a world that encourages oppositional thinking. Up and down, black and white, rich and poor. Adult and child. Fat and thin. Normal and abnormal. Day and night. (I would add… good or bad… us or them… right or wrong). But where does day actually end, and night begin? Much of our life is led in various twilights, in spaces between extremes. Acknowledging the variety and diversity of earthly life is part of the search for wisdom, in whatever tradition we find it.
The Yin and the Yang are not “either/or”- they are “both/and”. Yin and Yang are NOT a muddied grey integration. Each is distinct unto itself (autonomous) and they sometimes appear to be “chasing” each other as you meditate on the image. I teach that we have the ability to hold two distinct thoughts simultaneously. We are capable of this and need only practice. This ability or spiritual practice is very helpful for your healing journey.
If I fall into “black and white, either/or, us versus them” thinking, this important Taoist symbol is a visual reminder that helps me get back on track.
Remember that the Feminine and the Masculine are both represented in this beautiful Taoist symbol, as are other “supposed” opposites. Notice in the black space there is a seed of white, and in the white space a seed of black. Many people do associate Yin with Female attributes and Yang with Male, but I invite you to move beyond this simplistic view. As we evolve deeper in our reflections on this symbol, Yin can simply mean: relational, yielding, acceptance, intuitive while Yang can mean: logical, rational, practical, reasoning. As a Feminist psychotherapist, I hold hope for a world where Yang allows Yin energy to lead the way. The Yin Yang symbol is also cyclical, which leads me to the next tool I use… the Spiral.
Before we move on to the Spiral, more fascinating reading on the powerful Yin Yang symbol can be found at https://personaltao.com/taoism/what-is-yin-yang/
Yet another ancient symbol, I use the Spiral- again as a personal symbol- this time as a reminder of feminine energy, the birth/rebirth cycle of my own personal changes, and simply because the Spiral is so incredibly beautiful. I also use the Spiral every day in my practice beyond how it obviously relates to the Yin Yang symbol being cyclical.
I have noticed that we tend to encounter the same healing opportunities over and over again in our lives, and that if we lay our healing journey over a Spiral template, we can go deeper and deeper each time. We are constantly changing and evolving.
As a feminist psychotherapist, it is important to me not to build dependency with my clients, but if a person returns to me ready to go deeper on their healing Spiral, I welcome them. I might see someone every two or three weeks for several months. Then I won’t see them again for perhaps a year, sometimes two years later. They don’t have to re-tell their story because I know it. However, I am also a believer in their ability to evolve and change. I meet them at deeper point on the Spiral. It’s beautiful work.
For me, the Spiral as a symbol also represents the web of life in that if you reflect on the Spiral image, you find yourself realizing that everything is connected. Study a spider’s web for several minutes or even for a full half hour or hour. Of course, a web is technically not a Spiral, but this magnificent achievement by a tiny creature can teach us so much about order and beauty out of chaos and confusion, and about persistence and going deeper.
I also use the Spiral in my Sophia Women’s Wisdom Group especially in my Curriculum design sequence for this important monthly Circle of women. When we begin meeting in Sophia, the teaching appears simplistic and outwardly pretty basic. But as the Group continues to meet, the bonds between the women develop, the teachings deepen, and the Spiral emerges as we evolve individually and collectively.
I also use the Wellness Wheel in my work.
Adapted from Aboriginal culture (Plains tribes Medicine Wheel), the Wellness Wheel simply reminds me to consider the importance and energy I give to the spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual aspects of my life.
Once again, it is a reminder to seek balance.
If you would like to learn more about how I use the Wellness Wheel, listen to the podcast episode.