Finding a Faith that Works: Yin and Yang Part 2
(WARNING, this is a long post filled with my religious ideas. If you are not interested, I will not be the least offended if you choose to not read it)
I get many emails every day from people who are interested in vandwelling and write to ask me questions. For many of them these are very dark times and their mail begins with a sad story about how this long, deep economic recession has cost them everything. They lost their jobs and have been unemployed long enough that their unemployment has run out and now they are losing their house or being evicted out of their apartments. A surprising number of them also include health problems that make things much worse. To add insult to injury, all too often they turn to their families for help and their family is unwilling or unable to help.
Having gone through some very dark times like that myself, I have a strong sense of empathy for them and I always answer their questions with as much hope and practical advice as I can. I was lucky, and my mother, family and friends were there for me so I didn’t have to go through those times alone. Everything I have done on my websites and now on this blog has been with the goal of providing a light at the end of a very dark tunnel for all who need it. My goal in this post is specifically to show you how I found the light of hope. By necessity it includes spiritual and religious topics and I hope you are not offended by my experiences and conclusions. I mean no disrespect to any of your beliefs.
In my last post I talked about the oriental principle of Yin and Yang. I said it was one of the guiding principles of my life and has provided me with many answers to life tough questions and gotten me through dark times and provided me with constant hope and faith. First, let me tell you how I came to believe in it.
In my 40s I went through a divorce and a difficult mid-life crisis. I found a program that got me through it, but it was a spiritual program and part of it was that I had to find a faith that worked for me. I had been religious all my life, but that faith had not worked for me. I believe I tried hard to follow all the instructions I was given with my whole heart, but there were things about me that needed to be changed, and they never were. So when I found out the only real hope I had was through a spiritual renewal, I felt totally hopeless. But I had come to the point where I had to find a faith that worked or I would simply end up dead or wishing I was dead. I started out by putting all my faith in the program I was following and having faith in it. That was enough, and my life began to change.
That first year in the program was horrible, the worst of my life, but at the same time I had also found real hope because I was changing. There were literal miracles of change in my life: one moment I was one way, and the next moment I was different. A friend in the program described it as “changed at the cellular level” and I agree. God (as I understood god) was doing for me what I could not do for myself. Part of the program that I was following suggested that I turn my will and my life over to the care of god, as I understand god. But the god of my understanding had failed me, so I fired the old one and began a search for a new one. I studied all the world’s religions as best I could. None of them worked for me so I decided I would take the best of each of them and blend then into one that did. The two that spoke most profoundly to me were Native American Spirituality and Zen-Taoism. To the best of my ability I have worked hard at incorporating their principles into my life. I do not follow any of the details of their religion, because I have no confidence in religion. But I do try very hard to live my life by their underlying principles.
The reason I chose them is because they are nature-based religions. One thing I decided was that if there is a god (and if there was not a god, I was doomed) the most logical way for him/her/it to speak to humans was through nature. Nature speaks to every human who ever lived in exactly the same way. We have all looked at the same sun and moon, the same stars and felt the same wind. Every human has looked at a star-filled sky or a beautiful sunrise/sunset and heard the faint whisper of god’s love song. All of nature’s many lessons are available to every person no matter where on the planet they lived or at what time period they lived in. Its meaning cannot be changed in translation or be miss-interpreted because of cultural differences. Nature is the one and only truly universal messenger.
So when I found the concept of Yin and Yang in the Tao Te Ching, I knew instantly that it was true. Everywhere I look in nature I see examples of paired, complimentary opposites locked in a beautiful, harmonious dance of transformation. I knew that this was a solid foundation to build a life on. And ever since then I have been continually amazed at how many of life’s most difficult and important questions are answered by looking at it in the light of Yin-Yang.
I want to look at some of the biggest questions that we face and see how I resolved it for myself in just that way.
- Why is there evil, did god create it?
- If he did, is he evil, and if he didn’t, who did?
- Does god plan everything in our lives?
- If so, how can we have free will?
- If something bad happens to me, is God mad at me?
- If God is mad at me, how can I pacify him?
I think all those questions can be summarized into one question:
Why do bad things happen to good people; and good things happen to bad people?
You might think “That is an interesting question, but it really isn’t all that important.” But to me, it is life and death. Remember I said I had to find a faith that worked? While I had been religious all my life I never had a faith that worked. It was all theory and ideas and never became a true, living faith. So when the day came that I had to turn my will and my life over to god, as I understood god, I couldn’t because I wasn’t absolutely sure he/she/it was good and wanted only the best for me. My faith didn’t work.
As I learned more about myself, I learned that the god I had always believed in was a kind of Santa Clause. If I was good I would get gifts, and if I was bad I would be punished. The problem was, it didn’t seem to work that way. When I was as good as I could be, things went wrong. And then when I was being bad, things often went well. There was no rhyme or reason to it. So I kept trying harder and harder to be good, but it was never enough. I was never happy or at peace.
Through a long process, today I have a faith that works. It would take too long to go through the whole path so I’m not going to try. However, I do want to summarize how I’ve resolved the questions above.
It begins with the principle of Yin and Yang, that everything is composed of apparent opposites. In nature we see a great orderliness. Many of nature’s events are so orderly that we can predict what will happen next for 1000s of years into the future. Nearly all of astronomy is that way. For example, we can track and predict the earth’s rotation, and it’s slowing, down to a tiny, tiny fraction of a minute. But on the other hand, in nature we equally see total chaos and randomness. The same science that can predict eclipses for thousands of years can’t accurately predict the weather next week. Sometimes it can make some pretty accurate guesses, but with all the variables involved, that’s about all it amounts to.
These facts fit in perfectly with the principles of Yin and Yang. Chaos and Order are written into the very fabric of the universe. So it should come as no surprise to us that that our lives are full of random events. Luck, both good and bad, plays as big a role in our lives as does god. And there is never a way to know exactly which is which. As I have taken a journey into faith the one thing I have come to know absolutely is that whatever god is, he/she/it loves me totally and no matter what is going on in my life right now, it is going to be okay. So I can see both luck and god at work in my life all the time and I believe with my whole being that they are not contradictory.
Oddly enough, as soon as I embraced these ideas, my life drastically improved. The storms of life settled down and virtually disappeared. And when they did blow through, I had the tools to deal with them and maintain my balance. I love this quote and find it a great source of hope:
“Steady faith is stronger than destiny. Destiny is the result of causes, mostly accidental, and is therefore loosely woven. Confidence and good hope will overcome it easily.”
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
It’s my prayer that these thoughts will help you move into a life of living faith, and that in doing so you can overcome the force of luck and destiny. Bob