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The Dance of Life – reciprocating tensions

January 20, 2015

Nature is continually unfolding in a process of transforming what is forming. The Latin root of the word nature is natura which means ‘to give birth’, to creatively become.

This creative reaching beyond present possibilities, circumstances and perceived limitations in order to learn, develop, diversify and evolve, is the dynamic of life.

spiral dynamics4

Foundational to this creative dynamic are inter-relations and the tensions these inter-relations provide; a communing of opposing tensions – the yin/yang of life. For the ancient Chinese, there is no ‘and’ between the yin quality and the yang quality because yin is not separate from yang, rather there is a communing within the cycle of Nature (the circle within which the yin/yang reciprocate). There is no separation only tensions of reciprocity; attuning through yielding and asserting while seeking harmony.


This coherence of yin/yang tensions lies at the heart of T’ai Chi philosophy which aims to embody the wisdom of Nature through the integration of the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of life. Every flower and unfolding moment contains this innate wisdom. Every vibration of energy embodies the yin/yang dance of life within the deeper matrix of the Nature. Our own bodyminds and natural awareness is nested within this vast oceanic interplay of receptivity (yin) and responsiveness (yang).

Life is our best teacher, continually unfolding challenges/opportunities for us to dance within this receptive-responsive reciprocity.  Sometimes we need a little more receptivity in opening ourselves up to others, sometimes a little more responsiveness. And so challenges can be seen as opportunities to transform our perceptions, patterns of behaviour and mind-sets, so that we can open up and reciprocate with others in a deeper way.


A powerful yet simple illustration of how to bring this co-creative improvisational dance of life alive in both our minds and bodies is to learn to dance with one another in a receptive, responsive, reciprocating way. To begin with, two people might pair up as partners, a short distance apart with legs astride and touching hands. One chooses to be assertive ‘leader’ and the other yielding ‘follower’. At first with a rocking to and fro linear motion, then perhaps transforming into a circular motion, the two move synchronously. A rhythm develops, as with a swinging pendulum, but the movement is dependent on the leader’s self-centred awareness and associated effort, regardless of what the follower may be experiencing. So the movement could not really be called a ‘dance’ in the fullest sense, in which each is equally and vitally involved in partnership. The follower might as well not be there: if the leader is tired, the movement will be tired; if the leader is full of energy, the movement will be energetic, but creatively restricted and fatiguing. If at some stage, however, the leader becomes sensitive to the movement of the follower and attunes to this so as to ‘follow the follower’, the result is a mutual effortlessness where each is alive within the influence of the other. Both co-create without a pre-defined trajectory and so improvise in a continually innovative way.

To flow in such an open, mutually inclusive way requires an attuning of our mental and bodily awareness both to each other and the co-evolving movement. Correspondingly, the dance itself responds to our ever changing receptive-responsive dynamic. If, for example, while we are dancing co-creatively – with neither trying to lead and both following the communing flow – one partner becomes more assertive, the other may respond either by becoming more yielding or by becoming more resistive. The dance either loses is co-creative fluidity or it becomes tense and jerky. By the same token, if both partners remain passive, the dance won’t happen at all.

Yang characteristics                                Yin characteristics

Compete                                                             Cooperate

Organise                                                              Collaborate

Focus                                                                    Feel

Plan                                                                       Intuit

Discover                                                               Ground

Achieve                                                                 Include

Solve                                                                     Transform

Question                                                             Empathise

Specialise                                                            Communicate

(source – Pioneering the Possible, Scilla Elsworthy)

Rather than an overly-yang, overly-competitive way of attending to life, whereupon we perceive life as a struggle of each against other, by learning to attune our yin-yang dynamic we begin to see life as an improvisational process of each naturally included in the other’s co-creative influence. We move forward, learn and evolve through our responsive ambition and receptive ability to flex, attune and reciprocate within an ever-changing improvisational dance of natural energy flow.

‘When male and female combine,

All things achieve harmony.’ Lao Tzu

The word harmony has its root in the Greek harmonia meaning ‘to fit together’. Diverse influences integrate in a way that creates the harmonious ‘music of life’ – a pleasant attunement of differences. The rhythm and resonance these harmonising tensions provide invoke the experience of beauty within us.  And so we can understand that the creation of life’s beauty is through the dynamic communing of reciprocal influences. It is life’s challenges that provide the opportunities for us to develop, diversify and become more than we are.

nature trees in trees

Ultimately, all of life and evolution is a co-creative dance of inter-relational tensions. We may discover that the trick to finding attunement within the dance is in getting to know oneself by exploring the interior attunement of our being and the inner-outer dynamic of our daily life. By becoming ever-more conversant with the soulful, spiritual, mental, emotional and physiological aspects of our selves, we learn to refine our dance through learning more about our selves. As we attune, we allow our creative potential to flow through all that we do; synchronicity flows and we become ones in communion within the dance, not ones singularly at odds with other; we attune with spirit, soul, Tao, Nature. As the poet Rumi noted, ‘I am the flute, but the music is thine.’

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 21, 2015 3:03 pm

    Yet deeper understanding becomes possible when the receptive omnipresence of infinite, intangible space and responsive local informative presence of energy as continuous flux are recognised to be mutually inclusive of each other.

    We then come to recognise that Nature is a receptive and responsive presence everywhere, to include ourselves within and include within our Selves, not someTHING to control or connect to.

    We need to welcome in the receptive presence that has been excluded from our awareness by abstract definitive reasoning. Then we truly can enter the ‘New Paradigm’. See

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