I SOMETIMES IMAGINE those ancient scientists thousands of years ago, striding across the Chinese landscape, observing how the shadows moved across the hills; the ways each plant sprouted, bloomed, and faded; how animals were born, thrived, and declined. In my mind, I see them note all the intricate ways each season was different, and how night moved into day, even how hour to hour of each day held a different quality. Over and over, they gazed up to survey how the stars move in their natural journey across the night skies throughout the year. They watched the people in their villages as they moved through their lives, each stage with a certain purpose and meaning, and studied all the various ways humans experience change over time.
Through the centuries of this kind of deep observation, these researchers developed a profound understanding of the patterns of nature, so subtly and intricately balanced, which are the foundation for all life on Earth, including human beings. And from this they created a sophisticated map of how everything on this planet works in perfect symmetry.
The word symmetry has different connotations. The first thing you may think of when you read that word is something that’s exactly the same on one side as on the other, like a grade-school Valentine heart cut from folded paper. Yet in physics, symmetry is defined as “immunity to change”—in other words, that an experiment should give the same results no matter where or when it’s performed. In fact, the concept of symmetry is considered so integral to the way life works that Albert Einstein used it as a fundamental principle when he developed his general theory of relativity, and it’s believed to be the core of the “theory of everything” that physicists are currently searching for.
And there’s yet another meaning for symmetry that signifies balanced and harmonious beauty of form, but doesn’t necessarily imply that all the parts are perfect mirror images. There’s a coherence to the form because of an inner order, an organizing principle. This is easily seen in the patterns of nature where there’s a congruency, an orderliness in the design and function of any living thing, as well as in the cycles of the seasons, times of day, and phases of life experience.
All three kinds of symmetry actually apply to the meaning of your hidden design. Each of your personal characteristics has two sides to it just like that Valentine heart, one representing a strength and the other its corresponding challenge, and together they form the perfect whole. The definition of symmetry as immunity to change also fits, as your inner design is one from which we can reliably predict and understand every aspect of your personality; your thoughts, feelings, and behavior; and what you need to be happy in life. Your makeup never changes; although you may express its qualities in different ways as you go through your life, they’re always rooted in the same meaning. And finally, in terms of balance and harmony of form, the patterns of your true nature have a coherent beauty to them, like your own personal mandala design.
The classic Chinese model of the universe, the yin yang symbol, is the essential representation of the symmetry of all life. Originally, the black half of the circle represented the shady side of the mountain that the sun hasn’t yet warmed, so it is dark, cold, and wet with dew. And the white half of the circle related to the sunny side of the mountain, where it is bright, hot, and dry. But this is a map that reveals the duality of all things in nature. For example, yin is not only dark, cold, and wet; it also encompasses qualities such as stillness, silence, caution, night, winter, the moon, and feminine energy. Yang is not only bright, hot, and dry; it’s also action, noise, confidence, day, summer, the sun, and masculine energy.
But nothing is totally yin or yang. Within each half of the circle, you see a dot that is its opposite. On the white half, there is a dot of black; on the black half, there is a dot of white. This represents the truth that within one is the seed of the other, day always turning into night, summer moving toward winter, and back again. The meaning infused in this simple circle is that all life is interconnected and interdependent, that everything is part of a balanced and dynamic system and interacts to form the greater whole.
As the Chinese studied and further refined this map, they also came to understand how energy moves through time. There are discernible patterns here—just as there are in everything—that deeply affect who you are overall and how you travel through your life. What they discovered over three millennia of “research and development” reveals your own inner makeup and the cycles you’ll experience.
It’s as if on the day you were born, you were imprinted by the patterns of energy that existed at that time, infusing your essence with their unique qualities to inform your inner spirit, what you came here to learn, and what your ultimate purpose will be.
At the same time, the map for your entire journey was formed. Like your own personal tide table—the ebbs and flows of your life—each phase of the invisible influence of time was set into motion on the day you were born. Just as with everything in nature, this design of your true self and your life plan have an intentional symmetry that’s beautiful to behold.
Jean Haner has a 25-year background in the ancient Chinese principles of balance and health. She places an emphasis on compassionate and affirming ways for people to live in alignment with their own true selves.