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  • Writer's pictureBarry Shirley


Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Hi Guys. In this June 2022 blog (Issue 29), I contemplate the subject of ‘Forces in Nature -Yin and Yang – the Three Gunas and Related Energies’.

As in my previous blogs, I will draw on the views and opinions of past and current masters, sages, mystics, gurus, philosophers and generally wise people. I also tap into worldly belief systems, religions and philosophies to draw on ancient knowledge and wisdom. So, if you are beginning to realise there is more to this life than you think, and you have the merest hint of something happening in yourself – read on.

These monthly blog posts are designed for those interested in mindfulness/spirituality/philosophy and will only give you a taste of the information, knowledge and wisdom that is out there (and all points raised can easily be further researched). I will also include text from my previous blogs as appropriate.

The Vedic texts are a large body of Hindu philosophical/religious texts originating from northern India circa – 1500/1200 BCE. The knowledge in the Vedas is believed in Hinduism to be eternal, uncreated, neither authored by human nor by divine source, but seen, heard and transmitted by sages. The Vedic texts describe the universe, and the human experience, as an interplay of the pure, perfect, and complete consciousness manifesting as the Self or Soul (known as Atman) and the changing material world known as Maya (i.e. illusion or unconscious).

Whilst some can conceptualise the animating or manifesting force within us either as the soul, spirit, source, consciousness, the Divine or Higher Self etc, there are literally hundreds of other descriptors prevalent in every indigenous society, ancient civilisation, culture, religion and belief system. These are described variously as either the bridge to or the actual Source; Prana (Hindu - life energy), Chi or Qi (Chinese - life force ), Atman (Hindu – universal Self), Purusha (Hindu - pure consciousness), KI (Japanese - spirit), Lung (Tibet - wind or breath), Mana (Polynesian - life force) etc.

The various ancient texts have always understood these aspects as energies or subtle energy needing to be balanced to either achieve healthy lives (i.e. ease rather than ‘dis-ease’), equanimity or to quieten the mind in order to access the Higher Self and enlightenment.

Modern science tells us that subtle energy transmits ‘information’ as frequency and as electromagnetism; we are an electric field — a giant electric field which holds our atoms together, and which uses other electric fields to talk to other bits of ourselves.” (see links) - Essentially, as human beings and in every other aspect of the universe we are vibrating constantly and creating energy.

Eckhart Tolle in the ‘Power of Now’ (20th Anniversary Edition 2020) describes Chi (Qi) specifically and separately as the inner energy field of your body (p108). He writes; “It is the bridge between the outer you and the Source. It lies halfway between the manifested, the world of form, and the Unmanifested. Chi can be likened to a river or an energy stream. If you take the focus of your consciousness deeply into the inner body, you are tracing the course of this river back to its Source. Chi is movement; the Unmanifested is stillness. When you reach a point of absolute stillness, which is nevertheless vibrant with life, you have gone beyond the inner body and beyond Chi to the Source itself: the unmanifested. Chi is the link between the Unmanifested and the physical universe”.

Additionally, there are numerous other forces at play that affect our physical, emotional, metaphysical and spiritual existence through the mind-body-spirit connection.

For instance, most people are familiar with the basic concept of Yin and Yang but may not fully realise the importance of it in relation to duality in the domain of spirituality. Duality can be described as; there being two components to each of us, i.e. there is an egoic self (which some people perceive as the real self) and the Higher Self – the soul/spirit/consciousness/the Divine etc which is considered the true Self or Absolute Truth (the internal witness or observer). This can also be described as the dark and light but being part of the one existence.

Nichola Tesla (1846/1943 – Serbian/American inventor/futurist known for many unique patents and contributing to alternating current electricity supply systems) is reported to have said: “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration”. As previously stated, modern science has confirmed that we are vibrational beings in a very vibrationally active universe (i.e. everything is made up of atoms which are in a constant state of motion). Ancient Vedic texts recognised this energy concept especially with the well-known, sound and Sanskrit word ‘OM.’

According to Hindu mythology the basis of the universe was a sound vibration denoted by the word AUM (OM). From this energy vibration, everything came into existence and the material world was born. It is considered the primordial sound of the universe. OM connects us to and carries the divine in the vibration form, making our chants and mantras more effective with its increased Pranic energy (life energy or Chi).

OM is a Sanskrit word, first found in the Vedas. It is used for attaining Yoga or union with the Divine. OM refers to the soul (the Self within) and Brahma (Hindu God creator, ultimate reality, truth, divine, or the supreme spirit).

Brahman on the other hand is a higher concept of consciousness – Ishvara and embodies existence itself – the highest reality and cosmic principle – universal power. The OM syllable is found at the beginning and the end of chapters in the Vedas, the Upanishads, and other Hindu texts. It is used before chanting many Mantras such as; Om Nama Shivaya.

OM is written in Sanskrit as AUM, which represents 3 letters and sound corresponds to a different aspect of the divine (this word can also refer to a specific god, a supreme being, or the universal Power).

The first sound ‘A’ represents Brahma, ‘the creator of the world”. The ‘U’ sound invokes Vishnu, the preserver, and the ‘M’ sound is for Shiva, the destroyer. So, AUM (Ahh – Ohh – Mm) represents the 3 divine powers that control the universe.

There is an enormous amount of written material concerning the Yin and Yang energies which are founded on a number of different ancient Eastern beliefs, practices, religions and philosophy. The main source seems to be from ancient Taoist sources where they show that Yin and Yang are competing and complementary energies which cannot exist independently without each other.

They cover everything in the universe/nature/matter and are bound together as a mutual whole and as distinct energies, ebb and flow but may need to be balanced. Yin and Yang are one of the main features of Chinese Traditional Medicine – TCM – through the meridian/Nadi pathways/chakra spinning energy system. Yin and Yang are also the foundation of many ancient concepts controlling and manipulating energy meridians/points in the body, from Reiki, Feng Shui, through all meditative practices, martial arts to ikebana, shiatsu etc. See reference at Religion Wiki for further detail and references;

(Yin - dark on the right and Yang light on the left of the symbol) - Daniel Reid, author of ‘The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity ‘(Pocket Books 2001, from page 21) writes; “The original meaning of the Chinese ideogram for ‘Yin’ is ‘the shady side of a hill’. It represents darkness and passivity, and is associated with the qualities of yielding, softness and contraction. It moves downward and inward, and its primary symbols are woman, water and earth. ‘Yang’ means ‘the sunny side of the hill’, represents light and activity, is associated with resistance, hardness and expansion, moves naturally upward and outward, and is symbolized by man, fire and heaven.”

“Yin and Yang are mutually interdependent, constantly interactive, and potentially interchangeable forces. Despite their polarity, each contains the embryonic seed of the other within itself, as illustrated by the familiar Yin/Yang circle. The circle itself represents the Supreme Source, half Yin and half Yang, each with a dot of its own opposite growing inside it. The S-shaped boundary between the two indicates that their borders are never fixed. Whenever the constant waxing and waning of polar energies leads to a critical excess of one or the other, it spontaneously transmutes into its own opposite. The 3,000 – year – old book ‘Book of changes’ (I-Ching) predicts events based on the cosmic interplay of Yin and Yang.”

The Tao Te Ching (Tao) is an ancient Chinese philosophical and religious text which denotes the view that we should spend more time in Self-awareness (i.e. exploring the Higher Self) rather than in the mind’s dysfunctional perceptions (i.e. ego and negative emotions). The Dao (Tao) calls for adherence to the ‘The Way’ and that the Dao is the origin and law of all things in the universe. The unity of opposites makes up the world as depicted in the following example of a part quote from a translation of Chapter 2 of the Tao:

When people see things as beautiful, ugliness is created. When people see things as good, evil is created.

Being and non-being produce each other. Difficult and easy complement each other. Long and short define each other. High and low oppose each other. Fore and aft follow each other.

The focus is the individual in nature rather that the individual in society. It holds that the goal of life for each individual is to find one’s own personal adjustment to the rhythm of the natural world/cosmos and to follow the Way (Dao) of the universe. The experience of consciousness through meditative practice like Tai Chi and Qigong involves engaging rhythmic breathing and observing the world around you mindfully without judgement to access ‘no mind’ and the spiritual energy beyond (within). Taoists stress the importance of harmonising with nature by balancing Yin and Yang.

There are many other similar energies, as mentioned, in various ancient texts on eastern philosophy/religions. I will explore some of these concepts in an attempt to understand our cosmic significance from both a metaphysical and physical world perspective.

Similarly, in the yogic tradition Shiva and Shakti (feminine and masculine aspects of the divine) are all about the duality of life when you have limited yourself to the sense perceptions and the intuitive and logical aspects of oneself.

Aimee Hughes (mindfulness contributor to Yogapedia) writes that;According to Shaivism, one of the major branches of yogic philosophy, there is a divine masculine energy that takes the form of the Hindu god, Shiva and a divine feminine energy that takes the form of the goddess, Shakti.

Both Shiva and Shakti are alive in both men and women. All of us have divine masculine (Shiva) aspects and divine feminine (Shakti) aspects to our being. It’s said that our feminine side resides on our left side, while the masculine resides on our right side. We hold these energies within us and, when united, there’s a complete balance, joy and presence within our very being. Accessing each of our divine natures — both masculine and feminine — can be both enlightening and surprising.

Things that have already come into being are made of Shakti energy. These two divinely sacred energies are equal and opposite forces. We can’t have one without the other.

We can integrate Shiva and Shakti within our inner consciousness, within our entire being. These sacred powers can open us up and transform our very being.

The Shakti energy within us can take the form of prana, that life force energy that flows through our nadis, or subtle energy channels.

It can also take the form of kundalini energy, that coiled energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine until it is unleashed. When this happens, a kundalini awakening occurs, in which the Shakti energy awakens and moves through the central channel, or the sushumna nadi, along which the seven chakras reside. This is when deep cleansing, healing and transformation takes place — and it all happens through the movement of Shakti energy within.

We can feel our Shiva energy when we are the witness of the Shakti. When we sit in meditation, cultivating clear presence and purpose, we are resting within our inner Shiva nature.

Shiva holds space for Shakti to move through. Shiva gives direction to Shakti’s shape-shifting energetic flow.

In Hinduism, Prakriti (Sanskrit) refers to a primal creative or natural force. It signifies the natural or original intended state of something or of an individual‘s being. The term is derived from the Sanskrit Pra, meaning ‘beginning’ and Kriti, meaning ‘creation’ (further explained in more detail in the various Vedic texts).

In Kundalini yoga, one aim of the practitioner is to awaken Prakriti (or the energy of ‘mother nature’) to achieve balance and awaken one’s primal power and reach a more natural state of being.

Underpinning prakriti are three energetic forces called the three ‘Gunas’(primary qualities or modes of nature). The gunas are responsible for the behaviour and natural propensities of all living beings as well as existing in all objects in nature.

Timothy Burgin, - US author and Yoga teacher writes; “In the philosophy of Yoga, all matter in the universe arises from the fundamental substrate called prakriti. From this ethereal Prakriti the three primary gunas (qualities of energy) emerge creating the essential aspects of all nature – energy, matter and consciousness. The three gunas are ‘Tamas’ (darkness and chaos), ‘Rajas’ (activity and passion), and ‘Sattva’ (beingness and harmony). The awareness and conscious manipulation of the three gunas are a powerful way to reduce stress, increase inner peace and lead one towards enlightenment.”

“The mind’s psychological qualities are highly unstable and can quickly fluctuate between the different gunas. The predominant guna of the mind acts as a lens that affects our perceptions and perspective of the world around us. Thus, if the mind is in ‘Rajas’ it will experience world events as chaotic, confusing and demanding and it will then have a strong tendency to continue to react to events in a ‘Rajasic’ way. Therefore, for yogis to make progress along the path we must practice self-observation and discernment to witness and not react to the activities of the gunas. We must also have the inner-strength and willpower to consciously shift our thoughts and actions away from ‘Tamas’ and ‘Rajas’ towards ‘Sattvic’ balance and purpose.”

As an artist I have definitely felt the different aspects of the gunas when painting a piece and when finding the ‘sweet spot’ then dwelling in the flow or ‘Sattva’.

However, the Vedic texts suggest that we should try to transcend the gunas rather than cultivate them as they are part of Prakriti and through our senses responsible for our ignorance, delusion, bondage and suffering on earth. When they are active, we remain bound to them and the ego and cannot be free from attachments until they are fully resolved.

There are many other aspects of subtle energies that I have not been able cover in much detail in this post including the Shakta theory of chakras (7 common chakras), Tantric practice, subtle bodies or sheaths, the Nadis, Kundalini energy, sacred geometry, Ayurveda and harmonics. Also, a recent book by Nick Lane, Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London, a British biochemist and writer – ‘The Deep Chemistry of Life and Death’, suggests that electromagnetic fields generated by human metabolic processes may be the underpinning of consciousness. He asks the question; What really animates cells and sets them apart from non-living matter? Exciting times!


  • “When one rises above the three gunas that originate in the body; one is free from birth, old age, disease, and death; and attains enlightenment” – Bhagavad Gita, sloka 14.20 – Hindu text – 1st millennium BCE.

  • “We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep” – William James (1842/1910) American philosopher, historian, psychologist and educator.

  • “Our nature views things as they are, but our feelings cause us to see things subjectively and egotistically. Our nature is impartial and enlightened, but our feelings are partial and deceived”. - Shao Yong (1011-1077) – Taoist Sage - Supreme Principle Governing the World (Huang-Chi Ching Shu), 8B: 16a-17a, in Wing-Tsit Chan, Chinese Philosophy, Chapter 29.

  • “To see a world in a grain of sand; And a heaven in a wildflower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand; And eternity in an hour.” – William Blake (1757/1827) – English poet, painter during the ‘Romantic age’.

  • There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet speaking to Horatio after speaking to a ghost. – William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet Act 1 scene 5 (1603) - a view on the limitations of rational thinking methinks, perhaps?

  • “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” – Martha Graham (1894/1991) – American modern dancer and choreographer.

Take away

  • Be aware that subtle energy can affect your life experience and endeavour to balance or unblock the energy pathways as appropriate.

  • All this is dependent on how you perceive your meaning of life and the perception of your own significance in the cosmos.

  • Modern science and the ancients are increasingly in accord with the wondrous physical and metaphysical aspects of the cosmos – the magic of life!

  • Remain vigilant for self-judgement and habitual negative thoughts and once you comprehend either the Yin Yang concept or the three gunas you can better understand your inner place and how to move with the flow of life. Seek harmony!

  • Also, try yoga, along with meditation – a natural combination for balancing subtle energy and achieving overall well-being. If already practicing yoga and meditation – go deeper – both higher vibration activities! Nourish your mind body and spirit!

Compiled by Baz Shirley.


*See also:

Instagram: @bazabstractart - Facebook: Barry Shirley

And all my previous posts on:

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