Polarities

Explore Opposites


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Watch “The Legend of Annapurna, Hindu Goddess of Nourishment” (5-min video) from TED-Ed. This video tells the Hindu legend of two gods — Shiva (male) and Parvati (female) — who are complementary opposites. In this story, Shiva embodies thought while Parvati embodies action. When Shiva fails to value Parvati, she leaves, causing the world to descend into chaos. She then returns as Annapurna, the Hindu Goddess of Nourishment.

Discuss:

  • What does Shiva represent in this story? (Thought, logic, etc.)
  • What does Parvati represent in this story? (Action, connection, etc.)
  • What happened when Parvati stepped back from her role? (The world is cold, hopeless, and meaningless.)
  • What does this story teach about finding balance?

The Legend of Annapurna suggests that there is a Shiva and a Parvati inside each of us — that we all need to balance thought and action. Both are essential.

Explore Opposites 

To start this experience, first notice your breath.

Notice that your body knows how to breathe in and out naturally, without effort.

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Now see if you can only breathe in. Breathe in as long as you possibly can. What happens?

Next, try to only breathe out. Breathe out as long as you can. What happens now?

Chances are you can’t do either one alone — nor should you!

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Life is full of these opposites — opposites that are both good. But even a good thing if held too tightly becomes unhealthy.

Think of it this way: What if we had too much of just one of these good things?

  • Night vs. Day
  • Asleep vs. Awake
  • Movement vs. Stillness
  • Play vs. Work
  • Giving vs. Receiving
  • Quiet vs. Loud

Activity: Role Play

Make up scenarios where you see what happens when you only do one of these pairs of opposites. Here are some options:

  • Pretend you’re in a world where you can only move — you can never be still, even for a moment. How long can you last?
  • Pretend you’re in a world where everyone can only be loud. How does it feel in your body after 20 seconds where everyone is shouting? Now pretend you’re in a world where everyone can only whisper as quietly as possible. You can only communicate by being right next to someone’s ear. How does that feel?
  • Imagine a world where everyone can only play. What happens? What do your surroundings — your kitchen or your room — look like in 3 months of no cleaning?
  • How about a world where everyone can only work. What would that feel like?

Reflect:

  • What is something you have too much or too little of in your own life? What do you think you can do to find the right balance between good things in your life?

Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 from the Hebrew Bible:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
(New Revised Standard Version)

Sing: “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by Pete Seeger

Listen to the cover by Judy Collins (1966) or Josh Turner (2020):

Reflect:

  • How can you better celebrate complementary opposites in your life? (Example: When you’re sleepy, sleep. When you’re awake, be awake.)

"Moderation is best in all things."