Even though I lived in Germany with Soviet parents since I was 7 years old, I still grew up with Chinese philosophy because my dad always told me a lot about Chinese philosophy and I was very interested in it. I was interested so much, that I even studied Chinese studies in university just to get a deeper insight. My focus was on – you guessed it – Chinese philosophy.
The lessons Chinese philosophy teaches can be applied to all aspects of our lives and the following concepts shaped my whole life in a very positive way.
They made me more relaxed and happier in and about life. They taught me to discipline my mind to do so much more with it, to react with ease to the challenges that life throws at me, and to lead an effortless life.
These concepts taught me to flow in life like water does and to move through challenges like a river moves past rocks.
If this is something that you would want your life to be like, then you could benefit from this article and from Chinese philosophy in general.
陰陽 Yin Yang - The Contradictory Unity
The Yin Yang concept is perhaps the most known concept out of all in Chinese philosophy. Yin stands for the negative, dark, and female, while Yang stands for the – you guessed it - positive, light, and male.
At first glance, they look like an opposing and contradictory couple but they’re nevertheless dependent on each other and this is where it gets interesting. Yin or Yang can’t exist or even emerge without the other one.
Hint: It’s not like with the egg and the chicken because Yin and Yang originate from the Taiji (the “Yin and Yang symbol” that you perhaps know is called “Taijitu”) and the Taiji originates from the Wuji. So there is a source of origin.
Yin and Yang are interdependent and contain each other. Besides that, the relationship between Yin and Yang isn’t fixed. They’re always moving and in a steady reversal. They’re flowing into each other.
You also can’t say that something is Yin without knowing what Yang is and vice versa. But what do you think who defines what Yin and Yang are?
In the end, everything white contains something black and everything black contains something white. For our lives, this means there is not just “good” or “bad” and it’s your choice to define whether something is negative or positive.
We usually tend to focus on “bad” things in life but with this concept, Chinese philosophy lets you easily turn everything negative in your life into something good. You just have to always look for the good in everything that happens to you because it is always there.
Think about it for a second.
Have you ever noticed that after something bad happens in your life, usually something good follows? But in most cases, we ignore it because we’re not aware as we don’t practice enough gratitude in our lives. I love the fact that Chinese philosophy teaches so much about awareness. The best examples of such situations in my life were relationships and work. Perhaps the most important areas in life.
A few years ago my relationship, which seemed at that moment serious, ended and this was at first “bad” in my eyes. For most of us, it is. But I implemented Chinese philosophy in my life and started thinking of it as an important experience that I needed to go through and waited for the good to happen. Shortly after that, I started a relationship with my now wife. By the way, at the time when I write this article it’s our second anniversary.
I was also fired from my 9–5 but I, again, implemented Chinese philosophy and took it as a blessing in disguise. What do you think? This lead to my entrepreneurial journey. I started my own freelance and online business, which I was already planning but waited for “the right moment” to start.
Sometimes seemingly negative things happen to point you to better possibilities. If you always have Chinese philosophy, and in this case especially the Yin and Yang concept in mind, it makes your life so much easier. You don’t put as much weight on the negative because you know that positive will follow as they’re both flowing into each other.
無為 Wu Wei - The Not Acting
This is perhaps my most favourite concept out of all Chinese philosophy. “Not acting” sounds at first pretty counter-intuitive, especially with everybody around telling you to hustle. Yet this concept doesn’t mean you should sit around without doing anything.
Far from it.
It means you should act but without intervention and through letting things happen. As such, it’s not “active” acting but something still happens.
If you don’t give Wu Wei further thought, you will be perhaps thinking that this sounds illogical but think about the concept of Yin and Yang. There is no just black and white. With this, there also shouldn’t be just “acting” or “not acting”, right?
This is Wu Wei. It is letting go, allowing things to happen, and not judging. It is accepting and adapting like water. It is not swimming against the stream. Why should you push for what’s unnatural in the first place?
To hear something like “don’t swim against the stream” from an entrepreneur can sound strange at first. But have you ever considered that society is set up as something that goes against our nature?
And we grow up in this system, so most of us are swimming against the stream for their whole life from the start, without even knowing and assuming that it’s the right direction. That is why many people struggle in life. Because they’re doing exactly that - going against their nature.
Perhaps you’ve already had this situation where things just happened. Everything has gone so well, so smooth, you just couldn’t believe it. Well, contrary to what society teaches us, this is how life is supposed to be.
And this is also what the Chinese philosophy Daoism teaches.
Usually, acting and for example, using strength aka hustling, acting, doing, breaking through walls, etc. is considered in our western world as power. Relaxing, on the other hand, is associated with a retreat or giving up, therefore a weakness. Of course, for our western minds, it is hard to accept such a concept.
Or is it not?
Many of us have already applied this concept, even though most of us don’t even know about it. For example, how do people solve problems with which they coped already for a long time without a break and without finding an answer?
Sometimes by giving up. Sometimes by distancing themselves from it and letting go. The principle is the same.
As soon as you do that, the answer pops on its own on your mind, doesn’t it? This is also how Einstein came up with his theory of special relativity. After 10 years of not solving the problem, he finally gave up. When he got to bed, the answer popped into his mind the same night while sleeping.
But like with Yin and Yang, Wu Wei doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do anything at all. Practice letting go and invest in what you consider a loss.
In most cases, it’s better to relax and let things happen anyway. If you’re letting go of the illusion of control, you allow energy to flow into your life and things to happen.
道 Dao - The Way
The Dao is the key concept of the Chinese philosophy Daoism and known as “The Way”. You can’t describe it well enough with words because it is something that everyone has to feel and understand on their own but I’ll still try to draw a picture of it.
The Dao is something you follow but also something that surrounds all of us and is in all of us. It’s comparable to the concept of the universe and if you’ve ever seen Star Wars, then you know the idea of The Force. With this, you can get a pretty good idea of the Dao as they’re pretty much the same.
If you follow the Dao, you follow your intuition and act upon it. You let things happen, and you feel when and how you need to act. You just know what to do and when to do it. That’s why it’s hard to describe it in words.
Because it’s a feeling.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s hard to grasp.
The Dao reveals itself through spontaneity. The best way to understand and feel the Dao is to stop overthinking, stop trying to control everything, and act spontaneously.
Chinese philosophy, huh?
If you understand, implement, and practice the concepts of Yin and Yang, and Wu Wei in your daily life, you will understand pretty fast what the Dao is and how to leverage it for your life as it consists of these two concepts.
- Yin Yang (The Contradictory Unity) – Realize that everything is in constant change which means that something good always comes after a bad experience and it’s up to you to decide what is good and what is bad.
- Wu Wei (The Not Acting) – Let go and allow things in your life to happen.
- Dao (The Way) – Follow your intuition and feel the flow of the universe.
Only because I was always implementing these concepts from Chinese philosophy, I was able to not look at negative things as “bad” things, to allow better things like my wife, my own business, many good friends, mentors, and so much more to come into my life and eventually live in harmony and balance.
I really hope you can apply these ideas in your daily life and benefit from them as much as I did and still do.