The Symbols of Balance Throughout History
Posted by GR0
Balance is essential, both physically and mentally. Feeling balanced is one of the keys to living a happy life and it is so vital to the true spirit of humanity that symbols of balance have been found throughout history. Understanding and recognizing those symbols serve as a daily reminder that you need to focus on your own sense of balance and happiness.
No one knows that better than those of us at Home of Chiji, where we specialize in your self-care. Here are some of the symbols of balance that have appeared throughout history and ways that you can find a greater sense of balance in your own life.
Symbols have always played a powerful and important role in cultures all over the world. Before the written word, people relied on symbols to help them communicate. Even more crucially, symbols allow people to communicate efficiently even through language barriers and time.
Words can be interpreted in many ways, especially if they are translated from one language to another. Symbols are much more plain and easy to understand, even if you don’t speak the language.
From Buddhism to Hinduism to Judaism and everywhere in between, symbols are universal. However, not all symbols are spiritual symbols. Many exist in a cultural context without any associated religious dogma.
The Yin Yang Symbol (China)
One of the most easily recognizable symbols of balance in the world is the yin yang symbol. The symbol was born in ancient China to visually represent duality—light and dark, positive and negative. However, it is so much more than there just being two sides to every coin.
The beauty and power of the yin yang symbol is that it represents how opposing forces can actually work together as two parts of a whole. While there is black and white, we all exist in a grey area where nothing is quite so obvious.
Harmony comes when both opposing elements exist in a perfect state of balance. If the scales tip one way or the other, that balance is disrupted.
The Tree of Life and Double Spiral (Celtic)
So many of our traditions are based on the ancient Celts—especially our holidays. They were one of the first civilizations to deify many natural phenomena like the changing of the seasons or harvesting of crops. The Celts were a very earth-based culture, evident in many of the symbols they chose to use.
As far as symbols of balance go, their most well-known is the Celtic Tree of Life. This symbol is a knot but in the shape of a tree. It was created to represent the inherent harmony present in nature and its intrinsic strength, longevity, and wisdom.
The Tree of Life is considered to be sacred in the Celtic culture. This is because many Celts believe that they are a gateway between the physical world and the spirit world. Many of their spiritual practices, rituals, and special occasions were done under large trees to connect them more deeply with their ancestors.
The Celts also brought us the double spiral, which is two separate spirals connected in the middle. Although the original meaning has been lost, it appears to function similar to intricate mandalas pointing out a spiritual path of enlightenment.
The Scales (The West)
While many of the symbols of balance come from outside of the United States, the scales are one of our most recognizable homegrown symbols. They have been used to represent many different things, all with the same basic premise.
The scales represent balance in their most basic form and it can be interpreted from both a physical and mental point of view. To be in physical balance, both sides of the scale need to weigh close to the same amount. The same can be said of measuring thoughts or principles, although that idea is more abstract.
Although it has become a symbol of balance in the West, the scales have historical roots in various other cultures. They represented multiple gods and goddesses in the Greek and Roman pantheons (Lustitia, Themis, and Tyr). Their connection with the astrological sign of Libra also comes from a Roman poet.
The ancient Egyptians also believed that the soul would be weighed against a feather by Anubis at the moment of death. If their sins were less than the weight of a feather, they were considered worthy and allowed to pass into the afterlife.
The Ouroboros (Old World)
One of the more exciting symbols of balance, common to multiple cultures in the old world, is the ouroboros. If that name doesn’t sound familiar to you, you’ve likely seen the image—a snake depicted eating its tail.
Depending on the culture, the interpretation of the ouroboros can differ. In Norse mythology, the ouroboros is thought to represent a giant serpent said to be encircling the earth named Jormungandr. In Ancient Egypt, it likely comes from a snake deity named Mehen who guards Ra in the underworld. The Gnostics have their version as well, a half-black and half-white snake similar to the previously discussed ying-yang symbol.
Regardless of where the ouroboros originates, it represents an eternal, never-ending cycle—life and death—and the balance that keeps everything functioning smoothly.
Nykinkyim (West Africa)
In West Africa, and especially in Ghana, there are symbols known as adrinka. These are complex symbols designed to represent different aphorisms and concepts. Imagine condensing an idea like “it is what it is” into a single character; this is the basic concept of adrinka.
One of those adrinka symbols is Nkyinkyim, a complex symbol representing balance, prudence, and vigilance. More than that, it tells a story about how complicated life can be. The symbol was designed to look like a twisting, turning path.
Nkyinkyim represents the many good and bad things that happen to us as we go through life. While specific points in your life may feel like they’re never going to change, life always has a way of balancing itself out in the long run.
Endless Knot (Buddhism)
The endless knot, also known as Shrivastava, is based on Tibetan Buddhism. However, the symbols have been used in many Buddhist practices, and the precise meaning of this symbol of balance can vary slightly.
According to some Buddhist monks, the endless knot symbolizes how interconnected everything is. It also represents the divine connection between birth, death, and rebirth, the constant cycle that they believe all living beings go through.
The Dragon and The Phoenix (China)
Have you heard of the concept of feng shui? Feng shui, which originated in China, is based on making everyone’s life as harmonious as possible. It works with five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, wood—to balance the home or office so that you can live your life in peace and harmony just by planning well.
One of the more frequently seen symbols of balance in feng shui is the dragon and the phoenix. While you can see each of these symbols separately, they are often found together in a manner very similar to the yin yang symbol.
In this case, the dragon represents the masculine yang energy, and the phoenix represents the feminine yin energy. Each is powerful on its own but even more powerful when united.
The dragon and the phoenix are often found on symbols given to newlyweds, as they represent the perfect marriage.
The Harmony Symbol (Indigneous Nations)
While many indigenous cultures exist throughout the United States, a few common symbols can be found among them. Throughout history, indigenous people have used symbols extensively to communicate information across cultures and generations. One of those symbols is the harmony symbol, sometimes referred to as the “Rainbow Kokopelli.”
This symbol of balance is depicted with a crescent moon on the bottom and a shining sun on the top. It represents the perfect balance between night and day, humanity and nature. The harmony symbol can be traced back to a Yei (or spirit) deity whose job it is to command the rainbow. He carries a cloud sack full of seeds and rainbows, giving beauty to everything in harmony.
The harmony symbol is one of the most beautiful and joyous symbols of balance out there, and it functions as a reminder to be joyous and enjoy life as much as possible.
How To Establish More Balance in Your Life
If you’re motivated by looking at the symbols of balance and wondering how you can bring a larger sense of balance into your own life, we have a few suggestions. Although it may not seem like a big thing, especially when compared to everything else you likely have to do, taking the time to focus on your mental health and well-being is crucial.
It can be incredibly easy to get lost in the day-to-day shuffle and lose track of the important things in life. When you focus all of your time and attention on one part of your life, like work, you do it to the detriment of the other parts of your life. One of the best ways to establish more balance in your life is through mindfulness.
When you practice mindfulness, it helps you train your brain to be more present in the moment. Instead of bouncing around, thinking about what you need to do tomorrow or what you should have done differently yesterday, you can enjoy what is happening right now.
The way to do this is with meditation.
Find a quiet place where you can sit or lay down without being disturbed. Then, light a candle, find a comfortable position, and take a few deep breaths. As you breathe, focus on the feeling of your breath entering and then leaving your body.
When thoughts come into your mind, and they will, be gentle with yourself. Simply address them as “thoughts” in your mind, and move past them. The goal is to exist solely in your body and feel what is happening in the moment. This will take practice, but the result will be a greater sense of balance.
Balance Your Chakras
Balance comes from the outside and the inside, and nowhere is that more clear than with the body’s energy centers—the chakras. There are seven in total, starting at the tailbone and traveling up the body to the top of the head. Each of the seven chakras represents different physical and emotional properties. Here’s a quick overview:
- First (Root) chakra - Physical identity, grounding, stability, the color red, and bladder or colon health. It is found at the base of the spine around the tailbone.
- Second (sacral) chakra - Creativity, passion, sexuality, the color orange, the lower back, and sexual health. It is found between the belly button and the pubic bone.
- Third (solar plexus) chakra - Confidence, self-esteem, personal power, the color yellow, and the digestive system. It is found in the upper abdomen.
- Fourth (heart) chakra - Compassion, love, the color green, and the heart and lungs. The heart chakra is considered the bridge between the lower chakras and the upper ones, and it can be found in the center of the chest.
- Fifth (throat) chakra - Communication, the voice (both physically speaking and speaking up for yourself), and the color blue. It is found in the throat.
- Sixth (third eye) chakra - Imagination, intuition, the color indigo, and hearing. It is located between the eyes on the forehead.
- Seventh (crown) chakra - Awareness, intelligence, the colors violet and white, and the brain and nervous systems. It is located on the top of the head.
As you can see, if your chakras aren’t in balance and working correctly, you may notice a wide variety of different physical or emotional ailments. You must know how to identify the signs that your chakras may be blocked, as well as knowing how to clear them out.
To help balance and clear them, you can also use meditation. In this case, a body scan or focused meditation is the most beneficial. Slowly scan down the body and take note of the area around each chakra. Does it feel cloudy? Are you having a hard time feeling it at all? This helps you to narrow down which, if any, of your chakras are struggling.
Once you know which of your chakras you need to focus on, it’s time to act. To amp up the power and focus, find a crystal or crystals related to each chakra. Citrine, for example, helps with the solar plexus chakra, and amethyst is excellent for opening up the crown chakra.
Lay on your back in your quiet place, and place the associated crystals on the chakras that need attention. One at a time, think of those chakras as opening up and the crystals drawing out any fog or blockages.
There isn’t a set amount of time that this will take; follow your gut and pay attention to when you “feel” you are done. If you used crystals, make sure that you cleanse them before using them again.
Symbols of balance are a beautiful reminder to look inside yourself. Nearly every culture throughout history has its own symbols, but they all are essentially saying the same thing—at any given moment, we are a mix of good and bad, darkness and light. Learning to love and appreciate this balance and not judge either side too harshly helps you find a greater sense of self-love.
At Home of Chiji, our mission is to help you love yourself more. Through products designed to help you boost your self-care, we want to remind you that you are always worth love and care. However, that love and care need to start from inside. We’re all works in progress, and it’s the journey and not the destination that really counts.
Yinyang (Yin-yang) | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (utm.edu)
Mindfulness Definition | What Is Mindfulness | Berkeley (berkeley.edu)
Chakra Basics: Learn What Chakras are and their Energetic Properties | IARP (iarp.org)