Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 4: Equal and Opposite

Activity time: 12 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Handout 2, Yin/Yang Symbol
  • Solid-color scarves or scrunchies in complementary color pairs, for example, two red and two green, two black and two white, two orange and two blue, and two purple and two yellow-enough for each participant to have a set of two of the same color

Preparation for Activity

  • Arrange the space so pairs of participants can be arms-distance apart.
  • Decide how you will compose the pairs. The activity is easier if partners are of roughly equivalent body types.
  • Copy the yin/yang symbol from Handout 2, Yin/Yang Symbol, on newsprint and post it where all participants will be able to see it.
  • Be prepared to demonstrate the Equal and Opposite game with your co-facilitator, if needed.

Description of Activity

This game embodies the philosophy of yin/yang.

Group participants in pairs. If there is an odd number of participants, a facilitator can pair with a participant. Give a set of scarves or scrunchies to each pair. Each participant will "be" a particular color by putting a scarf or scrunchie around each wrist. Partners should represent complementary color pairs-for example, a "red" person is paired with a "green" person, and so on.

Say, using these or your own words:

You may have played a game called Mirror. In Mirror, you face your partner and do not touch each other. One person starts moving slowly, and the other person tries to match their movements exactly. You keep changing leaders so both people get to lead and to follow.

We are going to do a variation on Mirror called Equal and Opposite. You will notice that you and your partner are wearing complementary colors. That is because the Yin/Yang (refer to the newsprint), the symbol of Taoism, is frequently represented in colors opposite to each other. Opposite colors are called "complementary" because if they are added together, they contain all the colors. In Equal and Opposite, you and your partner are a living Yin/Yang.

In Equal and Opposite, you will share weight and energy and find balance together. Instead of always doing the same thing as your partner, you will seek to do exactly the opposite, all the while staying in constant close contact with your partner and keeping your balance together.

Here's how it works: Begin by facing your partner and placing your palms together. Decide who will be the first leader. The leader will only move one thing at a time, because any movement the leader makes prompts an equal and opposite response from their partner. The leader will never control everything. When the leader pushes gently forward with one hand, the other will respond equally and oppositely by gently pushing their own hand forward. If your partner pushes with their left hand, you will push also with your left hand, thus receiving in one hand and giving with the other. Experiment for a moment with just your hands and arms.

Give participants 30-60 seconds to try the game. Say, in these words or your own:

Change leaders now. Start adding the experience of level change. Leaders, move one hand up; the partner's other palm should move down. If the leader's torso moves left, the partner responds with the equal and opposite motion, also to their left, so the partners' torsos move away from each other. Keep your palms together, relaxed and flat. Feel the energy flowing between your palms with the movement, your bodies moving as one balanced whole. Stay aware. Be careful not to move in a way that would make your partner lose balance; it is the whole you seek to balance, and your partner's balance is as essential to the whole as your own. Work with all parts of your body.

Give participants another 30-60 seconds. Say, in these or your own words:

Change leaders. Separate your palms a little so that you are no longer touching, but keep your palms close to each other, so you can still feel the energy flowing between you. Continue moving-with equal and opposite motion-but pay close attention so you can keep the balance and flow even without the physical contact.

This is the metaphysical dance we do in our lives, every day. We are Yin and Yang, giver and receiver, leader and follower-feeling the flow, keeping our balance by balancing with others.

Give participants another 30-60 seconds. Say, in these words or your own:

Change leaders. Gradually slow your motion, keeping the connection through your energy and your attention. Continue responding with equal and opposite motion, keeping the balance and harmony, but going a little slower. Gradually bring your movements in, closer to home, closer to the heart, closer to where you began. When it feels right, when you have come to a point of natural ending, touch palms again and stand quietly as you began.

Wait for all pairs to finish.

Invite the youth to share what they felt during the game. If time allows, process the activity further by asking:

  • Did this activity remind you of anything?
  • Was it hard to stay focused?
  • What made it easier or harder to maintain your balance?
  • What does this game have to do with Taoism?
  • Point out that within the Yin there is a circle of Yang, and within the Yang there is a dot of Yin. What does that mean?
  • Why is the yin/yang symbol a circle?

End with the following blessing:

Bless all our interactions with such flow: opposition without resistance, tension without discord, positive and negative without conflict. We have felt it in our bodies. We know the possibilities. We know it can be done. May it be so.

Including All Participants

This activity is perfectly suitable for those with physical limitations, because what is required is maintaining balance and harmony, not doing gymnastics: sensitive teamwork and other-awareness are the point. A modification can be made for a participant in a wheelchair by having the partner sit in a chair as well. If they cannot match both their palms, have them match just one palm. The equal and opposite motion still works, perhaps even more effectively, since the partner's less common circumstances will heighten awareness of and increase sensitivity to their capabilities. The requirement to maintain balance and harmony remains.