“Two souls, alas, are housed within my beast, And each will wrestle for the mastery there.“
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
One Early Chinese culture explains human beings are made up of two spirits: two hun and po. Hun represents the earthly needs and wants while the po represents the more ethereal needs and wants.
“As generally understood, hun is the spirit of a person’s vital force that is expressed in consciousness and intelligence, and po is the spirit of a person’s physical nature that is expressed in bodily strength and movements. Both hun and po require the nourishment of the essences of the vital forces of the cosmos to stay healthy,” according to encyclopedia.com.
No English word exactly fits hunpo, but I like to think of it as a kind of dualistic “soul.”
Both souls need nourishment. Both souls need attention. When both are in harmony I feel a true joy. When one receives more attention than the other I feel a “false” joy.
These two forces pull within me. Sometimes my thoughts are for ease of life, distractions, and pleasure, my po, so of speak. Other times I crave mental stimulation, service above self, and communion with others, my hun.
When consciousness demands more time, usually driven by urgency or fear, I drown myself in study and writing and forgo exercise, proper eating, and personal connections. I become driven to accomplish my task or goal. Never mind the journey just show me the “brass ring,” get me to my goal. I will achieve the goal and I feel a joy that it’s done, but it’s a false joy, for it lasts only a short while before I’m left wanting more. During this imbalance between the two, I can get moody, sullen, or angry. I look at the goal as the object that will bring me my joy in the end, but more often than not it is a false joy that doesn’t last and I have forgotten it’s the journey that brings true joy.
When my body urges me toward physical desires and activities and food of which I derive a certain pleasure, I binge watch television, eat unhealthy sweets and snacks or drink in excess or feed my addiction to online gaming. These feel so pleasurable in the moment, but leave me craving more. I find if I spend too much time and energy to these pleasures, my joy feels like a “false” joy. It stays a short while and is gone.
Both the body and the mind can easily pull me toward an excess of one over the other that creates a false sense of joy. The key for me is to recognize the pattern that pulls me into the excess habits and change it.
When the po becomes overextended with activities, I need to be aware of my cravings, urges and addictions and decrease my “pleasures” and include more hun activities, usually in the form of meditation, reading, and communion with people.
When the hun becomes overextended with mental stimulation or service activities, I decrease my studies and include more po activities like recreational activities such as walking, hiking, or sports and nutritional foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts.
My true joy comes when both souls feel in balance. I’m calm, content, and at peace with my world and the world around me. I strive for this balance. I strive for true joy.
My conclusion is that one soul is not better than the other, nor should I let one soul be master of the other, but to allow both souls to move in harmony together.
Like Wolfgang von Goethe, I wrestle to find a balance daily between the two souls and not to allow one to master me but for me to be the master of both.
To me, only then do I feel true joy in my daily life.
Peace, Joy, Love