Yin and Yang and The Way To Do.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is built on the foundational theory of Yin and Yang. Some people might recognize the Yin/Yang symbol and associate it with the 1960's hippie movement. Or maybe you've heard Yin and Yang used as terms to categorize - men are described as Yang while women are Yin. This theory, however, has much more far-reaching applications.
Yin and Yang are comparative terms, ways to contrast any objects or states in relation to one another.
Day is more YANG, while night is more YIN. Activity is Yang, while resting is Yin.
Heat, energy, movement are all more Yang states than the cool, material, stillness of Yin.
But even as these two seem to be opposites, there are a few fundamentals about Yin and Yang that complicate this assumption. It is said that within each, there is a 'seed' of the other. This basically means that the two states are interdependent, balancing, and that one always has the potential to transform into the other. Day to night, matter to energy - everything is in constant flux from Yang to Yin and back again. And when we increase one, we must be depleting the other.
TCM sees Yin and Yang as two aspects of the same whole. Unfortunately, in the West, we generally focus less on what is common, and more on where differences lie. We identify, first and foremost, as individuals. And the more 'successful' and 'important' the individual, the better. As a culture, we tend to value the more Yang aspects of life - the activity, the communication, the busy-ness - at the expense of the Yin.
How many of us forgo sleep or rest for the sake of getting more done? For 'productivity'?
We spend most of our lives focused on what we should DO rather than just allowing ourselves to BE.
But ask any creative person- any artist, musician, writer or inventor- and they will confirm that their best work, their most inspired creations, come not from FORCING them into existence, from MAKING them happen, but from somewhere else entirely.
I had a teacher who referred to this somewhere else as "The Void". It's that space you find just before you fall asleep, when your mind has finally quieted, but you are still conscious. It's the place you reach in the moment when meditation becomes suddenly effortless- you're aware, focused, present. Some people find this state by spending time in nature, or praying. For others, it's those times when you're so absorbed in what you're doing- when you're running or dancing or painting or making music - that you're completely in 'the zone'.
This space of non-doing, non-forcing, of allowing things to arise spontaneously... this is the state ruled by Yin.
And from this empty place, this open awareness - real inspiration and learning can spring forth.
This is an amazing and valuable way to spend some time - especially if, like many of us, you've become "Deficient of Yin". In Chinese Medicine, "Yin Deficiency" is a common grouping of symptoms of the overworked, under-slept masses. Common signs include insomnia, restless sleep or night sweats. Feelings of anxiety and stress, or feeling jittery and un-grounded, like you just can't relax. Sometimes it shows up as the compulsive need to make lists, or to get 'enough things done!' so that you can begin to feel some semblance of control again.
Acupuncture can be very helpful in balancing levels of Yin and Yang in the body. It is especially good at relaxing those of us who are chronically 'wound up'. In an acupuncture treatment, the practitioner places thin needles through the surface of the skin, and then allows the client to rest for 30-60 minutes. I have many concerned patients who claim they can never sit still for longer than 5 minutes, and are then blown away by how the treatment allows them to unwind, chill out and deeply relax. And in a community acupuncture setting, with affordable, sliding scale treatments for $20-40, you can come experience this much more often.
I love watching clients transform through a regular series of treatments. People become more relaxed, more at ease with themselves, and with their lives. And it's amazing to see how this ease, this quiet space, allows for true inspiration and insight to arise.
We don't actually become more successful or happier by getting more done, by accumulating more things, or by existing in a constant over-drive of outward-directed, Yang activity.
We become happier by letting the irrelevant junk that clutters our lives fall away.
By making more time for what is actually essential - rest, inspiration, and self-care.
"There is no need to run outside
For better seeing,
Nor to peer from a window. Rather abide
At the center of your being ...
Search your heart and see ...
The way to do is to be."
- Lao Tze