This is an older depiction of the yin-yang symbol.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Some of you may be fired up, others of you may be tired. And still others may be unaffected, disaffected, or just trying to keep some semblance of normalcy going. I know that, in the past few months, I have gone through all of these phases. 

I’ve told people around me that what I’m experiencing is like multiple smaller waves piling on top of each other, and my emotional state is at the intersection of all of them. The result is additive, and causes eruptions of emotion that swing wildly from one extreme to another within a matter of days.

I’ve woken up screaming at the top of my lungs, a fear I’d only experienced one other time in my life: my father’s death. I’ve laid in my bed wanting to do nothing but cry. I’ve clenched my jaw and fists in rage for hours and days on end.

Wherever you are with things, I want you to know it’s ok to be there.

Some of you may be struggling with balance, so I wanted to offer what I know about Yin & Yang, what they mean, and how to implement them into your life. My experience of Yin & Yang comes from studying Tai Chi in China, from living in China and being treated in “traditional medicine” hospitals (as opposed to “wester medicine” hospitals), and then continuing with Push Hands once I came back here to California.

You may be more familiar with this depiction, called “yin-yang fish.”
(I refer to yin-yang in these other blogs as well: Appropriateness & the Optimal Use of Energy, Recognizing Opportunity, The Value of Rest & Recuperation.)

Yin (black) represents: stillness, receiving, acceptance, nurturing, caring, rest & recuperation, healing, recovering, aimless & meandering, the present time (“what is”), decay, destruction, emptiness, the unknown, curiosity…

Yang (white) represents: movement, giving, action, progress, intention, moving forward, pushing/advancing, plans and schedules, the future (“what will be”), growth, creation, abundance, certainty, decisiveness…

When I use the words Yin & Yang, I tend to dissociate them from the terms “feminine” and “masculine”, mainly because those words bring up a whole set of other associated concepts that might confuse things.

When I imagine what balance looks like, I imagine an old forest. The soil is deep and rich, the ground is covered in moss and fern, between the trees are dead trunks, giving rise to young ferns and more moss. Life gives rise to death, gives rise to new life, and the cycle repeats ad infinitum.

The yin elements are the soil, the rotting tree trunks, the bed of dead leaves on the ground. The yang elements are the young plants, the tall trees, the moss, ferns, and fungi.

Yin gives rise to yang. Without soil, there would be no nutrients for anything to grow. Without the death of the old, there would be no space for anything new. Conversely, yang gives rise to yin. Without new trees growing old, there would be no rotting trunks and no dead leaves to nourish the soil.

I know for me, right now I’m paying attention to how I feel, and adding balance to my life. There tends to be, for most people, an abundance of yin right now, considering the Shelter-In-Place order, and now the curfew. Consider that what you might need is to add some yang, which looks like creating something, taking on a new project, building or making something. It could also mean going somewhere, getting exercise, or just getting out of your routine.

But not everybody has an abundance of yin. Some of you may have an abundance of yang, particularly those of you who are teachers, parents, caretakers, and essential workers. You may be experiencing feeling tired or overwhelmed. Pay attention to those feelings, and give yourself the day off if you’re able. 

The key is to check in with yourself. How you feel and what you have the urge to do or not do holds the key to balance in your life. After all, something really important that one of my taichi masters said once, and it applies to more than just martial arts, “If it’s uncomfortable, don’t do it.”

What do you see there is an excess of in your life? What will you do to add balance?
Please tell me, I’d love to know!

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