Too Much Yang, Not Enough Yin

A slow solitary walk under a bright moon and a blanket of soft, billowy clouds brings me back to an intimacy with myself hat has been in a waning phase. I’m like a pile of building blocks slowly coming back into order. Its no coincidence that we just turned the corner into Fall – a season of harvesting, slowing down, getting in touch with the ground through eating more root vegetables and grains…Its a time of greater introspection and inwardness. A time to embrace the darker aspects of the season and let go of living under the blazing energy of long, sun-filled days of activity. The fiery energy of summer’s heat and a more busy pace and tempo can slow down into a time of preparing for the bare silence of winter. For now, I’m infinitely grateful for a slight cooling, the nights lengthening, an invitation to reap what I’ve sown metaphorically and let go of what I don’t need moving forward.

The night walk brings me back to a realization I’ve been carrying with me for some time now. “My life is out of balance. Too much yang, not enough yin.” It is a simple truth, one that reveals itself in moments of picking up after Rowan, trying to walk up the stairs carrying too many things, trying to cook and hold Rowan at the same time, balancing work and motherhood responsibilities, not resting enough. Its the kind of slow fatigue that sums up to the truth of an existence that understands the need for rest but can’t seem to integrate enough of it.

The original Chinese character for ‘yin’ meant ‘north side of the hill’ (facing away from the sun), while ‘yang’ meant ‘south side of the hill’ (facing toward the sun).  Yin is associated with the moon, feminine energy, reception, softness, darkness. Yang alternately is associated with the sun, masculine energy, creativity and doing, that which is hard and also bright. According to the earliest comprehensive dictionary of Chinese characters (ca. 100 CE), yin refers to “a closed door, darkness and the south bank of a river and the north side of a mountain.” Yang refers to “height, brightness and the south side of a mountain.” So it is for me; Exiting a phase of facing toward the sun and all its associating ‘doing’ and finding myself wanting to land behind a closed door, resting in darkness under the moon where there is nothing else other than stillness and the knowing that it is time to rest now.

Too much yang, not enough yin – a mantra I’ve been saying to myself for some time now, an ongoing reminder of my needs for less doing, more being, less carrying and juggling – and more resting and stillness. It is the perfect season for practicing more quietness within the walls of our homes and within the infinite mysteries of our own hearts and bodies. We can come inside, slow down, turn on the stove for a baking project and create coziness. We can turn our attention inwards and hold a clear mirror of self-observation and awareness in order to receive what is reflected back.

The yang quality of experience denotes a certain baseline of outward facing versus inward facing attention. As a parent so much of our attention must be rooted on our child or children. Our energy must be devoted to an outward order and flow that can often eclipse an inward order and flow. For me, the greatest periods of balance are when my outward world is a reflection of attention that is also directed within.

And, this is the ebb and flow of life. In and Out. Back and Forth. Up and Down. Inward, Outward. Light, Dark. Expansion, Release. Unfurling, Curling. We can become the great weavers of our own existence if we pay attention to the seasons and flow of our own lives and if we choose to dance the dance of life with intention and grace. As Patricia Joudry and Maurie Pressman write below, we too can move towards striking a dynamic balance between doing and being:

Yang is the initiating impulse, which divides and delineates; yin is the responsive impulse, which nurtures and reunites. Without yang nothing would come into being; without yin all that comes into being would die. Yang is mental activity in its forceful aspect, yin the imaginative and poetic, exalting the merely mental to the beautiful.

Yang goes ahead with things, yin contains things within herself and knows their nature without effort. Yang does, yin is…Yang is knowledge, yin the mystery that reveals itself and becomes knowledge…

Yang is will and yin is wisdom, and one without the other is neither, and together they are joy…


Balance of the Truest Sort

I opened to this page in my journal today, just after writing a card to my mother in law:  “Tiredness is not an excuse.  How can I be balanced when not sleeping?  Exhausted?  Find out.  Let the bottom fall out.  Balance of the truest sort transcends fatigue.  True balance exists regardless of external circumstances.”  I’d written those words for myself a few months ago and here I am again needing the reminder about the importance of finding balance not dependent on external circumstances.  Ironically, the card I’d just finished writing in said this:  Peace:  It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. 

All of this a lesson I deeply need today.  On holiday after a grueling series of flights on a day when Rowan refused to nap, I have been downing vitamin C like a drug addict and coughing up a lung – feeling like the proverbial dog on a leash that can’t set herself free.  In spite of a self-identified practice of not pining after anything other than what just IS, I find myself groping along after the usual ‘quiet, sleep, rest, time for self, exercise, a hair cut…’ – the familiar ongoing litany of wants and needs churning below the surface as I chase Rowan at his grandmother’s house, trying to maintain some semblance of control amidst the cookies and cacophony of motorized toys.  I struggle with wanting so many things other than how they are.  A short sampling of a long list:  Why won’t Rowan eat vegetables today?  Why does he like tractors more than trees?  Why doesn’t he respond when I call his name?  Why does he have to smack me when I am hugging him?  Why does he still not sleep through the night when he is almost two? Why does it have to be so hard? (you get the picture).  What a humorous trap I can be lured into – the patterning that pines after something else.  Never has it been more apparent than now as I make my life’s work rooted in the care of Rowan.

At a certain point is becomes clearer and clearer to me that I am working too hard to control situations that are ultimately beyond my control.  I’m trying too hard to shape results in the direction of my preferences.  Most importantly, I’m efforting so much that it eclipses the quiet, abiding resting in any given moment that is always available to me:  that peace not dependent on external circumstances, the balance that transcends fatigue. (The revelation hits me as I loose a chunk of my hair prying it from the hook above the car door while wrestling with the car seat buckle, muttering profanities at the absurdity of the moment).

To leave behind the over-efforting in favor of a quiet abiding doesn’t mean that I don’t still maintain a strong center of gravity that directs and guides my toddler regarding right action.  It also doesn’t mean that I become lazy or laissez-faire.  It means that I hold my seat from a place of relaxation.  It means that rather than breaking connection and intimacy with my son because of vast frustration stemming from endless churning efforts  and attachment to the storyline of exhaustion and a restless sort of ‘staying in control,’ I instead do absolutely nothing. 

What on earth does that mean, you might be asking?  NOTHING?  How on earth can you parent and do nothing?  By resting in the arising of each moment, abiding in Reality as it simply is – with no seeking, grasping, pining, yearning;  With no adding of anything on top of pure and simple existence.  Moving from this place there is no need for mental anxiety, for worry, for angst, for questioning this and that…or for shouting profanities when your hair gets tangled in the car hook.  There is simple response to any given moment with peace and balance.  Peace and Balance.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Adi Da says it well:  “Every motive is seeking.  Every turning away is avoidance.  Every turning towards is avoidance.  All these things are seeking, for they are not abiding now in the Form of Reality.  Thus, to turn at all is to act.  And every turning will awaken the reaction of turning the opposite way in time.  The Truth is radical non-avoidance moment to moment.  It is to live this moment without conflict, directly.  Where there is understanding there is no turning, and every action turns no way at all, for there is only radical consciousness behind it, turning no way, knowing only great Bliss.” 

Practicality and Practice

As I move on the path of parenting and life’s daily routines, there always seems to be a pull between practicality and soul work, practicality and practice.  I’m invited to merge them into one.  It is no coincidence the words practicality and practice share a root.  The word practice as it is used today initially meant “to perform repeatedly to acquire a skill;” or “to perform, to work at, exercise.”  That the word has moved beyond just acquiring a skill to encompass spiritual practices, those gestures of living and embodiment aimed at practicing our most revered states, intrigues me as I ponder the similarity of the two words.   Digging deeper I find that practice does indeed stem from the Latin practicus (practical) and the Greek praktikos (what a surprise – practical again).  It was only as recently as 1906 that the word expanded to encompass reference to religions.

How wise those early pioneers of expanded definition of the word practice were.  For if we can’t apply our religious and spiritual inclinations to the daily practical tasks necessary for survival, there is a disconnect.  Not only is spiritual practice a continuation of exercising certain skills towards a type of mastery, yet also it is the opportunity to merge the utterly practical (some may say mundane) with a form of sacred practice – so that daily practicalities can also become opportunities for spiritual mastery.  We are invited to move throughout our days balancing the two so that each movement is a gesture of intention and rooted soulfulness surfacing in action – always awake and moving in a flow of understanding that everything merits full bodied and mindful practice…