Yin and Yang

As I was on the mat yesterday for my favorite yin yoga class, I could not help thinking about the practice of “yin” which in yoga terms means surrender. We spend so much time pushing forward, trying to be productive and striving to accomplish things. The culture in which I live promotes and supports that.  It is all about action and results, the yang side of the balance. But what I love about yin practice, is that it complements all of the yang activity that I normally do.

In doing the research for this piece I encountered a nice little video from “Ed Ted” that you may enjoy if you are interested in learning more about the Taoist concept of yin and yang. It is only 4 minutes and really quite beautiful. For example, the inside space of a cup is “yin” but the cup itself is “yang.” Each side contains the seed of the other within it.

The Tao is the power or the way of the universe. Living in harmony with the way means we do not have to fight with the universe’s natural flow. Listen more; argue less. Be ready to back up or undo something and you will make even faster progress. Don’t worry about being the best; be who you are. The wise person is flexible. The Tao Te Ching has even more wisdom in it, and when I read it years ago, some parts of it resonated with me, while others I was not ready to understand. I will probably return to it now, as I feel like I have been in a period of yang in my life generally. However, the yin beckons to me and I realize that I have not been living in the most sustainable balance.

Yin Yang Wikipedia image

One of my favorite yoga teachers, Ruth Silva, has said in some classes:  there is no hurry. And this echoes another mantra that I often use when I meditate: “I have time for everything I need to do today.” When we tell ourselves we are too busy, then we live that way. When we acknowledge that, technically, all we need to do to stay alive in this moment is breathe, we are telling the truth.  And everything we do beyond that is a choice. There is no need to “spin” into tales of woe and self-pity about what we “need” to do. Instead, we can be honest about many of the actions (or non-actions) in our life as choices we make. The choices have consequences, but when we are honest with ourselves, we can see so much more open space in our lives.

I was feeling “stuck” the other day in my job, wondering what would be next, getting annoyed over the tasks I thought I “had to do” and wishing I could be somewhere else, or do something else. Granted, I have been contemplating a change for quite some time now, moving outside the corporate world to work in a way that allows me to fully engage my creativity. But then I realized that, when I allow myself to see ways to apply creativity to some of the challenges I face every day, it opens my soul to the possibilities to act right in the moment where I exist.

It is about balance, finding that yin that co-exists within the yang. I know that my own life affords me much privilege to do work that I enjoy, and get paid a fair amount for it. For that I am profoundly grateful. I also know that rest and renewal are a necessity for my work to be high-quality, which is why I never leave vacation days on the table… As I consider my Friday yang activities in anticipation of the yin of the weekend, I wish you peaceful surrender and plenty of rest.


On taking media breaks

I do not think humans are adequately evolved to process the emotional fatigue of social media and a constant 24 x 7 news cycle. In the wake of the latest mass shooting in this country in Las Vegas which occurred yesterday, I am mindfully listening to some news sources, but I am very consciously limiting my consumption to small doses. I choose to turn off my social media notifications rather than constantly getting drawn in . I have done this since last November post-election, because I realized that while I believe staying informed is a good idea, it can be exhausting and unproductive to be hyper-connected. I no longer check facebook every day, and I am grateful not to be as distracted, or pulled away from things that are more important to me.

Media overload

With news of hurricanes, earthquakes, mass shootings, political nonsense and your average day in which we lose some beloved performer or actor, it can seem like bad news dominates. But this is not true. It is one reason I no longer watch television news – “if it bleeds, it leads” is one of the guidelines for local headline news. By coming up with an attention-grabbing headline, news outlets can exploit our negativity bias, our brain’s default toward those things that may be dangerous or fear-provoking. I will say more in a future post about the biological basis for this phenomenon, but for now, it is good to just be aware of it.

When we realize that we cannot change anything by constantly worrying and ruminating about these terrible events, maybe we can take a step back, breathe and acknowledge that some time way from the incoming flood of news is okay. It is necessary and it is healthy to stay present in this moment and to perhaps take a moment to be grateful for our relative safety, for some small joy in our day that can help put things into perspective. Undoubtedly we will all face some speculation about recent events, and I expect I will do the same.

But I am turning toward the positive events, people, and qualities in my life so that I can keep some steady ground beneath me as I consider how to interpret and decide how or whether to factor these events into my life. It is difficult but necessary to do this, and I know my meditation practice has helped. By letting go of what we cannot control, we focus on what we can do. I am not saying to ignore what is happening in the world, by any means. I am just asking you consider if stepping back may help you gain some valuable emotional distance to be able to consider what possible actions will serve you and your loved ones best in the present and the future.