Happy Solstice!

Yin-Yang Golden Ring and Blue Mosaic - computer generated image//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Happy solstice! If you’re in the northern hemisphere-

Reflect, take the inward journey, nest, hibernate, eat bolstering foods (root veggies are always a great option) keep warm, enjoy a comfortable solitude, cultivate that inner wonderful quiet.

If you’re in the southern hemisphere-

Get out there and get your yang on! Play, grow, expand yourself (as in life experiences), eat light, delicious foods, stretch your fingers up to the sun, travel and try new things!

 

Winter Solstice Is The Yin-est Yin

 

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Awww, could there be a cuter way of illustrating the taijitu (aka the yin/yang circle)? Yesterday was the winter solstice, meaning the biggest part of the dark part of the yin/yang circle. Happy Yin time of the seasons! Enjoy all the benefits of the dark kitty time of the year!

Yin And Yang Again And Again And Again

Hibernating

Hibernating Bear by glazedangel101
Hibernating Bear, a photo by glazedangel101 on Flickr.

Always around the beginning of the year I get a few questions about cleansing.Wanting to do a cleanse at this time of year does make sense in some ways, new beginnings and  holiday indulging among other reasons. Ultimately though, Traditional Chinese medicine would say not to do a cleanse in winter . Here’s why: we’re still supposed to be “hibernating”. Even though we’ve turned the corner on the winter solstice, we’re right in the middle of the “dark” time of year, meaning the most yin time, when we’re meant to be quiet and at rest. Because of this, anything “moving” should wait for spring when, just like the bears looking for skunk cabbage to clean things out at the end of winter, we can employ cleanses to prepare for the coming yang time (summer) when things are supposed to be active and move.

Let’s talk about cleanses this spring shall we?

Everyday Yin-Yang

Yin-Yang by ryankboyd
Yin-Yang, a photo by ryankboyd on Flickr.

Today, I’m making sure that my wood element is appropriately flexible. I originally had an entirely different post planned but having just finished reading Everyday Einstein I changed my mind because it gives a GREAT example of the yin and yang all around us. Just substitute yin for the potential energy and yang for the kinetic energy.
Have fun with it!

Everyday Einstein

The Things We Don’t Do

We’re a doing culture here in the U.S. If something isn’t right we want to DO something to make it better. That’s certainly one way to bring about change; if you want change, the thinking goes, action is required. It’s a very yang way (of the yin/yang balance) of problem solving and it often works perfectly! Even so, it’s still only half of the equation as far as Chinese medicine is concerned. In keeping with the concepts of yin/yang, not doing can be just as powerful as doing.

Sounds crazy? Hardly! Finding yourself gluten intolerant? Don’t eat gluten. Fatigued perhaps? Don’t stay up until 3am and don’t run that marathon if it isn’t going to work towards your greater good. Feeling stressed? Don’t fret about what you can’t control and don’t add more onto your plate of must-dos. Is adding more distractions to your daily existence no longer working? Try sitting in silence instead.
When has non-action worked better than action for you? Let us know in the comments section.
Thanks!

The Yin Of Yin

Happy upcoming winter solstice! December 21, 2010 at 6:38pm ET will be the official solstice and the darkest day of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere. The shortest day with the longest night means that seasonally, we will be at the most yin of yin times. Yin is the winter, quiet, dark, still, female, moon, silver, inward, downward, potential energy, slow, soft, yielding, cold, wet and nighttime energy. Autumn is the time we are sliding away from the yang time of summer (the most yang of yang time) and moving toward winter; the most yin of seasons. But just as a tree, seemingly dead in the winter, is hiding the life force which will allow leaf buds to appear again, there is that small “dot” of yang within the yin energy of the yang/yin symbol that tells us there is never complete and static yin (or yang) and that the promise of spring, the return of yang energy, is assured.
I hope we all have some time to reflect and celebrate the pause and quiet of winter.

Yin and Yang


Yin Yang Moon
Originally uploaded by dsevilla 

I remember when I was about 15 or 16 years old I saw for the first time a strange, black and white symbol similar to the one in this posting’s picture. I knew vaguely that it was Asian, but otherwise it seemed exotic and unknowable so I filed it away with all the other new things that a 15-year-old experiences. It continued to pop up in various versions on and off for the next 15 years but it always remained a mystery. Until that is, I went to acupuncture school where I learned three things: the name of the symbol is the Taijitu (often pronounced tie gee too), that it is a succinct symbol representing the five rules of yin and yang, and lastly, that the concept of yin and yang is a theoretical way of observing and explaining everything from the smallest spaces of the smallest atoms, to the human body and its functions, to the energetic movements of the universe. Although that sounds complicated and still mysterious, it really isn’t. Once you know the 5 basic rules, there are some very practical uses for knowing about yin and yang.

Before starting on the five “laws” of yin and yang, however, we should first talk about pennies. Pennies? Yep, pennies. As one of my illustrious teachers once pointed out, typically when a westerner thinks of the face side of a penny that’s what we’re thinking about: the face side of the penny. Pretty straight forward right? Well, for anyone familiar with the yin and the yang of things you can’t think of the face side of the penny without also thinking of the tail side. In fact, the face side cannot exist without the tail side and vice versa. Stated in another way, the ancient Chinese came to see in the course of their everyday lives that everything around them had a dual aspect. There is both night AND day. There is no brightness without dimness. Movement is tied to stillness. There is no upward without downward. Heat is the companion of cold. All of these pairs are listed in the classic textbook: Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. This is the first law of yin and yang: Relative Opposites. You can entertain yourself for hours thinking of all things yang and all things yin. (Disclaimer- maybe only acupuncture geeks can spend hours but try it out anyway!)

From the above examples: day, brightness, movement, upward and heat are all yang. Night, dimness, stillness, downward and cold are yin. The following are some fun yin yang pairs  I thought of while in school:

Yang                                          Yin
The Rolling Stones               The Beatles
Coke                                            Pepsi

Here are some others:
exhalation                                 inhalation
outward                                      inward
12:01pm to 11:59pm            12:01am to 11:59am
spring and summer               fall and winter
male energy                             female energy
heaven                                        earth
gold                                              silver
revealed                                     hidden
sun                                                moon

fire                                                 water

youth                                           elder age

This opposition between the yin and yang members of a pair sets up a struggle between, and a control of, each other. A good example of a practical application of this law is when you apply a cold pack to an inflamed muscle. When something is inflamed there is always heat. By applying its opposite, cold, you bring the body back into a more balanced state. It works in other ways too. If you suffer from Seasonal affective  disorder (i.e. too much darkness), it is usually therapeutic to expose yourself to more light. The taijitu symbol shows this first law by dividing the circle of everything into equal sections of black and white.

The second law states that yin and yang can further be divided into yin and yang. Seasons are a great example of this idea. We’ve already stated that spring and summer are yang and that fall and winter are yin. Within the yangs and yins are further delineations of yangs and yins. Looking at all four of the seasons, there is a general warm time of the year and a cold time of the year. But spring isn’t summer and fall isn’t winter. We can say that winter is the yin-ist of the yin time of year. When spring begins, yang energy begins to grow within yin winter. At first, there is more winter than spring. Gradually, the signs of spring increase until it becomes more spring than winter. This is called the yang within yin time of year. Spring then transforms into summer when yang has grown until it reaches the zenith of summer or yang within yang time. Summer then slides toward autumn when yang energy is becoming less and yin energy is growing. This is the yin within yang time. Eventually autumn becomes winter and we reach the lowest levels of yang but the strongest yin before yang once again grows in a pattern followed year after year. Also, think of a clock. Midnight is the most yin time while noon is the most yang. 12:01pm starts the growth of yin energy but still, 12:01pm has much more yang than 9pm and 9pm has more yang than 11pm. The “S” curve of the taijitu represents this idea. It’s meant to suggest movement. That is, yin and yang are never static. There is a constant ebb and flow, growing and diminishing of  yin and yang  both occurring together.

Thirdly, yin and yang are interdependent. They cannot be separated. A good practical way to explain this law is to say that the yin of the human body equals substance. In other words, things that are tangible like body fluids and organs. The yang of the body is its functional aspects like metabolism. Without metabolism nothing happens to organs or body fluids. Without organs and body fluids metabolic function would not be necessary. In the taijitu, there is nothing separating the black from the white parts.

The fourth law states that yin and yang inter-transform. You have probably experienced this when you’ve caught a cold. You may start with an aversion to cold with achy muscles and clear or white nasal discharge (a yin presentation) that either gradually or suddenly changes to yellow or green nasal discharge with a feverish feeling and an aversion to heat (a yang presentation). The yin “dot” within the yang and the yang “dot” within the yin of the taijitu shows this idea.

Lastly, Yin and yang are inter-consuming. Let’s look at the body again for practical application. For a functional activity to take place, or yang energy to activate, there must be a certain amount of yin used. For example, for digestion to work there must be a presence of yin to be consumed. In this case food is the substance of yin. Conversely, if there is a yin substance, such as the water of edema, there must be a yang function to consume the yin e.g. the lymphatic return process. Again the “dots” of yin and yang within their opposites illustrates this fifth law.

Although it can take a lengthy explanation, the concept of yin and yang is simple at its core. Yin and yang are at the base of understanding the dynamics of literally everything under the sun. (and further!) It is also the basis of traditional Chinese medicine. Health is a harmonious balance of yin and yang within the body. Disease is an imbalance of yin and yang.  Death is the separation of yin and yang and traditional Chinese medicine is meant to adjust your yin and yang to restore relative balance.

Here’s to balance for everyone’s yin and yang!