Cosmic Yin & Yang
There is an ancient principle called Yin & Yang. It’s a principle all about balance. How might this principle apply to our modern lives, and how can we use this perspective to create more health and wellbeing?
Yin & Yang is a universal principle, meaning it applies in all of creation, all phenomenon. This axiom of yin and yang is actually a description of the forces in nature.
According to ancient Oriental medicine, the one cosmos, the one energy that exists in all creation, divides itself into these two basic qualities of expansion and contraction. These are the primary driving forces in nature. The expanding outward motion, and the contracting action make up the base of all other forces. Hot/cold. Day/night. Male/female. Inner/outer. And so on.
In my four decades of practicing this awareness, I’ve come to discover that this concept can help bring wellbeing into our lives as we begin to explore and deepen our understanding of it. Because these elemental natural forces not only exist in the vast universe and nature outside, but also within each one of us.
I heard an interesting question a couple of weeks ago.
I’m in a beautiful coaching group and somebody posted a question about this. “What’s up with this yin and yang, and, how do you spell it in anyway?” I thought about it and I’ve been a student of the yin & yang principle for many years.
I remembered hearing my Japanese medicine teacher explain that the sounds of the words themselves are important. In fact, there have been times when certain groups have reversed the names for yin and yang, but if you listen to the sound of the actual word, he said, it’ll give you a clue as to which is which.
The sound of Yin when we spell it… Y I N in English, is yin, similar in sound to the word “in”. Think of the word “inside”. Say the word yin. You can feel that it’s short vowel, and your teeth are almost closed and biting. If you were to close your eyes and make the sound, you would feel the quality of the sound. It’s an inward, quietly contracting sound that matches the inward principle of Yin.
However, if you make the sound Yang, your mouth opens wide. The sound is expansive, and this also matches the outward quality of Yang, the expansion principle. It’s a much louder and more expanding sound.
What we can draw from this ancient idea is kind of cool. Yin & Yang points to a wholeness of balance and assumes that the entire creation is constantly in a state of motion. This constant motion, to make a whole, must have an equilibrium, a balance of the whole if it is to continue to exist.
We can experience these two actions in our own lives. Have you noticed? We have experiences that are very expansive, like lots of energetic running, going out, playing, hiking outdoors, just this open flowing energy. Also, we have the experience of yin, of the quietness going inside, of settling down, resting, stillness, and sleep. So we can see and feel these principles in ourselves, and begin to consider them everywhere we look.
There’s another very cool axiom, a “given” that I learned in my early studies of Oriental medicine that has really helped my understanding of how the human being functions. It’s expressed as this, “The Microcosm is a reflection of the Macrocosm.”
This means the vast and the tiny operate under the same Universal laws or principles. The microcosm reflects the macrocosm and vice versa. And so if we think about this in terms of human life, the microcosm of human life is functioning like the macrocosm of the universe of existence. What? For me, this was a mind-blowing idea for a westerner to embrace. It sounds more poetic than scientific, yet, when we take a closer look, it begins to make sense as a way to view how to live in harmony, health, and wellbeing.
There’s a bold statement in the book of Genesis, that “God created man in his own image.” Have you ever considered, what does that mean? To me, it’s a reflection of this ancient axiom. “As above, so below.”
One of the examples that I really like to use when I’m teaching my students about Yin & Yang is the seasons. So depending on where you are in this world, your seasons will differ. I live in a place where we have all four seasons and so please adapt this idea to the zone where you live.
When a new season approaches, there’s a change and a shift. For example, when we’ve been in deep winter where it’s been colder and darker and the days are shorter, and then we start moving into springtime, you may notice the days getting longer, and may see the spring rains or winds come up. There is a feeling that you may have sensed, is there not? A subtle shift in your energy, mood, or the way your body feels?
Even before the weather or light changed, I could often tell spring was coming. I would wake up one day and sense it. It was almost as if I could smell spring in the air. It’s so subtle. And I wonder if you’ve had something like that too? I call it an inkling.
Years ago, I took a post as a reading teacher for special education students in a little school in rural New Mexico. At that time, I had a small group of fourth graders sitting around the table in my classroom. The room had a side with large windows and a door door that opened up the the farmlands where we could see sky and and fields a long way out.
It was really nice because we could actually feel and breathe the outside air. As we sat there reading a story together, all of a sudden one very quiet, young boy looked up and just stopped, completely still. We all looked at him, thinking he was going to speak. After a long minute he said, “Miss Jeannie, it’s gonna rain.”
I looked out the window. It was a sunny day, no clouds in the sky for weeks. I’d seen the weather report. I knew it wasn’t going to rain, and beside that, I always could smell rain coming.
So, I told him no, that it was so beautiful and sunny, it wasn’t going to rain today. He smiled. We went back to reading and got involved in the story.
All of a sudden the room darkened and there was a huge crack of thunder overhead. Rain exploded loudly and began pouring down as we all ran to the windows, amazed and excited. Wow! Rain in New Mexico is something to celebrate!
As we all took a moment to marvel at this unexpected spectacle that came out of nowhere, I looked at my student and asked, “How did you know?” This quiet boy from the Navajo Nation smile knowingly and said, “Miss Jeannie, my Grandpa taught me. I smelled it.”
This experience showed me that there was a deeper connection to nature and the universal principles available than most of us had been taught or aware of. This young boy’s perceptive connection to nature exceeded what I’d been practicing for years. He had been taught how to pay attention since youth, and it taught me a great lesson in humility to continue deepen my own awareness of the world around me.
So really, how does yin & yang help us in our own lives? When we are in balance, the body restores itself to health and wellbeing.
Ever since I’ve learned of Yin & Yang, I have been watching nature even more closely as well as watching for signs of it inside of myself as well. By cultivating this perspective of being connected to natural principles, instead of thinking I am outside of them and in control, I can learn how to align myself with the balance and changes in nature.
And you can do it too! Even if you’ve never smelled the rain or sensed the season changing, although I bet you have, you can practice and investigate these ideas of expansion and contraction. You can start to notice changes in the seasons, and how we are a microcosm in tune with the macrocosm of nature.
Oriental and ancient medicines have understood and mapped out the energy flow in the human body for thousands of years.
The basic healing principle is that once there is energetic balance in the meridian flow, the energy flow, healing occurs naturally. It is body’s own innate healing power, when all systems are flowing that conducts the healing process. Have you ever noticed how a cut will heal over time? This is the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
So it is the practitioner’s job to assess and see where there may be an energy out of balance, and apply or advise ways to help restore that natural balance. This will resolve symptoms and heal disease.
This natural energy flow is always seeking balance.Every time we come back into balance and create homeostasis within our being, we feel better. It’s just the natural order Yin and Yang seek to balance themselves.
So as you begin to consider this expansion and contraction principle, try to apply it to your own life.
Do you push yourself beyond what your body really needs, or are you so sedentary with your computer life that you don’t get out and expand enough? Which direction do you need to expand your energy or save your energy in order to feel truly at your best?
You can consider this as you go through your days and just take note. Ask yourself how much expansion energy, like exercise you are getting. Are you getting enough sleep? Is there enough Yin going inside to support you in your daily outward activity?
Check-in with yourself. Watch yourself carefully for signs of how you are doing. Take good care because as we change seasons, things change for us. Our needs change. We may need a little more sleep. We may need to change our diet. Get more movement, or more deep relaxation. It’s all about balance. So trust your inner sense to judge what you need.
All Blessings & Love,
Dr. Jeannie Arunimā
Note: The following content is transcribed from The Wellspring Within Podcast with Dr. Jeannie Arunima, Episode -005 Cosmic Yin & Yang. It’s available for listening here.