As referenced by Wikipedia, “In Asian philosophy, the concept of yin yang, which is often referred to in the West as “yin and yang“, is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn.”
Think about that for a moment…. It’s not just that two forces are seemingly opposite (take night and day for example), it’s that they are interconnected and interdependent, each giving rise to the other. You can think of them as complimentary opposites.
I snapped the picture below on a hike I recently took on the outskirts of Seattle (three days before my surgery). As I look at the photo, I’m able to feel the tugging of yin and yang within me. Look closely and I’ll explain.
Within this forest scene, I see thriving vegetation and desolate spots. I see shadows and sunlight. I see a stream of water and arid patches. But more than what my eyes see, is what I feel: the tugging within me I mentioned before, the tugging that lands me in a place of balance — of yin and yang.
Since leaving the hospital, there are days that I feel as if the whole of the world is made of sunshine, shining down directly on me. I feel as if my cells are thriving and there is a stream of life flowing through me that is unstoppable. After all, they removed all of the cancer! What’s there not to be thrilled about?!
Then, there are days when shadows creep in, arid patches make themselves known, and desolate thoughts appear. These are days when I may be particularly sore and need more pain killers than usual, or perhaps I’m running low on energy because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep due to the uncomfortable position I’m still required to sleep in.
Understanding the balance of yin and yang, understanding their interconnectedness, reminds me to honor both the sunlight as well as the shadows.
We’re so often told to look at the bright side, to focus on the positive. And I for one, agree. I do these things in my daily life, as I’m sure you do, too. However, we’re often not given the counter message: to acknowledge the not-so-bright side. By sweeping whatever it is under the rug and pretending it doesn’t exists, we are in essence throwing off the balance (in this case, the yin) and therefore not accepting all of what truly is. And then we wonder why this seemingly happy person we thought we knew, all of the sudden lashes out in a rage or bursts into uncontrollable tears.
As my friend Robin says, “It’s tough to continuously hold a beach ball underwater. At some point it’ll surface.” And wow, think about how much energy it takes to hold that beach ball under the water all the time, especially if you have more than one you’re shoving under, which is likely the case.
Are there shadowy areas in your life you’re not acknowledging? Is it easier to sweep certain things under the rug? Are you able to identify your beach balls and address each of them, one at a time, until they no longer threaten to surface in an explosive way? And by the way, I’m not suggesting you dwell here in this space, what I’m suggesting is that you acknowledge both the yin (the shadow) and the yang (the sunshine).
Yesterday my friends, was a rather yin sort of day for me. Today is starting off somewhat yang-ish. I honor both and allow myself to feel What Is.
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