(The following blog post is an excerpt from my book “The Yin and Yang Lifestyle Guide“)
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” ~ Albert Einstein
What is often alluded to in discussions of yin and yang theory is the notion of balance. Balance is a somewhat illusive ideal state in which yin and yang are harmonized, equalized, and equanimous. What is rarely discussed is, what does being balanced actually feel like, look like, and how do I know if I am balanced or not? What are the signs that present themselves when balance is present? And if one becomes balanced, does that translate as being enlightened?
Because of the nature of yin and yang, the state of balance between these forces is actually a very rare occurrence. So much so, that the very notion that one can stay in balance for any amount of time is not really possible, or at least for any great amount of time. Yin and yang is like the movements of the planets or the rising and falling of the tides. Every now and then, the planets will align and the tides will be in the middle of the high and low tide but as we all know, they don’t stay in these states for very long.
The best we can do in regard to the ongoing dynamic movement from yin to yang, is to reduce the intensity and extremity of these shifts. So instead of having extreme yang periods of excitement, action, and intensity followed by extreme periods of fatigue, sadness, and sometimes depression is to become more steady and more in control of our thoughts, emotions, actions, and internal energies. To help clarify this, the steadier, less extreme path would look more like a kind of slower and milder oscillation between yin and yang with regular and longer periods through a balanced state. Whereas the opposed, the more extreme expressions of yin and yang, would look more like sharper, quicker, and more spikey oscillations, which include more extreme highs and lows with very quick and shorter periods passing through the balanced state. Below are some illustrations to help explain this (please forgive my crude drawings).
Above: The Steadier, Less Extreme Path (Middle Path)
Above: The Extreme, Excessive Path
For the human being, the wisest approach is to first accept that yin and yang are dynamic forces and there will always be movement from one to the other, with balanced states coming and going.
The second thing we can do is learn to flow with it, not against it, and in doing so, recognize that this emotional state, this situation, and so on will always change.
The third thing we can do is to avoid pushing ourselves to either extreme through building awareness and adjusting our lifestyles.
Although mankind has little control over the yin and yang forces expressing themselves throughout the universe, man does, however, have a unique capacity to learn and adjust the behaviors that help govern the yin and yang energies playing out in our own body and mind. The general principle being that we are best to avoid extremes of yin or yang energy, if possible. Any extreme in one direction eventually triggers a dramatic shift to the opposite extreme, which commonly manifests itself as some kind of illness, which manifests as a way for the universal forces to stop us in our tracks. Other examples of manifestations of too much extreme yin or yang are mental illness, physical degeneration, toxic organ overload, and burnout. In most cases, mostly because of our yang dominated culture, it is yang that tends to reach extreme levels before a rapid shift to yin is triggered.
Many years ago, I was treating a 30 year old fit looking man who was, until recently, a very successful sports athlete. He had been recently diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome as he was in a great deal of pain, fatigue, and mental confusion. After speaking with him during the treatment, I discovered that he had been training and competing in sports nearly every day of his life since he was 6 or 7 years old and in all that time, he had rarely had any time off to relax and just take some time out for himself. What became obvious to me is that he had been pushing yang, yang, yang for over 20 years and he had reached the point that yang collapsed and became yin. He was now flattened, unable to walk very far, and in a great deal of discomfort. Pushing and pushing yang, or yin, for long enough and it will collapse and bring the other energy in as an attempt to bring things back to some balance. Unfortunately for this young man, he was in the middle of a tough and long journey back to health and balance. In many cases of such extremes, it can take at least a year or three, that is if the person comes to accept their current condition and is proactive in getting their health and well-being slowly, patiently, and mindfully back into place.
The feelings associated with a completely balanced state tend to be a feeling that is devoid of the pulls of desires, wants, and needs on all levels.
There is a state of no cravings for any particular outcomes, no real hunger, no need for mental stimulation, and little to no interest in seeking out excitement. There is a natural and automatic experiencing of contentedness with whatever “is”. This word that best describes this experience is ACCEPTANCE. A deep feeling of acceptance permeates throughout our body and mind. Suddenly, there is a feeling of deep acceptance of one’s life situation, acceptance of others, acceptance of this, acceptance of that, and even the acceptance of the world’s current state, no matter how ghastly it may appear. It’s as if a higher energy state comes over us and we simply just “get it”. This state, depending on the person, and as illustrated above, can last from just a few minutes to many hours or even days. The more the state is experienced, the more one’s awareness sensitivity the longer one tends to sit in it. This heightened state of awareness during these periods of balance provide us a great peace, wisdom, and a taste of enlightenment, yet, it is not enlightenment. This is because even though we may be experiencing balance for a short time, this experience is still bound within the realm of yin and yang. To touch real enlightenment, it is necessary to transcend the forces of yin and yang and this is something I will talk about more later in the book.
There is one major potential trap regarding the experience of balance. Those who do not fully understand the laws of change tend to become attached to the pleasurable states experienced when one touches balance. When one becomes attached to this pleasurable balanced state, a great deal of tension will arise when the balanced state dissolves and the next phase of yin or yang arises, which is inevitable. Therefore, when experiencing the pleasurable balanced state, it is essential to let the phases of yin, yang, and this balanced state to still move through us unhindered as this will allow the flow of life to continue in a fluid and healthy manner and reduce the potential of extreme oscillations.
More information about Yin and Yang can be found in my book “The Yin and Yang Lifestyle Guide.” Available now on Amazon.