Sunday, June 16, 2013

What Yin-Yang Really Means ...

“If we never experience the chill of a dark winter, it is very unlikely that we will ever cherish the warmth of a bright summer’s day. Nothing stimulates our appetite for the simple joys of life more than the starvation caused by sadness or desperation. In order to complete our amazing life journey successfully, it is vital that we turn each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and find the blessing in every curse.” ~ Anthon St. Maarten

The Yin-Yang.

It's always been a favorite symbol of mine. In fact, back when I was a sad, angsty Denny's hostess at 15 years old, a regular customer came to know me so well, he gave me a yin-yang keychain one day ... just randomly.

I still have it to this day.

Until Yoga teacher training, I never really thought about it much more than it symbolizing balance — which it does.

As the years passed through me, from 15 to 29, it has come to mean a lot more. In Yoga, we talked about how the yin and yang energies coexist in all of us. Most people think they are opposing energies, positive and negative, light and dark, fire and water, male and female, life and death.

But they're actually complementary energies. And that's the part I didn't really understand until recently. See for me, and most people, I don't enjoy feeling pain, sadness, heartbreak, anger. I used to avoid those feelings, especially pain, at all costs.

In the end, however, they always found me and seemed to assail me, consume me all the more, as though having multiplied during the time I ran from them or built up walls against them. What I've learned now is those emotions are part of the grand balance of life. If we deny them, how will we ever remember what their opposites are, how will we recognize what joy, love, kindness and giving feels like?

I know, for me personally, the feeling of yin (the shady side) gives me a deeper appreciation for the yang (the sunny side) of life.

However, in the past, I used to live in the yin of life. When depression hit, that's all I felt and I got so used to it, feeling any yang emotions felt foreign and uncomfortable. Life experience and where my path is now has changed a lot of that.

So the idea of making room for pain still causes tightness in my chest, like a fight or flight instinct at the flicker of a threat. It's like a visitor that just irks you. Opening the door to it is like pulling teeth.

But I think when you look at that visitor in a new light, in a kinder light, it doesn't look so menacing after all. You realize it's a part of joy and love and compassion. That there is an ebb and flow to all of it.

I've felt heaviness in my heart the last few weeks ... for many reasons, some more prominent than others. This weekend it decided to knock on my door, it wanted to enter. And I let it this time ... I was terrified to be honest. The last time I let myself "feel" the things beckoning at my door, I felt crippled by them.

But the reality is, at that time, my mind ruled everything. It reined over me, like it does most of us. It played those same old records. But I've since created new record grooves. And even though those old records tried to play over and over this weekend, and while they did anchor me to the floor a few times, my needle eventually found the new grooves ... and as I looked at the pain I felt as a source of information as well as a complementary emotion to joy, it didn't scare me quite so badly anymore.

Perhaps we could all do this more often when we feel fear, anger, pain or sadness gripping at us ... wanting to climb into our beds at night. Maybe we can start to imagine them as just the other half of all those other emotions we enjoy and love so much. That they're part of one another, just like the yin-yang symbol.

Maybe we won't be so afraid of them anymore ... maybe instead, we will be the grand observer, the ever seeing, ever knowing walls of our homes as they walk through and walk out, over and over again.

Perhaps then, those sometimes powerful "shady side" emotions won't dictate our actions or rule our decisions anymore. Perhaps they won't consume us so much.

As I quietly ponder these things while touching my keychain ...

I dare to hope.



  1. I always wondered more about this phrase. Of course I have heard it throughout my life but never actually pondered the meaning. What a wonderful post. Always dare to hope :-)

    1. Thanks Keith :-) And yes, I'm definitely always daring to hope.