EQ and Energy Series Part 3: Yin Mind and Yang Mind
Yin and Yang appear to be two, yet are one presence in the universe. Where there is space, Yin and Yang may move about in an elaborate dance. Like how light cannot be distinguished without the contrast of darkness, this is the spiritual science behind the push-and-pull like relationship of Yin and Yang. There are many symbols of these two directional currents of energy in the universe: plus and minus, male and female, giving and receiving, and music itself with sound and silence. To understand one, the other must be considered–Yin and Yang are the embodiment of polarity and dichotomy, existing as two but stemming from the One.
It is commonly understood that our brains are made up of two hemispheres that are very different, but do a great job of creating a cohesive experience of reality and allowing us to survive and thrive in it. These two hemispheres in the brain point to an interesting dichotomy at play in our lives that extends well beyond our physical anatomy. The brain is a tangible organ that can be dissected, whereas what we refer to as the mind is less easily understood as it is not physical in nature. The two sides of the brain can, however, be seen as the physical manifestation of two very different experiences or functions of the mind: the Yin mind and the Yang mind.
The Yin mind features our ability to be yielding, adaptive, and accepting. Whereas the Yang mind is seeking, calculating, and demanding. To understand the essence of these two parts of the whole, we can look at a fundamental life system such as our breath. Yin energy is restorative, it is the inhale that draws rejuvenating air into our lungs and fills us–the self– with life. Yang energy is exhaustive, it is the exhale that is outward bound beyond the self. We all have Yin and Yang energies in us, however, we may not be aware of them let alone how to strike a balance. Another way to view these energies to understand our two minds more deeply, is to look at another illustration of Yin and Yang energies: feminine and masculine energies.
Embodiments of Yin and Yang
From ancient times female and male gender roles divided tasks into two major pillars–tasks related to caregiving and keeping a comfortable home, and tasks related to protection, exploration, and hunting. Feminine energy–Yin–encompasses the maintenance of one’s physical home and inner world harmony, whereas masculine energy–Yang–relates to one’s outer world involvement and activities. In our modern day society, the traditional gender roles have largely collapsed, and the new challenge is to balance both the masculine and feminine energies within ourselves. It’s a touchy subject right now to talk about masculine, male, men or feminine, female, women as those words are undergoing a collective kind of ‘detox.’ However, when we look beyond the connotations and derogatory associations, we can see that this collective ‘detox’ is a result of our desire to redefine new terms that allow each of us to have the masculine and feminine within–to support the duality of our inherent human condition.
Our physical body may house one set of reproductive mechanics, but we no longer have to be limited to the traditional gender roles associated with those mechanics. Now, each of us can play with our masculine and feminine energies–our Yin and Yang energies– and not be defined by them. Once this paradigm of gender and gender roles collapses, in what new and refreshing ways can we witness our Yin and Yang energies dancing in and through us? I believe it is a great time to begin growing our awareness of our Yin mind and Yang mind, and cultivating the ability to shift between the two and recognize when we are falling out of balance. In other words, many of us are ready to approach our own mental wellbeing with more conscious awareness and conscious participation.
The Yang Mind
Labels create separation, categories and division through which we then understand our world. The Yang mind’s special ability is to break things down into smaller and smaller pieces and organize them using labels. What we have yet to awaken more collectively to is that when we send our energy into labels, it creates separation, categories and division within our experience of ourselves in relationship to others. In other words, we experience ourselves as non-integrated and not whole. It is like a beautiful landscape that gets cut into many puzzle pieces and no longer experiences the whole picture, but puzzle pieces where some pieces fit together and others do not–some we like and some we don’t. This is what the analytical thinking mind does. Each time it breaks something down further, it creates a new opportunity to cast further judgment onto whatever it has dissected. It is a tool, but it is not a representation of ALL that we are. It is itself only one aspect of the whole–one piece of us with a unique function that is part of the whole.
When we live predominantly in the Yang mind, we will experience the further breaking down and scattering of our energy as it follows an outward reaching motion of thoughts led by what we often call, ‘curiosity.’ Think how the universe expands and keeps reaching further and further outward. Or imagine after we blow out a candle, two more appear to take its place, then four, and so on like cell division. As we blow them out, we become breathless and tired–our energy becomes depleted. This is often what it can be like to look up something online only to get sucked down all kinds of rabbit holes and go off on all kinds of tangents just following that Yang energy of curiosity. This is the Yang mind. When we let it run rampant, it’s like a small excited child that rules our headspace. Without discipline we can become very scattered and experience ourselves in a less coherent way because we leave our energy in such a variety of places.
Words are also a reflection of the Yang mind’s function of labeling things. The more words we know and use, the more usage we get out of our Yang mind. Another side effect of labeling with words is the cultivation of what many refer to as polarity. If we are to label something as big, we simultaneously create its opposite because labels rely on and are born from observing relationships which are inherently relative. If a tall person stands next to a short person, they remain tall. However, if they stand next to an even taller person, they are the new short. Labels provide us intricate ways to understand all kinds of relationships between the self and all else.
Through the unique feature of the Yang mind, we are able to experience another kind of conceptual playground that we call time. Your physical body is only ever here in the present moment, but energetically, you can be feeding some of your attention into memories and concepts of the past–perhaps reshaping it– or ideas for the future. The Yang mind is able to break down stimuli into more and more complexity and play with it conceptually, again driven by the inherent quality of Yang energy which is curious, seeking, and exhaustive. Are you exhausted from reading about the Yang mind yet? If the Yang mind looks like a hamster wheel that is always turning, creating heat and fire in our minds, then let’s cool it off next with some Yin energy.
The Yin Mind
Yin energy is often illustrated with the water element because of its yielding, adaptive quality. When water hits a boulder in its path, it flows around it and continues on its way. Our Yin mind possesses these same qualities. If you imagine a big empty bubble of space and introduce a thought, it would pass right through the space–in and out the other side. The Yin mind is one that allows things to be as they are–even the most seductive thoughts do not have the power to take us for a ride when we are in our Yin mind. When this aspect of our mind is exercised and strengthened, we possess the ability to simply hold space–be space– and be in a state of neutrality. You can envision this mental bubble of empty space like a womb. The Yin mind is about receptivity and being a receptacle.
We see curiosity and outward motion as an energetic force when we are in our Yang mind, so when we shift into our Yin mind we may be a little surprised at how differently it operates. The Yin mind functions largely through the act of letting go. This enables us to enter a state of incubation where we perceive our mind as being restful or just very present while absent of judgment. We can enter the Yin state while doing familiar repetitive, meditative activities such as washing the dishes, folding clothes, or shredding paper. In this incubation state, we are not shifting into the Yang mind that hops from one thought to the next and likes to dissect. When we are in our Yin mind, we experience ourselves as the powerful receivers that we are. Ideas may appear in pictorial form in our mind’s eye or perhaps as a whisper or inexplicable knowing. Our Yin mind is very creative in how it receives, that we may find ourselves being drawn to a location, person, or thing without being able to articulate why. Particular words jump out at us from signs and papers as if speaking to us. We perceive patterns and connections effortlessly. That beautiful landscape that was broken and scattered into many puzzle pieces by the Yang mind, begins to reassemble itself effortlessly with the Yin mind. There is a kind of intelligence that is effortless–magnetic–and when we are in our Yin mind, we experience things coming to us. For these reasons, the Yin mind can be considered the house of our extrasensory perception.
When we sharpen our ability to recognize and shift between Yin and Yang mind states, we will perceive our reality differently just as the collapse of gender roles is shifting our perception of reality. ‘Doing’ and ‘being’ are two states of mind that we shift in and out of that are neither good nor bad; better or worse. What can be very illuminating, however, is to look at our society and world at large today in these same terms–the balance of Yin and Yang. If you hadn’t guessed already, we are living in a very Yang-dominant, lopsided world. ‘Doing’ is coveted far more than ‘being,’ and productivity is sought and worshiped often at the expense of an individual’s overall health and wellbeing. (A closer look at this in EQ and Energy Part 1). Another pair of words that embody this relationship between Yin and Yang is “giving” and “receiving.” Going back to the wisdom of our breath, we can find in it one of our most profound teachers. If we attempt to give more than we receive, it is the same as attempting to exhale more than we inhale. We will become exhausted, scattered and less effective.
Until we can honestly acknowledge that a balance of these two energies is needed, we will continue to operate in the same way. Sometimes it takes physical sickness or pain to wake us up more to Yin and Yang imbalances–whether of the mind or elsewhere in our lives. I see our ability to work with Yin and Yang as starting with our ability to acknowledge the equal importance of both and not the semi-unconscious limiting beliefs that say activity is better than rest; giving is better than receiving, or that sound is better than silence and so on. When we discover we are feeding such distorted beliefs, we can take strides to introduce more of what energy is lacking. We can also practice feeding our vibration thoughts that disempower these limiting beliefs. (A closer look at this in EQ and Energy Part 2). The lesson of Yin and Yang is about balance and seeing wholeness despite polarity and the perceptions and illusions that stem from it. It is a beautiful lens and useful tool in seeing the world as a dance between two qualities of energy rather than a competition.
Cultivating Yin and Yang Awareness
Imagine a bunch of pens in front of you, each a different color of the rainbow and various tones in between. How do you decide what color pen to use? If we were to tap into our Yang mind–our logic–we might say to ourselves, “My favorite color is blue, so I’ll choose the blue pen.” If we want to tap into our Yin mind–our intuition– we would look and see which color calls to us in that moment and pick it up. Where logic tells us there is an overarching right answer, our intuition tells us there is an aligned choice in any given moment. Intuition is anchored in our inner landscape and is a kind of navigation system that serves us by helping us relate to our external environment. Our intuition operates on a subtle energy level–like a whisper–so to access it, a degree of inner quiet and stillness is very helpful. When our Yang mind is overactive and busily seeking out answers to things, one after the next, it can override and diminish our intuition–the Yin mind. How do we quiet our thoughts so we can experience more of our intuition? We can turn to the raw materials that the Yin mind absorbs like a sponge–colors and pictures.
Pictures and colors have the ability to communicate vibrationally to us in ways that words cannot. Words stem from the analytical mind that breaks whole, integrated things into pieces and plays with them in a kind of conceptual playground. Whereas pictures and colors move us forward in our mind, into the mind’s eye–the screen where we see imagery and use our imagination. We can put up three different colored apples in our mind’s eye right now and just observe them in silence. As we look at each one, the setting may become further embellished, and what we refer to as ‘ideas’ may present themselves in pure visual form there. Or perhaps soon after we put up these three apples, pictures or memories carrying a similar vibration pop up in visual form as well. Maybe we see a memory of cutting up an apple in the kitchen, or seeing one in a cafe. The word for this we often use is, ‘associations’. On the energetic level, like-vibrations light up similar vibrational matches within our experiences, and the Yin mind is the empty space that ‘houses’ these vibrations temporarily, again like a mental womb.
In the previous EQ and Energy posts, we covered what it means to have permission to feel good in our bodies and then explored how thoughts feed our vibration. As we’ve explored two qualities of energy in this post–Yin and Yang– I’d like to build off the previous posts in this series by offering some general suggestions on how to exercise the Yin mind more in our Yang-dominant world.
- Shift from a Yang thought to a Yin picture
The next time you find yourself circling in a lower vibrating thought loop, create a picture in your mind’s eye not of what worry or fear you have, but of what condition or outcome you desire. Your Yang mind may be like a wild horse that continues to go rogue, but as often as you can, introduce this Yin picture into your mind’s eye and practice looking at it and feeding the light of your attention to it. The Yang mind quickly picks up speed and snowballs, so by practicing looking deeply into a mental picture of your own creation, you begin to drain the excess heat–Yang–from your mind and cool it off by using the Yin mind.
- Reintroduce familiar, repetitive activities back into your daily life
As technology has advanced, we’ve gained access to more and more services and conveniences that eliminate a lot of the repetitive daily activities the lives of our ancestors were full of. Go back into your garden and pull some weeds yourself. Wash some of your dishes by hand. Hang out your laundry. Buy nuts still in their shells and deshell them by hand. Rather than seeing through the Yang mind lens that seeks to be as productive and efficient as possible, find ways to reintroduce some of these repetitive activities back into your daily life and treat them as periods of incubation where you get to shift into your Yin mind. It is a kind of meditative state that we can access as long as we do not feed into the limiting belief that we are being unproductive.
- Practice behaving like water
When things come up in life that obstruct your direct path, practice flowing around them like water rather than going into resistance. The Yin mind is a flow state that we step into when we abstain from passing judgment while still keeping our ability to discern and make decisions. Remember, the Yin mind operates with the wisdom that there is an aligned choice in any given moment. Refrain from judgment so that you can experience more of this wisdom and way of being for yourself.
- Treat your two minds like a marriage
Begin to create space between your pure conscious awareness and your thoughts by practicing discerning ‘squeezing’ thoughts from ‘blossoming’ ones. A blossoming thought is one that creates more ease and the release of tension in the physical body. When the Yang mind entertains a low vibrating “squeezing” thought, shift into your Yin mind and show it a picture of a squeezed flower blossom. Then communicate back to it by showing it a blossoming flower.
Communicate with yourself more and more with pictures rather than predominantly with thoughts. It can be very challenging to filter our thoughts when they take us for a ride, but it can be very empowering to show yourself a mental picture that is uplifting or calming. Picture a clenched fist loosening and returning to an open face up palm. Create more space between your pure consciousness and your thoughts by placing your attention on your breath. A Yang dominant mind leaves us heated up and breathless, so we can rebalance our minds by focusing our awareness on our breath and away from our thoughts. This is a fundamental concept behind many meditation techniques.
Our bodies are extremely sensitive and influenced by our surroundings. We can use this to our advantage by placing our attention on beautiful nature scenes, or meditate on the energetic quality of various elements such as wind, fire, water, and earth. What we look at, our body reacts to. The body can’t tell the difference between scenery around it or a mental picture of that scenery–it will react to both. So if we want Yin and Yang balance, we can look to Nature to recalibrate us back into more balance.
Living More Consciously
We can learn a lot about ourselves and the balance or lack of balance of Yin and Yang energy within by examining states of being we often fall into. For example, often trying to figure things out, being logic-driven, or self-motivated all demonstrate Yang states of being. Whereas letting your environment speak to you, soaking in a rejuvenating bath, or consciously breathing deeply are all Yin states of being. This ability to witness and identify Yin and Yang energy all around us and within us has been held by many who have come before us. It is a beautiful lens to look at all aspects of ourselves and our external environment in a way that promotes a deeper, more real experience of interconnectedness and oneness. Life does not have to be shaped around the many labels that perpetuate a sense of separation and division. Instead, it can be a conscious dance where our power of discernment is well intact, but does not create an ‘us’ and ‘them’ reality.
Yin and Yang is also a pair of lenses that fits perfectly on our two physical eyes! We are born with two eyes–with the ability to see two sides to everything. When we attain the ability to recognize and adjust the balance of these two energies within ourselves, we naturally will be able to see the balance or imbalance of them in others. Rather than encourage both of our children to work hard, we may discern that one child needs to be encouraged to rest and not be given as much structure. We will learn to see ourselves and others as constantly shifting in a dance with these two energies and no longer label some people as ambitious and others as lazy, or label ourselves as ‘good’ some days and ‘bad’ other days. We can live more consciously in that we can see the balance or imbalance of Yin and Yang in and around us and make choices that are less bound by limiting beliefs or the cultures that have influenced us thus far.
I’d like to leave you with a visual elixir that is very potent in helping to both see and regain balance of the Yin and Yang energies within. Hold your finger out and draw a circle in the air. Regardless of where you begin to draw the circle, you will experience both Yin and Yang by the time you make one full revolution. When you sense you are pushing or going outward, that is Yang. When you experience more effortlessness and a receiving quality, that is Yin. Uphill, downhill. Waxing, waning. Giving, receiving. Speaking, listening. Nature is a phenomenal teacher of this wisdom.
When we learn to recognize which energy is dominant in our mental experience, we can learn how to rebalance ourselves. This is what it means to live more consciously, and not at the mercy of the mood we find ourselves in, the beliefs we inherit, or the thoughts circulating throughout the collective. We have the ability to recognize Yin and Yang energies within ourselves and to dance our way back into balance without falling into judgment and getting stuck there. We can practice being an embodiment of the wisdom of Yin and Yang.
The concept of flight is seen throughout the entire history of human kind. It represents transcendence of struggle and suffering, and is an expression of freedom. Interestingly, I once read about how much a butterfly struggles while trying to exit the cocoon. If you try to intervene and help it by tearing some of the cocoon apart more for it, it actually has the opposite effect. The period of struggle is part of the process leading to the butterfly being able to survive and take flight. When a person intervenes to ‘help’ in this way, the butterfly does not exert the strength and force that is necessary for its body to go through and will never be able to spread its wings let alone take flight. This piece of wisdom from Nature teaches us about struggle and pain.
I see us all as butterflies right now, but most of us not yet knowing how to work both wings harmoniously–the Yin mind and Yang mind. One side of our wings is flapping too hard in a great state of effort, not knowing how to work harmoniously with Yin energy and so not experiencing the freedom of conscious flight. This ability to label and break the whole into smaller parts and see differences is what has given each of us the ability to see ourselves as unique individuated entities compared to others. The sense of individual ‘self’ has been born from this big surge of Yang mind activity. However, the pendulum is approaching its threshold. In mental health terms, this translates as uncontrollable anxiety, fear, sense of isolation, inferiority-superiority complexes, and hopelessness to name a few. How do we learn to fly from here?
I really see that mental turmoil is like the stress that a butterfly coming out of the cocoon faces. It is part of our developmental process. It eventually forces us to go inward and deal with the chaos of thoughts that no longer serve us and perpetuates further this sense of isolation, separation, competition and division among us. We are addicted to labeling–even simply the labels of good and bad; right and wrong. We are trying to shape the flow of life around us into solid and unchanging pieces. Eventually, our Yin mind will rise up from this chaotic way of experiencing ourselves. We are more than the thoughts we have and we do not need to cultivate a sense of self-worth from the thoughts we have. Likewise, the worth or value of others need not rest on them having and expressing certain thoughts that we like. Like the color of our own skin, we can learn not to put so much sense of our identity in the quality or ‘color’ of the thoughts that we have.
This is the kind of flight that we are all preparing for–the transcendence of thought dictating how we perceive reality. We can fly above the vibrational realm of thought-dictated reality and identity, and enter into a new plane where we experience ourselves as something much more vast.
Have a beautiful spring and unique unfolding of your very own~