YIN Mind and YANG Mind

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.

Two Minds

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.

The symbol for masculine (R) is taken from the astrological symbol for Mars. The feminine (L) is taken from Venus.

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.  

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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

Black holes demonstrate YIN properties, whereas the Sun demonstrates YANG properties.

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.


Author’s Note:

A sketch I did in 2015 that unfolded while in my Yin mind.

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?

Another older sketch. As I was playing with eyes, I began to see something more in the eye.

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~

<3 Mo-Chan

Divine Menagerie

None of us created the animals on the earth. Aside from breeding already existing animals, they have come to be here on their own accord. They are our neighbors and in many ways, they are our teachers. Being wild, it is difficult to get into close proximity with a large variety of animals, but I imagine that when people more of the land would encounter animals back in the day, they must have received their messages and teachings. I want to be more of the land again.. 

I wrote the above passage barely a week ago, and–as of this morning– I think my longing has been heard. I’ll explain.

A Divine Visitor

Your meditation spot can be as sacred of a space as you would like to make it. You can sit on a cushion on the floor, light a candle to signal commencement, and choose a time of day that works with your schedule. My meditation spot is a chair in my bedroom facing the open window. I like the early morning like 5 or 5:30am, when it’s often still dark outside, but a hint of something in the air tells you that morning light is on its way. This was exactly the case this morning as I headed towards my meditation spot after doing some stretches in the living room. I returned to the dark bedroom where a subtle twilight glow gave everything a little bluish shimmer. I walked over to my chair by the window, and screamed.

Was it a rodent?! No, it was large and dark feathered, sleeping in the window sill. Well, sitting on top of the netting right outside the window sill–the very netting that had been repaired a couple of weeks ago for the purpose of keeping such feathered friends away. The bird was darkly colored, but I could not tell very well because it was too dark outside. Also, its head happened to be twisted and tucked so deeply into its body in such a way that it looked headless!! I turned the light on and by then, Norm had come over to see what all the fuss was about. For a few moments we stood there in awe of the aliveness of the ruffled dark creature, though it had yet to move. Eventually, Norm left and I decided to try to welcome the energy of this divine visitor into my morning meditation space–after all, I DO love birds. 

So, I sat down in my chair and closed my eyes. …But no matter how I tried to approach the task, something was just too eerie about this bird. This was because it still hadn’t budged an inch since I’d discovered its presence and even screamed in its face. I wanted the satisfaction of seeing it move even just a little. I decided to tap on the window sill with a paint brush *tap tap tap* and then spoke to it. 

“Oh, mister biiiiiiiiiirrd. Are you sleeping here?” I flickered the bedroom lights on and off and tapped all around the window, doing everything but poking at it through the screen. Nothing. 

Ok.. It might be dead. Though I thought I could sense its aliveness, I very quickly could tell myself a story about how the bird was old and tired, came to my window sill, tucked its head in tightly and died in its sleep. It could be very possible for a bird to die in such a way and rigor mortis set in, freezing up its legs while it had been grasping the netting which would explain why the bird looked so solid and upright. 

“Forget it,” I thought to myself. I no longer want to do my morning meditation with this creature in my space–divine or not–dead or not. So, I left to meditate out in the living room. 

I won’t go into too much detail about my meditation, but here are the big bits. Among the energies active in my space was adrenaline and a lot of questioning. So, I flushed those energies out and replenished with fresh Nowness energy. Once I became more centered, I decided to look at the energy of the bird still in my space. Yup, it was still there. Time to take it out of my space–dead or not. Despite all the dizzying early morning excitement, I still could see the bird as a divine visitor and smile about a few things. 

After all, hadn’t I said that I wanted to be more of the land? To feel connected to the wild animals? 

Painting of the extinct Hawaiian bird Po’ouli.

Well, I’m laughing to myself and waking up to the realization that I am having a morning adventure. These are good signs. Meditation lasted about 22 minutes. “Who knows,” I thought to myself, “maybe when I go back to the bedroom later, dead rigor mortis bird will magically be gone.” As I walked down the hallway about to turn into the bathroom, I glanced at the window sill in the bedroom expecting to see that dark headless lump. 

But I didn’t see any darkness. So, I ran into the room right up to the window and was shocked to find that the bird was gone! Not a feather remained. Staring at nothing but net, a burst of awe like a personal energetic super nova of playfulness passed through me. Along with it came realizations. It was never a rigor mortis bird. It WAS a divine visitor! ..and the aliveness I had felt was real. 

After the inner super nova dissipated, I had just one thing to say:

“That is NOT an alert bird.”


Divine Menagerie

Along with this headless rigor mortis bird, there are other divine visitors I will definitely not be forgetting any time soon. Like this albino? gecko that greeted me after a run one morning.

I’ve since seen nothing remotely similar! Once I woke up to a giant moth the size of my hand chilling on the wall of the lanai. It hung around as I wrote a blog post that morning.

I consider animals that show up in my head to be divine visitors as well. In fact, those visitors are sometimes even more mysterious, especially considering the circumstances in which they make their unplanned appearance. 

A little over a year ago, I was sitting in my living room completely spaced out. I had borrowed a book from the library on birds of Hawaii. I recalled the librarian who had helped me check out my books. She informed me I had some late fines to pay, so I gave her what I owed. She dawdled at the cash register for a bit then came back with my change: one quarter. “There’s a sea bird on that quarter,” she said, looking me straight in the eyes. She must have seen that bird book I was borrowing. I took that quarter with the magic dust she’d sprinkled on it and dropped it into my coin pouch. 

It was in this daze of reminiscing in my living room that one by one these cute fluffy birds appeared in my head–flying and bouncing into invisible walls with tiny eyes that were wide open just like that librarian’s eyes had been when she looked straight at me.

Me being me, I instinctively grabbed a paintbrush and painted what I’d seen. As the paint dried, I looked down at my three divine visitors. What fluffy birds in flight; all with such tiny heads. Wherever you guys come from, I’d like to go visit there.

This next divine visitor also appeared in my head. It was around a time recently when I was in the middle of making a big decision. Suddenly, the stoic image of a light brown bunny wearing a red cape blowing in the wind popped into my inner view. Bunnies always look hyper-alert to me. Their noses wiggle as they breathe somewhat nervously, and do they ever even blink their eyes? Yes, bunnies are cute and cuddly looking, but the lesson of the bunny– from what I see –is one of bravery.

Be brave!

It’s the smallest and most fragile of animals that require the most bravery to live alongside large, sharp fanged beasts in the wild. And a bunny in a cape must be that message amplified another notch. Be braver than your normal. Be a more super-you version of you. Ok, red-caped bunny; message received!

Then, there is the lesson of the koala. I grew up knowing very deeply that my grandma loves koalas.. so much that I think a part of me doesn’t draw a very distinct line between the koala and my grandma. (The same can be said about my aunt and hippopotamuses). When a person is drawn so deeply to an animal, it is a really special thing. No one has told me this, I just feel it in my bones. So, when this koala showed up in my head chewing on a eucalyptus leaf, I thought to myself, “Grandma!” 


Once upon a time out of the magical void of creation came this super peculiar creature that only eats one thing and sleeps 20 hours a day. Basically, it eats and sleeps. What kind of lesson is this? Why, that sounds like rejuvenation. It also tells me that we should take the time to find the one thing that we need to eat to nourish ourselves. Maybe something is more easily accessible, but as lazy as the koala may seem, it doesn’t just eat whatever is nearby, it knows it must find and eat the one and only thing that can nourish it. That is quite the lesson!! Thank you koala.

Next in my divine menagerie is this long-legged pink fellow. The long-legged part of me relates to the flamingo, except my legs are not as thin. What kind of intelligence must the flamingo store in its legs? Something that lets it feel so secure and in balance that it only really needs one to perch on while it rests.

“Have some fun with what you got!”

Its pinkness is really cheerful and uplifting. Along with so much expression taken from its long black curved beak.. so many parts of this creature can seem awkward to the eye (like that twistable neck!) yet the flamingo looks to have a steady, pleasant outlook. “Find balance and have some fun with what you got.” How you look on the outside to someone else doesn’t have to be how you feel on the inside. And anything that is pink and walks around in life is sure to bring out some amusement in others, don’t you think?  


Adolescent Mo-Chan

My final story is one from my childhood. I have been called Mo-Chan ever since I can remember. So much, that I never felt comfortable being called Maureen. It was as if the name belonged to someone else. There was a lot of plasticity to my identity as a child, that carried into the awkward years as I ripened into an adult. How did we walk that dividing path? With one leg in childhood and one leg in the widening perception of adulthood? What parts of the child did you hold on to? Or did you reluctantly let a lot go? 

For me, on particular days that I felt I needed to be closer to the “real” me, I would put on skunk ears. You know, those furry headbands with ears attached to them that people often wear during Halloween? I had a pair of skunk ears–black furry pointed ears with a nice tuft of white that fluffed out between them.

I never explained to anyone why I would put them on, not even to myself. It was just something that needed to happen sometimes. I’d put them on and sit down to play around on the piano. Or I’d put them on, wrap myself up in a blanket and hobble around the house on the weekend. There was one great picture of me on Easter (I think), in an oversized tie dye shirt, with a quilt wrapped around me like a long skirt, laying on the driveway with my skunk ears on shielding my eyes with one hand from the glare of the sun. My black and white cat Bushy was sniffing at my horizontal self. This was how I really indulged in being Mo-Chan back then. I did and did not know what I was doing. I was just being myself.

Nowadays, I practice sitting with myself and feeling if the skunk ears are on or not. How “me” am I right now? How concerned am I with explaining to others who, what, and the whys of my life? This is an interesting thing to reflect on especially during this time of year when it is normal for many people to dress up in costume. Maybe we assume we are dressing up as something else, but maybe we are letting ourselves embrace a part of us that we don’t “let out” so often in our lives. Express some part of ourselves, no questions asked and with no need for explanation. We get to come together as we are and all play the same game!  

Self-expression–whether you are painting a picture or dressing up in clothing–is about practicing being ourselves. How well can you do it? (Not how nice do other people say you or your painting look.) How close do you get to your authentic self? As I write this, I check to see if the skunk ears are still on..

One easy way for me to know that I am accessing or aligned with my skunk ears-self is when I paint or draw something that EVEN surprises me.

I love being surprised by myself, because I believe in that moment, an assumption we have carried is brought into light. Otherwise, why would we experience surprise?? The assumption might be as simple as, “the world is known to me; I am known to me; there isn’t much else out there.” Then BAM!! You see something (in the physical or not) that brings you a rush of surprise. And when an assumption is brought to light, it is automatically destroyed by the experience of surprise itself. So, if you can be surprised by yourself, you can keep your brain from indulging in too much “I know that already” chatter and maybe even begin to look for surprises–really believe that you don’t know the half of everything.. not even close. 

From Left: Me with Ehu (@ehudog) and her human (my dear friend) Lisa <3

Behind Color

When I was a junior in highschool, I was lucky enough to get accepted into an artist apprenticeship program. During the summer, several other students and I worked under the guidance of a professional artist and painted a large mural of a fish jumping out of a hole in a concrete wall. Our days began with loading up various paint brushes, rags, and many tubs of acrylic paint into a truck to drive out to the the mural site. We’d swing from the bars on the three-leveled scaffolding like monkeys, climbing up and down to mix more paint and look at our brush strokes and the contrast of value from a distance. It was summer, but luckily we were shaded under a large road above the walking path the mural faced. However, we still needed to keep spray bottles full of water handy to keep our paints moist as we mixed and color-matched.

It was this hands-on experience with a mentor that taught me how to mix colors, see and recreate values of a colored object–light, medium, and dark. We used large brushes, like the kind you paint a house with, and it goes without saying we got paint all over ourselves in the process. I knew back then as a teenager that I was extremely lucky to have been a part of that art program. I learned each day outside surrounded by nature (the walkway followed a winding creek) and around an abundance of painting supplies and passionate artists. 

Real colorful tree bark! 2013 Dole Plantation, Oahu, HI

It was my second summer in the program when I remember suddenly “growing” new eyes. Perhaps it was the many hours of mixing paint that led to my new pair of eyes, I’m not sure. I just remember one day looking at the bark of a tree and seeing every color in it. In that moment I remember it felt like the colors were speaking to me. I had learned to approach Nature as if she were a companion– someone capable of telling me things. I can recall that moment vividly because I’d never seen color in that way before. 

Many years later I still paint, although with a new favored medium– watercolor. When I was younger, I did a lot of replications and painting from a reference picture. Whereas, in more recent years I have been struck with impulses to paint things more loosely inspired by a variety of input. It doesn’t suffice to paint things that closely resemble how they are. There is a steady drive in me to paint and create based on the experience of being a companion to what it is I see. 

Inspired by a white hanging flower

Colors don’t speak to me in words (at least they have not as of yet!). When my mind is behaving well enough, I’ll experience a lot of beauty, wonder, and awe in Nature. In more recent years, I’ll notice an “aliveness” in things that makes me feel closer to them. Not unlike the experience of growing new eyes while looking at tree bark as a teenager. I laughed at myself as I wrote that, and laughed again the other day when I spontaneously admitted aloud that I’m suddenly into birding. Am I opening up to the world, or is the world opening up to me? Whatever the underworkings may be, I just know I now feel a stronger kinship with Nature than I used to. And as a painter, it feels like I’ve been gifted an abundance of kindlewood to keep the inner creative flame burning strong. 

Painting from memories of childhood

So, what is behind color? 

Allow me a Tangent 

Ok, so maybe watching my mother give birth to my little brother is not exactly an “everyday life experience,” but it illustrates the state of mind I want to convey. Watching a human who was not here, “arrive” and make the transition from womb to the same breathing space was a heightened experience. Being with animals, like a pet cat or dog, can bring on the same state of mind–a living companion or other animated visitor that connects with you on some fundamental level. Another example of an ordinary experience that brings on this particular state of mind, is the feeling of floating on water. We can attune to the sense of the water’s surface tension as well as enjoy temporary relief from the every day–every moment– firm pull of gravity.

What is behind these personal examples of heightened experience, is like what I came to notice in or behind color all around me. Perhaps this has something to do with my desire to translate feelings or states of mind using color. 

When one color sits next to another color, and their differing values create movement, it can be so beautiful.. at the very least it is an experience encapsulated in an image. Your eyes start somewhere, move around, and end somewhere. The image may inspire the viewer or stir up associations or general feelings.

This is the work of art.

For a split second, maybe it can make you feel like you are watching a baby come into the world, or that you are sitting with a pet animal, or floating on water. 

We all smile through our eyes. I love to observe smiling alpacas because their eyes are so big!!

I wonder if the state of mind I’m trying to convey is getting through here? I imagine people have their own unique equivalent experiences. I guess trying to paint a picture in words is not so different from trying to paint a picture using paint. Both are a medium that we use to express something of a more direct nature. Creativity and the desire for self-expression in some form must play a key role in that which makes us human. That invisible energy that pervades everything yet only hints at its existence through everything. 

I keep a small notebook for color mixing

One last note on color for today. Like the moon, we experience light and the perception of color due to the reflection of sunlight. This tells me that we are beings of the sun in that much of our experience of life is largely dictated by and relative to the sun. What this also tells me is that there is more to life that we do not see because we are “blinded” by the sun. It is ironic that that which is the foundation for our experience of sight–the sun’s light–is also one thing that we cannot (should not) attempt to witness directly. Our eyes can be damaged by looking straight into the sun. So, sight is largely an experience of a second-degree, indirect nature. 

We believe in the moon, and can see moonlight, yet it is actually only reflected sunlight that we see. We believe in colors and see that objects appear to have colors, yet science teaches us that color exists as it does because sunlight bounces off objects and the wavelengths of reflected light determines the color we see. It’s so crazy to think that something as colossal as vision is to the human experience is of a second-degree, indirect nature. 

What would it be like to see light that is not reflected light from the sun, but light that is emitted by an object itself not in relation to the sun? Like a burning fire flame or glow of fireflies, but from ALL objects. So, when we look at color around us, perhaps we can view it like moonlight, as a kind of hint.. It is second-degree seeing. Does that mean that we can not sense anything deeper and more direct? 

A pair of glowing heart-warmers

To me, the work of art –its function– is to alter our state of mind and state of being so that we can experience companionship and kinship with what is behind color. It’s a quiet presence that our basic five senses lack the precision to experience directly (as of yet). To me, it’s like hearing a purr but never seeing the cat. We can feel the vibration tingle every cell all the way to our center.

Perhaps it’s this purring presence that I first sensed that day when I saw every color in the tree bark. 





















The Art of Questioning

Is your mind in a state conducive to seeing anew? To seeing what it did not see maybe just moments ago?

We use the word “open-minded” to describe a person who is often able to entertain new ideas without so much emphasis on needing to be “right.” The jury can be out-judgement suspended indefinitely- even uncomfortable ideas that threaten aspects of ourselves can rest in the spaciousness of an open mind. 

What if more of us could find ways to enter this open-minded state more often? To have a loose and relaxed stillness about us that is receptive to the gentle fluttering of incoming ideas?

What I think is not who I am. These words and ideas I write do not belong to me. I have control and lack control. I know and do not know. 

This is the space that exists within each of us. We are capable of a surreal level of inner flexibility. 

Swallowed by the Whale

Early in the morning, I turned on a less favored laptop and the start screen reflected an inaccurate time considering it was early morning. Later, after writing for some time, I got up for a break and walked to the kitchen to see the oven clock reflecting the same inaccurate time I’d seen earlier. There is a lot of humor and entertainment for me in these sorts of occurrences. I like not trusting time. When we can genuinely find ourselves questioning a mechanism that as a collective we have learned to let guide our mental processes, it shakes the ground we walk on a little. It’s a way to elicit a more open-minded state of being that is highly conducive to experiencing creativity.

If I can’t trust time, then where the heck am I? Who and what am I? 

*Poof!* Your mind awakens a little and realizes that you had long before been swallowed by a whale and have been living inside of it. You stand up and though you are blind to what’s outside of the whale, you empty your mind and feel for answers. How is it that despite being there all along, you only just feel the ground beneath you shaking for the first time, now?? 

You were part of something bigger.

Self-imposed Earthquakes

When you question yourself, your experiences and beliefs, you are questioning past conditioning that has been integral in shaping your current perception of reality. You are in effect creating an earthquake in your being. 

“Earthquake 1/3”
(“Maybe I do not know what I’m talking about.”)

Living life with an open mind is like living life balancing on one leg. With two legs planted, time stands still and we feel safety and security in our firm rooted stance. However, we are not moving forward-we are not growing. When we achieve the state of an open mind, we are in effect lifting one of those planted legs as if to say, “Maybe I do not know what I’m talking about.” A lot of the attitude towards the process of growth boils down to this question: Do you see yourself wobbling as a sign of weakness and, therefore, something to be avoided? In other words, are you not able to see past your immediate feelings of discomfort in the moment? Or do you see your instability as the flexibility needed in order for you to take the next step to expand your world? 

What if we asked a question, and then loosened up on our expectations of an answer. Maybe the answer will come, and maybe it won’t. Maybe soon, maybe not. Maybe before the answer comes, we will cease to ask that particular question. This idea, alone, tells me that there is an art to asking questions. There can be beauty, acceptance, and a great wonder in the asking. Maybe even growth itself is mostly achieved in the asking, rather than in the answering. 

This being said, a mind active in constant questioning leaves little room for else. A lot of critical thinking skills we learn in compulsory education encourages positing questions and following through until we reach the answers. What if we built upon this ability by further training the mind to:

1) Be more mindful of the intensity and tone in which we ask ourselves questions

2) Stop asking questions when we decide to; and 

3) Not ask questions expecting (or feeling a sense of entitlement to) an answer more often. 

In other words, what if we practiced wondering?

“Wondering” is a less intense version of questioning. It is not as disruptive or distracting. It also doesn’t consume our full attention with the kind of urgency that often accompanies many questions we may have. “Wondering” feels like a peaceful, gentler way of approaching uncertainty. 

I don’t have the answers, and sometimes I’ll observe myself in the act of questioning not actually expecting to ever get answers to the questions. I ask particular questions to get myself to a slightly different space.. to shift the ground I walk on purposely. My mind is able to wander as I engage in wondering. 

The Birth of Surrealism

Surrealism was born when our minds awoke enough to perceive and give attention to imagery that we’d been conditioned to ignore. It wasn’t invented, it was merely perceived and validated by enough people for the first time. 

“Earthquake 2/3”
(“Seeing anew.”)

It makes me wonder about how the validation of something by the masses occurs. Before anything can be validated, it needs to gain mass awareness first. Surrealism has been described as a movement in the arts in the 1920s in which artists strove to unite their conscious and unconscious realms of experience.* I can imagine that it was embraced by many artists of the time since it was about getting in touch with the sleeping parts of ourselves which hold the key to much of our creative powers.

Intuitively, I can relate to this idea as I have a collection of my own unique experiences with creativity. When I am communing with creative forces, I feel a fluidity in my being-a kind of openness and receptivity. It is no longer a weird idea for me to admit that being an artist is like being an instrument. Whether I am writing or painting, a part of me has learned that it must step aside and kind of melt into the background. I might illustrate this as taking a mask off, or putting a new one on. Either way, the ground that I find a sense of security in, metaphorically speaking, shifts and I experience a wobbling in what I believe to be real. The experience of creativity happens in that surreal wonder-land that the mind awakens into.

Art and the Receptive State of Mind

The art of questioning (the act of asking questions in a certain non-demanding manner) can be a gateway to a more expansive and receptive state of mind. It is ostensibly the act of self reflection and self observation, but with significant creativity-enhancing undertones.

Are you chasing external things that you have put your trust in to give you that deep rooted happiness you sense is possible? Or are you chasing the state of mind you have experienced from time to time, that lets joy in? On that same note, are you the body that experiences sensory input in this world? Or are you the consciousness that perceives the sensory input? If you are the consciousness, then are you the consciousness that is here in waking life reading this? Or the consciousness that strips itself of the body and bathes in a dreamy surreal world each night? Is it possible to be both? ..Or even more than the sum of our realized parts?

Don’t think too hard, just wonder about it with me. Let’s stand on one foot together calmly, in no rush to plant the other foot down. 

“Earthquake 3/3”
Are you the body that experiences sensory input in this world? Or are you the expanding consciousness that perceives the sensory input? Is it possible to be both, and more? 


Inner Language of Symbols

Maybe we can meet somewhere in between
In a dubstep; a blue world
And float along together
Following a trail of pink

Going in and out
Of that world and this
One we call wakefulness
And one we dismiss

The Dream

Over a year ago, I had a lucid dream where I was in an in-between landscape. No matter how the scenery altered as I crossed it, there was a distinct darkness to the sky and the ambiance it created was truly unique. It was the kind of dark lighting I would associate with dusk and twilight. The little light that illuminates everything is not directly from the sun, but diffused light that somehow exists while the sun is still below the horizon-that kind of dim lighting.

Anyway, I was running both from something and to somewhere when I came upon a steep hill with chalky white and neutral colored giant mushrooms standing in a surreal stillness. Somehow I knew I could hide there right in plain sight and no one would see me, so I did. I altered my mind to reflect the surreal stillness of the mushroom and emptied it of everything else. That feeling I concentrated on became so powerful that the idea I was running both from something and to somewhere discontinued. Now, my awareness was united with these giant mushrooms and their unique powerful essence. 

The last thought I had before I woke up was that I had to memorize the feeling of hiding amongst these giant mushrooms so I could illustrate it. 

“Mushroom Children”

Fast-forward to earlier this month, I was attempting my first digital painting using some new software called Corel Painter. This time I chose another vivid dream to base my illustration off of.

The Dream (2)

We were floating down a darkly lit jungle stream in a small canoe, passing by numerous different sized flamingos. Some poked their heads out from the jungle brush while others stood perfectly still in the stream as we went by. It was very much a trail of pink, until the stream forked into two directions. At the fork, a couple of lone reeds stood there as if in place of a sign. We chose which side of the fork to continue down, and as the boat shifted its direction, I was struck by a sudden realization: these reeds are same as the ones in the book I had in my hands. I held it up and saw that the illustration matched the actual reeds to perfection. I was completely astonished. It was in that moment that I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be.. WE were exactly where we were supposed to be. 

As I composed the piece loosely, I knew there’d be some dirt in the foreground, but I hadn’t decided how it would look-maybe there would just be some moss or some fern leaves. As I painted, I was surprised how the flamingos ended up staying in the distance-almost going unnoticed. Eventually, when the rest of the composition had evolved, I suddenly knew what would be in the dirt in the foreground: mushrooms. It wasn’t a logic-based decision, my internal symbolism language made the decision for me. After I finished the painting, I think I wondered to myself why I’d put mushrooms there, but I didn’t expect or need an answer. After all, this was a painting loosely based off a dream. Capturing the feeling was more important than the accurate portrayal of what I’d seen. 

“Flamingo Stream”

It has been through these two experiences that I’ve become more aware of what mushrooms seem to symbolize for me. Do you ever get in that mood where you find a song that just resonates perfectly with you at the time so you put it on repeat and listen to it over and over again? I will get like that visually. (It happened with an adorable photo of an alpaca recently). I will become mesmerized looking at something that really speaks to me. It appears that mushrooms seem to be a symbol of this mesmerizing state for me. 

A Unique Inner Language of Symbols

Finding a mushroom in Armstrong Woods, CA

Earlier I mentioned that I let my “internal symbolism language” decide what to paint. As I wrote that, I became inspired to transcribe some of my current understanding of a person’s unique inner language of symbols. The following is a brief description of how I understand it:

We all create a kind of personal almost hieroglyphic-like dictionary of symbols and add to it each day and night of our lives. An object becomes meaningful as we pay repeated attention to it. Then as we notice various nuances such as size, color, texture, and the mood of the environment or circumstances it appears in, we accumulate the pieces we need to translate it further into real personal meaningfulness. Its meaning can become so real that it feels almost tangible the more cumulative attention we give it.

Many of these symbols are unique to us because they were acquired through our own experiences. My memories and experiences with mushrooms have created an inner meaningfulness that may be quite different from yours. Maybe you have your own equivalent of the same feeling of what mushrooms mean, it’s just expressed as some other symbol for you. However, there are many symbols in our internal symbolism language that we share as a collective for some reason or another.

Exploring a Tangent

If you could ask every person you met what Atlantis is like, just imagine the wide scope of interpretations you would receive. The existence or non-existence of Atlantis becomes unimportant, and the symbolism of what Atlantis stands for becomes the uniting principle we can relate to. This is the aspect of language-whether spoken, signed or expressed through symbols-that allows us to feel closer to each other. 

We don’t have to agree on all the details of Atlantis, yet what it symbolizes-that feeling of hidden or lost magic-can exist today for all of us. As a collective, it is these sorts of mysteries that offer to us numerous interpretations and implications about our world. We can all speak different languages, have our own unique life experiences and personal inner symbolism language, yet we can still experience collective unity.

“Ryugu-jo” (Some art from my childhood).
Literally, “Dragon-palace-castle” a famous underwater castle in Japanese folklore. One day in the castle equates to a century outside its walls.

Honoring Our Uniqueness

I think we can experience more feelings of unity when we become more comfortable with and less apologetic about our own uniqueness. Not only our unique gifts or point of view, but our unique needs as well.

Why are you so shy? Why do you avoid social gatherings? Why can’t you hold better conversation? Why aren’t you more likeable? Why don’t you like what I like?

This world we live in is not a one-size-fits-all or even one-size-fits-most. The world does a pretty good job of tolerating a person’s unique needs AFTER they contribute their unique gifts, but not usually before. The world operates on a very linear mode that doesn’t nurture potential, rather it asks for proof before it is willing to invest its tolerance and support. Its eye is on the unique gift aspect of an individual, not the accompanying unique needs.

No matter how clear we can become on who we are, what our uniqueness is and what we need in order to honor it, the world will always be a step behind. This is because it is a physical reflection of previous generations’ past efforts- it has never had you or me in it before. WE have to teach the world who we are and what we need, not the other way around. The world is our teacher, but it is also our student. If we desire to integrate into the world rather than conform, WE have to stand our ground and rewire ourselves to believe it is possible.

Do you believe it’s possible?

Sending you mushrooms today and always,