Nourishing Yin to Balance Yang

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

        A few weeks after the fires, I journeyed to the beach on a mission to settle my rattled nervous system, and to gain perspective on how to adapt to yet another challenge of 2020. I went to a favorite spot that I can count on to deliver a sense of refuge from the world and from my own mental unrest. As I hiked down to the beach, internally I could sense an urgency to find a spot where I could digest the evacuation, my personal trauma, the community trauma, and the sense of feeling not “at home” in myself.  In my eagerness to arrive, I took a focused pace toward a large piece of drift wood.   In my haste I could have easily missed the creek that I needed to cross.  At the creeks edge, my weight teetered on the sandy bank as it collapsed gently down into the water. This got my attention. I began noticing the mosaic of solid and collapsed sand surrounding this watershed. I could see channels of water with the ground barely concealing them, as well as places that appeared solid. This struck me as a perfect metaphor of how water, or YIN, is always flowing just below the surface, even when we cannot see it.

YIN can simply be explained as the shady side of the mountain…think of a cool, moist,  fern filled watershed.  YIN is receptive, quiet, soft, nourishing, and interconnected. Water is a perfect example of yin, humbly flowing downward toward the deepest place it can reach. 

        Upon considering 2020’s events we see a year dominated by YANG. The quick changes and unknown anxieties of the pandemic, racial tension, divisive political drama, and environmental disaster can be likened to a fire burning out of control. What’s needed now is the coolness and soothing qualities of YIN  to quell the fire. The cultural symptoms of too much Yang are easy to observe in our society, just as we can notice the personal signs of too much yang.  The personal signs of too much yang includeL: anxiety, anger, hyper-vigilance, insomnia, irritability, and overwhelm. Think TOO MUCH!! And yet once the fire is a blaze within, it can be very challenging to stay away from the things that keep us running hot, such as: caffeine, sugar, busy-ness and over stimulation with news and social media. Due to the relational/mirroring nature of our nervous systems, most of us  find ourselves craving things that keep us buzzing at the hyper stimulated pace of the external environment. 

        Amidst the paradox of a Yang dominated time and the need for more YIN, how can you find balance?  How can you call upon the part of you that is cool, soft, moist, relaxed, and not  overwhelmed? The first step is acknowledging that this part of you is already present. By setting  the intention to be more connected to your YIN,  this will naturally shift your experience. Autumn’s  cooler days and longer nights  are also more conducive for YIN cultivation . Most of us know our tendencies and  the ways that we tend to aggravate the YANG in our lives.   Most of us know the remedies for feeling too YANG….doing less and letting  go.

        This is the invitation/challenge for you to take extra time to nourish yourself and to resist getting swept up in the uncertainty, division and over-stimulation.  Can you give yourself and those around you permission to spend more time “just being” vs “just doing.”  We each have our work to do in the world; when we can show up to do our work from a balanced place, we are more effective and kind. You do have a choice in how you show up in the world.  Be the example you want others to be. 

 

“To be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love”

Looking for the Rainbow

by Ann Zimmerman, L.Ac.
 
For many years, I have kept a strict agreement that I will stop what I am doing if the weather conditions are nearing for a rainbow. The brilliant combination of the rain and the sun bursting through the clouds creates the perfect lighting. Stopping to notice this beauty feels critical to my soul.

The luxurious rain storms in June on multiple occasions hurried me from the kitchen cutting board and into the garden. My exit from the kitchen could be abrupt and even surprise my 6-year-old daughter who is often in the clouds herself. I usually yell “rainbow weather!” and then
run out our screen door into the garden to gaze at the mountainsides,
carefully studying the dark part of the sky.

The rainbow’s majestic colors and density fluctuations always draw
me in completely. Upon spotting a rainbow, I will let out a long pleased
exhale and then search for anyone nearby to come and witness this
miracle. I can feel every cell in my body smiling with the reminder of life’s divine nature. It’s almost like being in front of the ocean, where you can actually feel a direct experience of healing happening. However, rainbows are much more elusive than the ocean. No roads can be taken to rainbows and you can’t live close to them–we never know when they will show themselves.

And of course rainbows serve as amazing metaphors for life’s journey: in our personal storms of life (sickness, relationship fallout, financial woes, global pandemic, etc), is there not also a rainbow? A place where the weather pattern breaks, a moment when it’s not JUST storming and all falling apart.

Stopping and taking delight in the shift of weather patterns is how we begin to integrate, heal, and gain insight on what actually happened during the storm. To take notice of your life’s shifting patterns puts you in direct contact with the universal truth that everything is always changing.

To directly experience this moment you have to be willing to let go of believing you are the chatter in your mind. Our personal insights are born from being in the present moment. Simply put, being mindful is the attentive witnessing of your life from moment to moment. It turns down the loudest voice in the room, your chatty mind. The
practice gives you a choice about how you respond to change. It gives you the superpower of being adaptable.

It’s as if you left Talent, and went to the top of Wagner Butte, looking down you see how you move about in the course of an ordinary day. You see your route to work, how you go shopping, the main streets, your daily routine, and you’re seeing it all from the top of the mountain. Then you return to Talent. But now when you are moving
around town, there’s a part of you that always recalls the perspective from above. As you go through a day, you’re still watching it all from the mountaintop–a broader awareness while still being in the moment. Living during these rapidly changing times offers the perfect conditions to either adapt or suffer. You get to choose. Do you find new ways to respond to the shifting weather of a pandemic? Can you take moments throughout your day to be mindful of shifting patterns within yourself, to be in awe of nature or another person’s kindness? Can you also be aware of the good while also holding the suffering personally and globally? Mindfulness will not take away the storms of life, but it will help you notice your resistance to them and help you to notice your incredible resiliency.

We each have the capacity to hold the paradox of life.

Mindfulness helps us to not get lost in one story–to not get polarized by prejudice, upbringing, and personal agenda. The space between the thoughts–the quiet between the noise–allows us to experience the magic. It allows us to see and feel the rainbow between the shifting weather patterns of our days.

Cheers to being adaptive, resilient, and mindful!
Check out our mindfulness meditation classes at middlewaymedicine.com

Disempowerment and Anger

by Ryder Johanson, L.Ac.

                In the past few weeks, I’ve talked to a lot of people with strong opinions on the protests that have followed the killing of George Floyd and other black men and women by police.  As a white guy, I don’t feel like it’s my place to mansplain the police brutality/structural racism/Black Lives Matter situation and how people should be responding.  But I just keep thinking about what it would take to get me emotionally to where many protestors now are.

How angry would I have to be to line up against a line of police in riot gear?  What kind of experiences and suffering would have to happen for me to risk my health, safety, and freedom like many of the protestors are doing?  How much would I have to suffer first?  What would it feel like to feel like there was no other way to have my voice heard?

Anger is probably the most vilified of emotions—and I can see why.  It’s the emotion driving some of the worst crimes and unkindnesses humans inflict upon each other.  People who are angry are likely to lose control and do things that disturb the peace in our households and our communities.  Most of us learn early on that it’s not OK to be angry.

But in my experience, anger is often a cover emotion for significant past wounds underneath.  It’s the Protector aspect of ourselves that’s standing up for the wounded, scared Inner Child.  Maybe a big, scary display of our outrage can prevent us from getting hurt the same way again.  With sadness and fear we feel disempowered and even hopeless.  Anger, in contrast, is a huge rush of energy and a sense of empowerment.

To borrow a term from one of my favorite spiritual teachers, anger arises when we feel like a situation is “unworkable”: we feel like we deserve better than we’ve got and it doesn’t look like there’s any way for us to get it.  And so we think that maybe a big show of aggressive energy will be able to make a shift in a stuck, unworkable situation.

                Figuring out if and when and where and how to express anger is a bigger subject than I’m going to try to tackle here, but I think it’s important that we understand that someone who is very angry is usually very hurt underneath.  Moreover, anger can be a powerful tool to motivate us to stand up for ourselves and set good boundaries.  Very often, some of the biggest changes I see in my patients suffering with autoimmune diseases come after they start speaking up to their family members or their employers about the things that are bothering them.

                Most of the time we use coping mechanisms to distract ourselves from our anger.  We all know about coping mechanisms like mind-altering substances, comfort eating, TV, playing with our phones too much, but even “healthy” activities like extreme exercise and spiritual practice can be used to distract ourselves from the emotional pain in our minds and bodies.  But that anger is going to keep coming back until we take the time to heal our past wounds and find a way to feel more empowered going forward.

                I know personally it can be a big relief to have an angry outburst and get something I’ve been bottling up out in the open.  But I’ve felt even better, more lasting relief when I’ve realized that the angry parts of me are just trying to stand up for the sad, scared, disempowered parts of me. Moreover, it’s made it easier for me to see that same dynamic playing out over and over in our society and have compassion for other people.

Ryder Johanson treats autoimmune and other chronic diseases with Traditional Chinese Medicine at Middleway Medicine in Talent.

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Talent, Oregon 97540

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