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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. 


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