One of my favorite prayers begins this way…“I breathe with the universal forces of creation.” Oh, my, what a line! While there are many ways to understand these words, let’s take our cue from eastern spiritual traditions and the concept of Yin Yang.
Our world is one of duality, a world of this and that, light and dark, movement and stillness, growth and decay. Yang is the term for the active, expansive energies, while Yin refers to those that are receptive and inward~turning. Yang builds up while Yin lets go. Yin and Yang are not antagonistic, but complementary halves of a unified whole. The prayer above encourages us to breathe in harmony with them.
It does something more, though. It points to the literal truth that we actually embody Yin Yang in every breath we take.We energize as we draw in oxygen on the inhale, activating Yang energy. Yin comes as we relax into the exhale, releasing carbon dioxide. When we breathe with this awareness, Yin and Yang cease to be concepts. No longer mere nouns, they have become verbs. We Yang on the inhale and Yin on the exhale.
Instinctively, we know that, in the breath, the two need to be in balance. So, too, throughout our lives. Yin and Yang are then able to flow one to the other as effortlessly as an easy, relaxed respiration cycle.
By becoming conscious of the larger forces reflected in the breath, we’re given a framework to take with us into the world, one that helps us organize our experience, recognize when our balance is off, and intuit how to restore it. When we notice we're not doing what needs doing~~through procrastination, avoidance or just plain laziness~~we recognize we need to Yang it up a bit. And when we’re pushing too hard, we know a dollop of Yin is called for. The latter happened in my world just this morning.
Early attempts to write this essay were not successful. I couldn’t string two sentences together in a pleasing way, and the words were not doing what I had already decided they would do. Still I pressed on, despite a growing frustration. And then it came to me. I was willfully pushing ahead, trying to force a process that couldn’t be forced. I was lopsided, leaning too far toward Yang~~while I was exploring the need for balance, no less! Ah, the irony.
With that recognition, though, my path forward became clear. I needed to slow down and invite some Yin into the mix. I sat a few minutes in the April sunshine. I mindfully prepared a pot of soup for dinner. I reminded myself that all was well, that an essay would, indeed, get written. And I accepted that I could not Yang my way to the finished piece.
No, balance was needed~~the Yang dedication to working the words, yes, but with a Yin receptivity that would allow them to evolve in their own way. Things progressed more smoothly after that. And my learning of an hour or two earlier is now an integral part of this final piece. Yin mixed with Yang to create something I could not have foreseen.
And so we practice consciously blending Yin and Yang in proportions appropriate to each situation. As we do this, though, something else occurs. We find ourselves moving toward that which is greater and more enduring than either one or both together.
Yin and Yang do make our physical world possible and offer us a playground in which to develop our personalities and grow our spirits. But that duality is also illusion, mere shadow play. Yin and Yang stream from a greater energy, one whose Light shines through them both.
We do, indeed, breathe with the universal forces of creation~~the Yin, the Yang and that unfathomable Oneness which infuses and illuminates them both.
Blessings on your own Yin Yang shadow play!