is for yin-yang
One of the most fundamental concepts in Chinese philosophy is yin-yang. We all know the symbol for it – black and white forms moving into each other, each holding the seed of the other within. It’s a very dynamic symbol representing a dynamic concept which seeks to describe how what seem to be opposite forces are really complementary; that everything has both yin and yang aspects; they are interconnected and give rise to each other, interacting to form the whole which is greater than its parts.
Of course that’s a pretty simplified explanation of a concept that is the basis for Chinese philosophy and science from ancient times onward. But it serves as an excellent descriptor of what I think is at the core of self-care.
Yin and yang are never static but in a constantly changing balance. It’s really important to see everything in cyclical relationship.
We’re dynamic forces, shifting, unfolding, meeting the world in receptivity and responsiveness. And our self-care practices are really simply about being in the best condition (in all our bodies – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) to thrive.
Balance is often a term used when talking about self-care. It seems like a natural way to speak about what we’re looking for. We don’t want to be overworking and neglecting play; extending ourselves too much without the opportunity to receive; emptying without filling; talking without listening; acting from the mind without allowing the heart to weigh in.
The thing about using the word balance though is that it can often feel like what we’re asking for is some state of homogenization. Lessening ourselves to the least common denominator. People sometimes hear the word balance and think bland – not nuanced or complex.
And I don’t think that’s a helpful way to think about it at all. I think we should all be as bright and beautiful and uniquely as a perfect reflection of our true soul selves.
Which is why I love thinking of balance with regard to self-care in terms of this:
a full-canopied tree with a deep, wide set of roots.
That’s what we’re striving for with our lives, and every aspect of self-care is about ensuring that the outer and inward, the above and below, is strong and vibrant so no part withers or gets damaged, is threatened by strong storms or drought.
Self-care is about nurturing all-aspects so you can stand fully in yourself and shine unhindered.
I like this quote from Krishnamurti:
“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for that is life.”
I might change one aspect of that – the part about suffering. Clearly we have all suffered – none of us has made it this far without being marked. But I also believe it is enough to use the understanding of how we have chosen to be shaped by that past suffering to fuel all we need. And now our mission is to see how we can create without further suffering. Just saying…
Do you agree? Are you feeling like you are a balanced tree, nourished and thriving? Speaking of trees, do you have a favorite? What kind of tree do you imagine yourself to be? Do tell – you know I love to hear.