A friend of mine, who is a writing coach, recently wrote a blog post about the difference between yin and yang styles of writing. She tends to be very yin when writing. By yin, I mean passive, receptive and intuitive as opposed to yang which is more active, dynamic and willful. Her yin approach is a big is part of what I have loved about taking her writing workshops. Her instruction is very experiential. We may spend half an hour gazing at the sky and then journaling for instance. We never discuss the quality of our work or how it can be improved. That is just not her style. Instead it is all about the experience of writing.
I was drawn to her approach, because it is opposite of how I tend to work. I seemed to have absorbed more of the yang style of relating to the world, especially when it comes to creating anything. I am goal oriented and driven. I am determined. If there is a block in the road I either push through it or climb over it or go around it.
Of course, all of us have both sets of characteristics, yin and yang, and we use them in different measures and at different times. I think it is very beneficial to notice which of the two predominates for us, and to try to balance that out.
This began coming to my attention in conversations with my good friend, Merri. We know each other quite well, and she has witnessed me as I learn about myself over the years. One thing I began to be able to describe to her was how impossible I found it to rest during times of stress. When stakes were high or things were falling apart a bit, I had developed a very yang response system. I felt that I should work, work, work until all problems were solved. The guilt and negative feelings about myself that I experienced if I stopped working for even a few minutes were so intolerable that I would work and push myself even when it was clear to everyone, including myself, that a rest and reset would be a much better approach.
First, I became aware of this tendency in myself and able to recognize when it was happening. Then, I became open to the idea that it was actually not the only or the best way to be. That there were other ways of acting under stress that might be just as valid, just as honorable and just as (or more) helpful. After that I became aware of certain beliefs about myself and about the world that held this yang pattern in place. At first, it seemed impossible to do things differently. I would literally feel like my whole world was melting and I would be in a complete emotional crisis when I tried to allow myself to rest or be passive during stressful times.
Because Merri understood this dynamic in me quite well, I could call her and say, “Hey, that thing is happening when I’m overwhelmed and exhausted and I know I need to rest, but I can’t let myself rest.” And she would remind me how it was absolutely ok and wise to allow myself to step away from the plate for a while. The more times this happened, the easier it got, and now it is something I truly enjoy.
It brings me a great sense of accomplishment every time I find myself in a situation that I used to would have spent days or weeks piling stress on top of stress about. And now, I just decide to take a couple of days off, guilt free, and hike and draw and clear my head. Who is this person? A year ago, I would not have been able to do that.
So, this is me, learning to be more yin, learning that things always work out better for me when I honor my mind and body and spirit. I know when stress is mounting, or when I am too attached to a particular outcome or when I am at the edge of what my mind and body can figure out. When I listen to that and stop, let go of all opinions, beliefs, preferences and instead open my mind with some art or nature, the next thing you know solutions and perspectives will have presented themselves and solved my problems for me without my having to do a thing.
For the past few months, my mantra has been “It will become completely obvious.” I’ve experienced an amazing new feeling of letting life show me what it wants and taking my preferences out of the equation. Sure, I have a general direction I think I am going, but I am completely open to twists and turns taking me somewhere else. This has been so freeing. There are things in my life right now, a house I want to buy, steps I want to take in business, which used to would have driven me crazy with wanting, planning and worrying.
But now, I just keep telling myself “It will become completely obvious.” I do the thing that is right in front of me and let go of outcomes. This one shift has been a long time coming for me. I see that not only myself, but certain people that I learned from growing up, did not know how to let go and trust life.This pattern has been going on for a long time. Like I said earlier, at first, letting go and trusting life literally felt like dying, like the world falling apart.
But I am so much happier now that I’ve added more yin into my repertoire. I’m so glad I have been learning to let go and trust whatever comes. I’ve lived long enough to know that there are going to be all kinds of experiences in life. Armoring myself against difficult ones, anticipating them and trying to solve problems before they occur, was not actually helping me be safer or happier. It was getting in the way of me being able to enjoy all the goodness of life and of being rested and open-minded when facing troubles. Being able to let go of my beliefs and desires and ideas about anything, allows life to flow through me in a way that is more natural, more comfortable, more beautiful and more prolific.
So, for all you yang people out there, I highly recommend trying some sky-gazing. Try letting go of accomplishing things at exactly the time you feel most urgent about being productive. Instead, find a creek to hike in or some watercolors to experiment with or just a good book to snuggle up to. If that sounds difficult or lazy or foolish, you might be just the kind of person who can benefit from learning to get your yin on.
Best wishes until next time, Asenath