Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Embracing Yin

Summer is the season of pure yang energy. Its element is fire. Its organ is the heart. Yang energy is active, hot, rising, powerful. When someone is wildly successful, driving forward, dominating the competition, unstoppable, we might say, “Wow, she’s on fire!” 

Our western culture highly values yang energy. Idle hands do the devil’s work, make the most of every minute, increase productivity, we can rest when we’re dead, time is money, move up or move out – these are just a few familiar sayings that reflect this preference.

There is nothing inherently wrong with yang energy. On the contrary, it is a necessary and natural aspect of life’s rhythm and harmony. It is the manifesting energy of all creation. But it is not the only energy. Its complementary energy is yin. 

Yin is still, receptive, dark, nurturing. It is the womb from which creation emerges. It is the fertile earth. It is the energy of gathering, returning to the source, the energy of harvest. Its season is fall. 

This year in my area of the world, wildfires are racing across the land. Nature’s expression of yang energy is exploding with the hot dryness of a rainless summer, ignited in unstoppable fires scattered up and down the west coast. Smoke hangs thick over my house, keeping me inside, while friends not far away have had to abandon their homes to take refuge from the inferno.

We sometimes describe such fires as raging. I can’t help but wonder if these fires in particular, and global warming in general, aren’t reflections back to us of the imbalance we have created by such a devoted enslavement to yang energy. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the yin organ of fall is the lungs, the organ most directly vulnerable to the fire and smoke.

Nature seeks balance. First the pandemic kept us home, and now the smoke keeps us inside.*  Growing still, turning inward, where yin energy welcomes us, and encourages us to rest, to contemplate, to listen, to receive. The fires won’t last forever. Hopefully, neither will the pandemic. When we emerge on the “other side” of all this, may we find a more sustainable balance in our lives and in our world. 

*I write this post as one who has the luxury of sheltering in place, in a safe home with plenty of food and water, and lots of time to sit and wonder about the questions I raise here. This is not true for everyone. The circumstances that give me this opportunity for reflection call firefighters to the flame, risking their lives, and cause others to flee to safety, while volunteers step up to serve. Heroes of all kinds abound in crises such as the ones faced this year with the pandemic and the fires. I am not one of them, and I am humbly grateful to those who are.

10 thoughts on “Embracing Yin”

  1. I, too, am so grateful for all those first responders who are fighting both fire and virus to keep us safe, Galen. Praying for an end to these horrific fires and the disease that has too long lingered with us. Stay safe and strong, my friend!

  2. A graphic and very real example of yang energy. I will think of the seasons this way now, Galen – its a more creative and instinctive association to go with the changing feelings. Yang is rife everywhere right now with no yin on the horizon except in the seasons. We must create our own where and when we can in our own lives, embrace a joyful yang too to counteract the toxic yang going on globally. Hoping things have settled a bit where you are, but of course there is all the devastation that is the fall out. Stay well :>)

  3. I like the different energies of the seasons. When I lived in the tropics, it was so disorienting to not have the seasons I was familiar with. Fall is the most yin season, so let's hope it can quietly influence this riled up season of fires and election angst. If you are interested in more season/energy associations, you can click on the label "seasons" and get some past posts about seasonal energy. Thanks for commenting, Lynne.

  4. The older I get the more I like that word 'Balance'. I wrote something on it recently in my blog. Too much yang or too much Yin would not be ideal ..nature seeks balance , as you say. Walking the fine line between yin and yang, or excess order and excess disorder, is a worthy pursuit. Both extremes cause disease and dysfunction.

    I hope the fires and the plague go away soon Galen. We are all sick of it and want to return to balance. We have been living in too much Yang, for way too long. Thanks for your post Galen.

  5. The rain has quieted the fires near me, so that is good. But your point remains — balance is the key. I've really been exploring this in my body with balance exercises. Trying to balance on one foot with my eyes closed makes me immediately aware of the internal adjustments needed to maintain my balance. Interesting metaphor for trying to maintain our balance when we can't "see" or understand what is happening or what is going to happen.

  6. Wow, Galen, such a powerful post…thanks! Lately I've been studying and practicing different 5 Element Qigongs. Your post is helping me fill in a few of the blanks with how yin and yang (like the Fire and Metal you have mentioned) help fulfill the mental and physical exercises. What a beautiful work you have shared with us.

  7. Hey CD. Nice to hear from you, and thank you for the kind words. I love all the 5 element associations — seasons, organs, animals, energies, etc — so rich. The 5 element qigong is a great practice, bringing the harmony of all the elements into our bodies. It's a limitless offering of awareness and balance of all the levels (for lack of a better word) we operate on. I'm glad you liked the post, and thank you for commenting.

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