The Lunar Review

Yin and Yang

The Way begot one,

And the one, two;

Then the two begot three

And three, all else.

A basic tenet of Taoism is the existence of yin and yang. They derive from the ever-mysterious One, and the One came from the even more mysterious Way. Yin and yang are two halves of the whole, each anchored in the other. Joined together in a balanced state, they exemplify harmony, perfection and completion. 

The pair is known as the Two, because even in their togetherness, they each retain their own, separate identity. Their essence continues down the line as they birth the Three, and the Three births All Else. 

The most fundamental of all forces, yin and yang, exist in an intimately entwined state. They are the dual forces which make up the whole. Each one defines the other, by what it is not. 

This concept of duality manifests in our everyday reality. We experience temperature changes ranging from hot to cold. When we close our eyes, there is only darkness. When we open them, our eyes allow light in, illuminating our world. Men and women, girls and boys, are all living examples of the feminine (yin) and masculine (yang) principles.

Yin and yang complement one another, and at the same time oppose each other. One simply can not exist without the other. The situation can be likened to a see-saw, which has been cut in half. It immediately loses its function, and value, through this loss of symmetry. It is far removed from its original state. Although it still exists in physical reality, it is no longer a see-saw.

The Yin-Yang symbol provides the visual proof that neither aspect is absolute, or complete in and of itself. The symbol is circular, representing the enclosure that our material world provides for us. The circle is whole and complete, encompassing everything. There is a piece of yin in the middle of the yang side, and a piece of yang in the middle of the yin side.

Each side embodies the seed of the other, meaning yin is within yang, and yang is within yin. No matter where you slice the circular symbol in half, yin will present itself within yang, and yang will present itself within yin.

These seeds are the source of transformation; the starting point at which one turns into the other. Night always swallows up the day, and the day always burns off the darkness of night time, thus demonstrating the perpetual dynamic between yin and yang.

Neither is yin, nor yang, static. The two halves form a complete whole, but when this whole divides; the resultant dynamic tension explodes with pure, creative energy. Our world is one of duality, and we constantly witness yin changing to yang and yang changing to yin. 

Every night we go to sleep, when our energy needs recharging. Every morning we arise, refreshed and energized. Sleep and rest represent yin states of being. They provide the fuel necessary for yang to operate. Being awake and active represent yang states of being. When yang exhausts itself, it renews itself through yin. 

Yin and yang strive for balance, not equality. There is nothing equal about these two forces, their only mission is to harmonize. External factors constantly disrupt the integrity of their relationship and cause imbalances. This is evidenced by changes in weather within the macro-environment, and symptoms of illness within our bodies- our micro-environment. 

In the language of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a deficiency of yin causes an excess of yang, and a deficiency of yang causes an excess of yin. This concept is particularly relevant when practicing acupuncture and TCM. We can use the example of over-exposure to the sun. Symptoms can include a red face, uncomfortably hot bodily sensations, light-headedness, thirst and irritability.

This is yang in excess, indicating yin is in deficit. The solution is to reduce yang and add more yin.  Yin and yang will reach homeostasis when the body cools down. Hiding from the sun, or any sources of heat, and consuming heat-clearing foods, such as watermelon and cucumber, helps the body achieve equilibrium. 

Yin embodies the feminine principle and is characterized by being slow, cooling, receptive, passive, yielding, nurturing, at rest, downward flowing and wet. Yin is associated with water, the moon, the earth, sleep, psychic ability, night time, winter, destruction, negativity and the dark or shadow side of a person.

Yang embodies the masculine principle and is characterized by being dominant, fast, moving, active, hot, excitable, dry, and upward moving. Yang is associated with fire, construction, the sun, summer, daytime, positivity, and extroversion.

The cycles of yin and yang play out on the macro and the micro level, bringing to mind the axiom “As above, so below.” The interplay of these two forces within the human body mirror those found in nature. The drive for harmony is the underlying principle guiding our lives, as with our Universe. It provides the dynamic tension motivating all of life.

Yin and yang perpetually rebalance themselves in Nature, and within our bodies. When things get extreme, this process creates what are recognized as signs and symptoms of illness and disease. When you feel whole and healthy, there is no pain, neither emotional, mental, nor physical. This is true wellness and robust health.

Yin and yang imbalances generate symptoms easily discernible and described by TCM pattern diagnosis. In this way certain emotional responses are brought to light to help the patient better understand their own psychology.

Symptoms represent how, and specifically where, your body handles conflict, shock, trauma, poisoning or lack (for example, lack of food, water or protection from the elements). These malevolent forces strike at, and alter, energy on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. 

The specific area of your body afflicted provides a guide to discovering the roots of harmful psychological programming and thought patterns. With help from TCM, it is possible to identify unconscious behavior patterns based on the location of symptoms.

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