I have a gift for you.
I’d like to explain the secret origin of the universe.
OK, that’s a bit ambitious. And technically, that’s only a part of the gift.
And technically, it’s not a secret. It is well documented in the Tao Te Ching, the fundamental text on Taoism, written in China sometime in the sixth century B.C.
Taoist cosmogony explains that the universe was born out of infinite nothingness when one spark lit — when one phenomenal impulse for life, beauty, love, truth, and harmony exploded. But the vacuum of going from nothing to something pulled everything into two opposing forces — Yin and Yang. Yang is the Sun shining down on the horizon — it is everything hot, loud, fast, bright, hard, and forceful. Conversely, Yin is the shady side of the hill — it is everything that is dark, cold, slow, soft, damp, and receptive. Yang is daylight, Yin is night. Yang is activity, Yin is rest. Yang is productivity, Yin is restoration. And for the universe (and ourselves) to be healthy, balanced, and peaceful, we should be half one and half the other.
I know what you’re thinking: This sounds great, but where is my gift? I’m getting there.
We are now in winter, the nighttime of the year. Winter is the season of utmost Yin. It is the Earth’s time of utmost rest, utmost darkness, and utmost conservation. Nature requires it. It is from this fertile silence that spring is born; it takes this period of consolidation to regenerate the burst of Yang that will crack the seedling and push it up through the soil to reach the sunlight at winter’s end.
The balance of the cosmos hinges on this period of rest and recovery. And that’s what I want for you.
In the dozen years I have been an acupuncturist and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, I have never felt the call for Yin as profoundly as I do now. Last year was brutal. For too many reasons. I don’t have a friend who didn’t feel armored, indignant, exasperated, or defeated at some point in 2017. And in almost every patient, I sensed a pained fragility, like their bones were made of straw, like they were afraid to take a deep breath in — or worse, let it out — like one or two nights of sleep could not correct their troubles.
Some of us began 2017 by literally marching through the cold. The hypervigilance we’ve maintained, the fight we’ve fought, has taken a toll and is now begging for its balance. If we are to maintain this fight, we must use the Yin of winter as the cosmos intended — as a true, deep hibernation, to conserve and to heal. I want you to be strong in spring. I need you to come back hot and fighting, like all of nature does once the snow melts.
Keep following me here.
Modern consciousness has cast a cruel spell on us. Industry and capitalism disproportionately favor Yang and do not want us to feel we have permission to rest. The abrasive neon light of the modern world does not recognize Yin. We don’t get validation, money, or Instagram likes for our privacy and solemnity. We are told that Yin — softness, darkness, slowness, inactivity — and its necessity are exclusively for “those people”: the weak, the lazy, the sick, the unsuccessful, the unpopular.
While our culture may pay minor lip service to some Yin (e.g., Kate Hudson sublimely yet intensely stretching on a bucolic Topanga bluff in Fabletics commercials, which is Yang dressed in Yin’s clothing), we live in a time that celebrates busyness, multitasking, and stress as evidence of a job well done. Even modern spiritual movements in the West speak almost exclusively of enlightenment (Yang) and awakening (Yang), barely touching on the importance of obscurity (Yin) and sleep (Yin).