Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Excuse me but your yang stepped on my yin...

Do you know your yin from your yang?

By definition, yin is receptive, passive female energy, while yang is active, expanding male energy.  The symbol depicts two interconnecting swirls representing the interdependence of these energies, with the dots at the center of each swirl showing that each is inherent in the other.  This deceptively simple little symbol is nothing less than a reminder of how seemingly contrary energies are actually mutually-arising and continuously transforming.  In other words, how the entire universe works.

The ancient Chinese packed a lot of knowledge into one little symbol, but from our vantage point as men and women in the modern world, what exactly does the concept of yin and yang mean to us in practical terms?

Personally, I have at times been held sway by two erroneous beliefs:  first, that women should be more yin and men should be more yang - separate but equal(ish); and second, that the only way for a woman to express yin and yang is to raise the kids, be the hostess-with-the-mostess and have a full- time job.  However, an eye opening little book that found it's way into my hands recently, has changed all of that.

In Collection, Shirley Gehrke Luthman (whom I can find no information about other than she was a therapist in 70's and 80's) makes the important point that feminine (intuitive, feeling, perception, images, fantasies) and masculine (aggressive, action-oriented, verbal, intellectual behavioral expression) energies are androgynous and belong to neither sex.  Her ideas can be condensed to the yin/yang principles of intuition and assertion:
You must put your feminine, intuitive power in control and use your masculine, yang force [assertion] to support and express it.  The internal distortion of this principle - the split between yin and yang - is the basis for all problems, power struggles, and distances between men and women.  
Duh, it's all about inner balance.  (Thank goodness. Now I can retire the idea that females should be one way and males another, and let myself off the hook about not being a super mom/career wonder woman hybrid.)  But can it really be that simple?  Well yes, and no.  Yes, because I believe she's right, and no because it's damned hard to put into practice.  Simply learning to recognize (never mind act upon) one's feelings can be a life's work.  And, she says, "it is not enough just to acknowledge your feelings and begin the act upon them.  The intuitive must be in charge, and the male energy must back it up instantly, without question or doubt."

According to Luthman, our relationships with the opposite sex are merely a reflection of the internal struggle between the yin and the yang.  So how do your relationships look?  Balanced?  Is there an easy flow between intuition and assertion?  Or have you, like me, found a few places where your yang trips over your yin and visa versa?

Having spent years mistrusting my intuition, it is no easy task to simply begin asserting myself based upon its counsel.  Like any under-used muscle it's going to take some consistent working out to build up my yin/yang balance.  As I happen to be single right now, I'm intrigued by the idea of being able to gauge my inner progress by the type of men I attract and am attracted to.  (Watch this space!) Meanwhile, give some consideration to your own inner yin and yang, and for a very thought-provoking read, get the book. 
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Shirley Gehrke Luthman's Collection was published in 1980 by Mehetabel & Company and is  available from used booksellers such as  Enjoy the entire book or skip straight to chapter six for her discussion of yin and yang.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

To drift or not to drift...that is the question.

I once wrote a really corny song called "Follow your Bliss."  The lyrics went like this:

Good at everything; great at nothing.
I can't be like you, eyes set on one thing.
Life's more interesting when you let the current carry you.
I suppose that I could learn to swim against the tide,
It's not that I'm lazy,
It's just more fun floating.

Well guess what?  Turns out I am lazy!  And while "floating" has indeed afforded me a very interesting life, my aversion to five-year plans has finally caught up with me.  I have discovered that if I really want to "follow my bliss," I need to at least have a vague idea of where I want to end up.

Every seminar, workshop and book that I've ever attended or read on the subject of living an fulfilling life has stressed the importance of having a vision - a target to aim for.  Over the years I have made various half-hearted attempts to define my goals, but nothing has ever "stuck" with much energy or enthusiasm.

In her book The Right Questions:  Ten Essential Questions to Guide You to an Extraordinary Life, Debbie Ford likens a life without a vision to planning a road trip without a map.  She says, "If that was your strategy, you might never arrive at your destination.  With a map, if you made a wrong turn along the way, you wouldn't stop and spend five years beating yourself up.  You would pull over, look at your map, and get back on track."  She goes on, "Without vision it's easy to fall prey to the heat of the moment and the whims of your habitual behaviors."

So I pondered my lack of 'a master plan' and discovered that rather than having a plan of my own, I've had an "underlying commitment" (another of Debbie's terms) to finding 'a man with a plan.'  (It's true, and I am as shocked by this as you probably are.)  I've always considered myself a strong woman who can take care of herself, but the evidence is incontrovertible:  Husband number one - a brain surgeon;  Husband number two - a race-car driving property developer.  I have played at being self-sufficient (I have even been quite defensive about it!) but in reality I have made choices under the influence of an old wound - an unconscious fear that I am not worthy of success in my own right.  In reality there is nothing wrong with marrying successful, powerful people, but if it is covering up one's own unacknowledged desire for power and success, at the very least it can lead to resentment on both sides or, as in my case, two divorces. 

I am by no means alone here.  Question number three in Ford's book asks, "Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another?"  I see this every day amongst my friends and family.  There is still an imbalance of power between the sexes, with too many women deciding that 'pleasing another' is their responsibility.  We set ourselves up to be martyrs, telling ourselves that "it's okay to abandon [ourselves] as long as we are making someone else happy." (Be it the kids, the husband, the dog...) I decided this long, long ago, believing (albeit unconsciously) that I'd be "too much" for people if I were to really shine.

So where does all this new insight leave me?  Well, I am pleased to say that I am working on a vision statement in earnest.  I've also decided that while my little song does have some truth to it - there is wisdom in allowing ourselves to drift along with the current - there's nothing wrong with keeping one hand on the rudder at the same time.