Yin and Yang of the Holiday Season

January 2011

Chinese Medicine emphasizes balance. The balance between Yin and Yang is what brings health to your body and happiness to your life. As the holiday season is approaching, there is often a sense of rush and even panic in the air. People are running around shopping, preparing gifts, making arrangements, meeting with friends, finishing off business with a sense of urgency and desperation as if time is running out. Others are busy working to meet year-end deadlines and same time going to different kinds of events: drinking, socializing, and staying up late dancing or playing games. Work hard and play hard. It’s the motto of people in North America. It is a life style that values productivity and speed. It’s a very “Yang” life style. This is the very life style that creates tension, stress, and emotional & spiritual indigestion and malnourishment. Doing more and striving for being more are good. The problem comes in when the Yang “striving and doing” is not balanced with Yin “nurturing and being”. It’s like a tree only focuses on its growth but neglects its nourishment of water from the roots. It will become withered and brittle, and eventually die prematurely. People are similar. Among too much hustle and bustle, you become tense, wired, unable to relax and anxious. If you find your life style is too Yang, here are some recipes to give yourself a gift of “Yin” so that you will enjoy a more balanced holiday.

Recently I had a conversation with one of my patients. She realized that her constant busyness contributed to her poor quality of sleep and anxieties. So she told me that she would only focus on doing one thing every day instead of running around to get as many things done as possible. What she said inspired me. What she decided to do is to free herself up from all the “shoulds” and give herself the nourishment of leisure. That is the “Yin” aspect of the holiday that we all long for. People always talk about needing a vacation from their vacation because we tend to do too much in our “time off”. People yearn for a sense of peace and ease where we can breathe easily, with no more rush and no more pressure. Yet simply being is not an easy deed because it feels to some unnatural, and to others guilt provoking — it is too much a luxury. People often equate time with gold. In this holiday, how about giving yourself this gift of “gold”, and letting yourself be nourished by the richness of the time?

It’s a fact that we are all busy. It becomes more inevitable when you have a baby (as I do). There are just so many things in a day that need to be done. Simply not doing anything is not feasible and the way that things pile up can eventually makes us feel more out of control. So I find that I have two choices: The first one is the Yang approach: clenching my teeth, toughening up, and pushing through all the things like a bulldozer. I often do that and I end up feeling resentful and victimized by the situation. When I collapse in bed at night, I still feel tense from wearing all that armor during the day. Sometimes I manage to use a Yin approach. Instead of focusing on all the things that I have to finish and using my willpower to get them done no matter what, I focus on how I can find joy and meaning in everything I do. When my baby demands attention while I am in a rush to finish a task (like this newsletter!), I make a conscious choice to pay attention to her rather than being forced to pay half-hearted attention just to keep her quiet so that I can do what I need to do.

Whatever I do is what I choose to do; therefore, it is up to me to do it with a sense of ease and joy. By choosing to accept the undesirable (but undeniable) fact of being busy, I let go of the fight and struggle. I can then flow through the day. Even though the day is still hectic, the “Yin” attitude allows me an inner space to breathe. Even when the circumstance doesn’t always allow leisure and freedom, we can always make that space in our heart for ourselves moment by moment. This is the gift of freedom that nobody can take away from us.

Enjoy the gift of time and freedom and have a warm, relaxing and joyful holiday season! I wish you a healthy and happy new Year!