Tuesday, September 15, 2020

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.


  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!

    1. Thanks, Martha. There are so many inspiring stories of people helping each other, sometimes at great personal risk.

  2. Frankly, the yang has been destructive for me. I'm learning from Christ to follow His yin.


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