"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Yin

Yin, not yang . . .

I-Ching rock photo

You may have heard of Yin and Yang or at least seen the image of two halves making a whole: the dark and the light. Yang energy is excess in all things, pushing things beyond the limit outside of oneself. Yin is shy, reserved, quiet, drawing energy from within.

The truth of the matter is that my whole summer has been so yang that I’m “yanged” out, if that’s a word I can coin here. Too much running around, reaching out for lots of things, driving a lot, experiencing strong feelings, all of which have taken place in long summer days of intense heat and humidity.

Now that the light is changing and the air cools at night, I’m definitely ready for the pendulum to swing back the other way. Yesterday for some reason, I was drawn back to thinking about macrobiotics as a way of eating and living. Years ago, I spent a week at the Kushi Institute in Becket, MA. learning how to cook macrobiotic food. Armed with a pressure cooker, heat mat, premium brown rice, spring water, collard greens and kinpira recipes, I came back, ready to combat the viral encephalitis that still had a grip on my brain. Even though Western doctors said there was nothing wrong with me besides exhaustion, I knew something was up when I ordered an “ice cream sundae with mushrooms on top” at Friendly’s.

Thinking back on it, I remembered making rice balls and tiny lunches packed in bento boxes to take to work with me. People marvelled at how little it looked like I ate and at the same time, complimented me on the glow of my skin. I lost weight then too. Remembering that has reminded me now that I have a chance to regain my center, calm myself down, eat less but nutritiously and lose the remaining weight I’ve been aiming at once and for all, say, by Christmas.

The other long-held goal of mine to truly clean things out here and live a spare, although not spartan lifestyle also seems close at hand. The dumpster was taken away as quietly as it appeared, holding three and half tons of debris. In a month’s time, another container will appear for us to go through things that are still left. Just thinking of how much lighter living will be by then has me feeling giddy with anticipation.

For me to stay on something like a macrobiotic pathway it may also be helpful to think about life a little differently than in the past. I find myself wanting to shed the extravagances of the past: over-the-top Christmas holidays; gifts for the children they might not want or need; here-or-there things that are nice but add to the stuff that eventually will be sorted out and then given away again. The Buddhists say that craving is the source of human suffering. Taoists say something a little less judgmental. In any case, you can’t make desires go away. Something has to happen so that they don’t seem important anymore. Or set things up so that desires won’t surface as often. Tempting places like, Etsy, eBay and Nordstroms have been deleted from my Bookmark Bar. Oh yes, and I forgot to mention Pinterest, which is a most beautiful way to absorb other people’s cravings while increasing your own! I’ll have to get my thrills from going to the market a few times a week with cash, not a debit card.

Another thing that I learned about having less is the joy of an almost empty refrigerator. To me, nothing is worse than figuring out what to cook so that the refrigerator contents don’t spoil. I’d rather shop more often and buy two days worth, eat it ALL, and then start over again. So much food is wasted otherwise. I find that I can never rely on what I thought I’d like to eat, then three days later cooking it with the same kind of relish as when I first bought it.

So that’s where Yin is taking me these days. I’m exhausted from all the Yang. Depleted. I just need to stay quiet for awhile. Sit quietly. Read. Keep the TV off, especially the news.  And turn off the cooking show where Ina Garten pours a quart of cream into six egg yolks swimming in two sticks of butter. Now, that’s Yang.

wading in the water. . .

Are you familiar with Eva Cassidy’s song, “Wade In The Water?” When I think of wading in the water, I think of getting my feet wet for the first time in a new endeavor. You don’t know how shallow the water is, or how deep. It looks clear and clean. What will the bottom feel like? Will you be able to stand or will it be rocky or slippery?

I guess doing anything new feels a little like this. Entering the unknown. I was thinking of taking a trip with my alma mater to see Jane Austen’s environs and other 19th century writers, like Thomas Hardy in Dorset, John Keats and so on. It sounded like a fabulous trip and I was excited to contemplate going on it. There was a Yin and a Yang aspect for me that presented itself: the Yin part being the places these writers worked in, their books, their writing. That part appealed to me a lot because it deepened and inspired me to read more and to write more, just thinking about the trip, never mind going to visit these places.

The Yang part surprised me when I google-ed the 5 star hotels featured on the tour. They were gorgeously appointed and very formal. Marble bathrooms. Swimming pools, HUGE. Gourmet food. I realized that the expense of the trip was perhaps inflated due to the cost of accommodations and gourmet meals. Perhaps it was because important people were going to be coming along on the trip and the hotels reflected what someone thought their prestige deserved. It was very Yang energy–over the top, aggressively appointed. I even wondered if my usual simple casual clothes would fit in. Or whether I needed to buy a bathing suit. What I feel comfortable in is a cozy 15th century stone cottage bed and breakfast, close to meadows, a small town with an Oxfam thrift shop among the pottery and bakery shops.

I went to Barnes and Noble and bought books on Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy. I wanted to immerse myself in the writing and to learn more about them to see if I could justify the expense of this trip and to feel it would be worth it for the sake of literature as well as inspiring my own desire to write. I was amazed to learn in “The Jane Austen Pocket Bible” that her first book was rejected, that she sold a book but then was not published, that she re-wrote her first novels, re-named them, and published her first book, “Sense and Sensibility” herself! Two of her novels were also published posthumously. I bought an annotated edition of “Pride and Prejudice” edited by someone who apparently has read everything ever written on Jane Austen and her writings. I didn’t get very far with Thomas Hardy except to read the beginning of “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” and to order the movie from Netflix–reminded that Roman Polanski made a famous version of it.

So that was my research, wading in the water, to evaluate whether or not to take what sounded like a fabulous trip to England in the beginning of June. I even drove to the Fed Ex building to mail in my check which had to arrive on Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day. Then, I decided to take another day to think it over.

Now, it feels like the ‘wading in the water’ was the best part: reading these classic books again while learning more about the writers and how they lived. I also came across a 150th anniversary edition of “Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson which I purchased along with the Austen and Hardy books. Re-reading Emerson’s words sustained me in my quest to understand what I wanted to do. And to stay home.

P.S. Today, I happened to pass by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house in Concord, MA. on the way up to the North Shore. It was open and I thought to myself, that’s where I want to go and visit in the next couple of weeks!