Posted on 08:07 07/07/2017
As many people know, Yin and Yang are the basis of Chinese Medicine. The Yang is all about energy, activity and movement while the Yin is about quietness, calmness and introspection. If you consider the bustle and activity of summer as Yang, then winter with it's cold temperatures and long dark nights encouraging us to spend more time in sedentary actives is definitely Yin! Winter is certainly a time when we eat and rest more, building up our inner reserves - so we can bloom back into action when the warmer weather comes! But wouldn't it be great is we could build up some of those inner reserves all year around? Well, of course, you can!
Many years ago, I did a month long meditation retreat. The rules were simple but strict: only one hour of talking allowed each afternoon, one vegetarian meal each day, no telephones, email or other contact with the outside world, no sex and no alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. We rose at 5am for the first meditation session and the last meditation session was in the evening. At the end of the month, most people had become surprisingly calm and tranquil but we didn't fully appreciate it until we left the retreat and returned to the clamour of ordinary life.
While doing a month meditation retreat is a wonderful way to cultivate your Yin, it isn't possible for most people and even those who do have the opportunity rarely get more than one chance! Luckily we can take some of the lessons from it and use them in daily life to develop a bit of serenity each day - and it's not that hard! Set aside ten minutes a day and find a quiet place to sit - somewhere were you won't be disturbed by kids, partners or pets. You don't have to sit in any special posture or on the floor but do sit with your back straight so you can breathe deeply. Close your eyes a little and put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and try to concentrate on your breath. Sounds easy? Actually, it's not! As soon as you try not to think of anything except observing your breath, your mind will start chattering away, trying to distract you. That's okay! It's normal! When you suddenly become aware it is going on, just bring your attention back to your breath.
Some people find concentrating on their breath difficult. If that's you, concentrate on something else: imagine a place you'd like to be and concentrate on that. Or put on some gentle music and concentrate on hearing each note. Or put a picture or even a burning candle in front of you and concentrate on that. The idea is just to concentrate on one thing and put aside other chaotic thoughts that enter your mind.
Winter is a great time to start this practice - the season encourages us to spend more time in gentle, enriching activities. Finding time for a short meditative practice each day in winter will make it a habit and much easier to continue in the more active summer months. So go ahead! Embrace your Yin!