“There is no such thing as work-life balance – it is all life.
The balance has to be within you.”
Autumn Greetings friends!
This past Thursday – Sept 22 – was the Fall Equinox, when we crossed the official threshold from the sweet little month-long season of Late Summer into the current season of Autumn.
If you missed the news about the little-known 5th season of Late Summer, you can find out all about that in last month’s newsletter here.
Late Summer served as that perfect cushion between the full yang energy of Summer and the incoming yin energy of Autumn.
And it allows for yin and yang energy to slowly start melding together without it having to feel like such a harsh transition from the fiery outward facing energy of Summer into the cool dark of Autumn.
Yes, Autumn marks the beginning of the dark half of the cycle, when we move into the full yin energy of Fall and Winter all the way until the Spring Equinox in March when we once again begin to feel the return of yang energy.
Just as we can’t enjoy the day with the night to rest ourselves, we too can’t fully enjoy the times of growth and outward expansion in our lives without equal time for rest, contemplation, and renewal.
Spring and Summer are those times of growth and change and vitality – in nature, but within ourselves as well. They are times of new life, of turning outward, of going and doing and socializing, of big dreams and big energy.
While Autumn…is our time to embrace slowing down, turning inward; it is our time for reflection, introspection, rejuvenation, and letting go of what no longer serves us.
If we allow ourselves to live in alignment with the natural cycles of life – and not separate ourselves from them as though we are not a part of the whole web – we find that this time of year it can actually feel good to slow down, to do less, even to turn inward and get to know the person we spend the most time with: ourselves.
But before we shift into this time of darkness for rest and renewal, we have this moment to celebrate a time of complete balance.
The Fall Equinox marks an especially balanced time of year – a time of equal day and night within a time of equal yin and yang energy.
To further steep us in feelings of balance, it also happens to be Libra season. On the same day as the Fall Equinox, Sept 22, the Sun entered the sign of Libra.
Represented by the scales ⚖️, Libra strives for balance between polarities. Its ultimate goal is equilibrium, harmony.
Just a few days past the equinox, we are still in this state of near-perfect balance of yin and yang energies.
And we can use this to our advantage – along with the energy of Libra season – as we finally learn the trick to achieving that illusive sense of balance in our own lives.
✨ Written in our Cells ✨
Yin and Yang
Hidden in the mystery of the Tao
lies the original unity.
This unity contains the duality
of yin and yang.
Yin and yang together
produce the energy of creation
and give rise to all things.
Every atom of the cosmos
contains the yin and the yang together.
We feel this harmonious process
in the rising and falling
of our breath.
From the Tao Te Ching Verse 42 (William Martin translation)
“Every atom of the cosmos contains the yin and the yang together.” Isn’t that a fascinating thought?
That no matter how far our society may attempt to lean into yang energy alone – celebrating our outward achievements, but not our inner personal growth; praising making things happen, but not learning to be receptive; encouraging going at mach two speed with our hair on fire, but not slowing down and just being – still, within every cell of our bodies, there is both yin and yang.
And yin and yang energy balance each other, support each other, keep each other in check. When we’re hot, we seek cold; when we’re cold, we seek heat. When it’s too bright out, we seek shade; when it’s too dark out, we turn on a light.
We are forever seeking to regain balance.
“We feel this harmonious process in the rising and falling of our breath.”
Lao Tzu’s words from the Tao Te Ching remind us that even through the simplest of acts – breathing – we seek balance. We breathe in, and we breath out. We do this all day long, in equal measure.
No matter how hard you may try, no one can survive on only breathing in or only breathing out!
It’s no wonder we’re constantly after this illusive thing we call balance; it is written into our very cells.
“I just need to find some balance.”
I’ve heard this statement many times before! From clients, from loved ones, even leaving my very own lips. I’m sure you’ve heard or said it, too!
But if the concept of balance is written into our very cells, then why does it always feel so elusive, just out of reach, and impossible to maintain?
I think it’s because we go about it the wrong way.
Balance isn’t meant to be something we seek at all. Balance is meant to be something we embody.
Seeking implies an external component; the greatest seekers eventually come to find that we have everything we need within us.
Balance is no different. Striving for balance externally when we are not balanced internally – will be fruitless and unsustainable.
Natural and sustainable balance comes from the inside out.
Esteemed spiritual teacher Sadhguru has said:
“There is no such thing as work-life balance – it is all life.
The balance has to be within you.”
✨ Internal Harmony ✨
Another fancy word for balance is ‘harmony.’
What is the definition of harmony?
1. An agreement of ideas, feelings, or actions, or a pleasing combination of different parts
2. The combination of separate but related parts in a way that uses their similarities to bring unity
3. The quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole
When we balance, or harmonize, our own many “separate but related parts,” we therefore bring equilibrium, wholeness, and unity into our lives.
And we do this not by re-arranging the pieces of our external lives, but by re-arranging the pieces of our internal world!
What “separate but related parts” of our inner world can we bring into harmonious balance?
We can start by looking at the more masculine/yang parts of our inner world and our personality, as well as the more feminine/yin parts.
As a reminder, when we speak about masculine or feminine energy, it doesn’t have anything to do with our gender. Masculine is another word for yang energy and feminine is another word for yin energy – and as we’ve learned, we are every single one of us made up of a collection of both.
And we become “a pleasing and consistent whole” when we integrate both!
Although this may or may not have actually been said by Einstein, there is a quote that is often attributed to him:
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
How balanced are YOU with your rational and intuitive sides? Do you, too, honor the servant and forget about the gift?
It’s really through no fault of our own. We grow up going to school where there is only one way of knowing that is taught – through the rational mind. We learn to devalue the gift of our intuition; we stop seeing it as another useful way of knowing.
We learn that any intuitive inclination must be backed up with a thousand rational thoughts for it to even begin to be seen as valid.
We are encouraged to develop the more masculine/yang traits of our personalities – our extraverted sides, our sensing abilities, our thinking minds, our ability to form conclusions and solidify our beliefs and opinions.
It is seen as a positive in our culture to rely exclusively on five sensory perception, brain logic, and rationale; to be organized, a planner, in control; to be loud and take up space, to speak much and do constantly.
We are likewise discouraged from developing the more feminine/yin traits of our personalities – our introverted sides, our intuiting abilities, our feelings and emotional intelligence, our ability to be curious and to not know, to ask questions and keep a wildly open mind.
It can be seen as a negative or a weakness to lean on intuitive knowing, to look beneath the surface of the apparent facts; to bring the heart and emotions into the picture; to be quiet, to listen and be receptive; to ask questions and not have a plan; to go with the flow, to be spontaneous; to move slowly and do less.
But when we undervalue the gifts of the feminine/yin and overvalue our masculine/yang qualities, we live only from the physical body and the mind; and we disconnect ourselves from our heart and our soul and our spirit.
But it is in valuing ALL of our many “separate but related parts” that we begin to eke our way once again towards this illusive idea of balance.
✨ What Brings us Life ✨
Intangible and Invisible Within Us
The spokes and the hub
are the visible parts of a wheel.
The wheel is useful because it spins about
the invisible point at its center.
Clay is the material from which a pot is made.
The pot is useful because of the empty space inside the form.
A house is made with walls, doors, and windows.
The house becomes a home for people
through the quality of life lived within.
We practice with the visible and tangible,
but it is the invisible and intangible within us
that bring us life.
Tao Te Ching Verse 11 (William Martin translation)
What are the “visible and tangible” aspects of ourselves that we are perhaps the most attuned to and aware of?
The more yang or masculine parts that keep us moving forward, going, doing, building, organizing, making.
And what are the “invisible and intangible” aspects of ourselves that live within us?
That more yin or feminine parts that allow us tap into our inner desires, feelings, inspirations, intuitions – the parts as Lao Tzu says “that bring us life.”
What a shame it would be to live our lives as an incredibly useful but empty container, and to neglect the very parts of ourselves that fill us with life!
As we welcome in the dark part of the year and honor the gifts that darkness brings to our external lives – permission to slow down and do less, for example – we can also use this time to welcome in our own dark parts.
Those parts represented by having a more yin quality, as well as those that might be hiding just out of our awareness in our shadow – and honor the gifts they too hold.
As we’ve established, both yin and yang energy are written into our very cells – so when we start to bring in the more yin elements of our personality and our inner world, we don’t have to think of it as creating something entirely new or foreign to our way of being in the world.
Instead we are simply creating the space for this energy already within us to be expressed.
We are giving ourselves permission at last to experience, or embody, true balance. To unknowingly stop fighting so hard against the idea of balance, and at last allow ourselves to be filled with life.
✨ Balancing Our Yin & Yang Parts ✨
Yin and yang are relative terms, not absolutes – meaning everything is yin or yang relative to something else.
The moon is yin relative to the yang of the sun; but the full moon is quite yang relative to the yin of the dark new moon.
The bright hot sun seems like it would clearly be all yang, but a sunset is quite yin relative to the full yang peak of the midday sun.
The full moon is a good example of yang within yin – an idea represented in the yin-yang symbol itself by the white dot within the black half of the circle. The sunset is an example of yin within yang – the idea represented by the small black dot within the white half of the yin-yang symbol. ☯
All this to say – there is no one, and no thing, that is entirely ALL yin or ALL yang. We are all, as the definition of harmony suggests: “a pleasing combination of different parts.”
But to keep things simple, I think it can be helpful to take some of our many separate but related parts and classify them as more yin or more yang – so we can see where our own scales might be out of balance and where we might need to draw in some of the opposite qualities in order to regain a sense of equilibrium.
And just like last month’s exploration of the more yang/masculine concept of Chronos time and the more feminine/yin concept of Kairos time, where we noted that of course we need BOTH in our lives to fully function as a society – we of course here, too, need both our more yang/masculine traits AND our more yin/feminine personality traits in order to fully function.
The point isn’t to overvalue the feminine/yin and undervalue the masculine/yang – we don’t need to create another kind of imbalanced life or society!
It’s just that our current lives tend to skew so harshly in the direction of overvaluing only the gifts of the masculine/yang, that the current medicine lies in integrating more of the feminine/yin.
So what yin characteristics are you keeping in your shadow that are perhaps being over-shadowed by the bright spotlight on your yang traits?
Consider the following suggestions and ponder where you can bring more of your own yin qualities out of the dark to create more harmony and balance in your life.
If you’ve mastered rational thinking, can you bring your ability to know something intuitively out of the shadows?
If you rely on being logical, can you bring your feeling side out of the shadows?
If you excel at turning outward and honoring your extraverted parts, can you turn inward and bring your quiet introverted side out of the shadows?
If you naturally enjoy making decisions and closing loops, can you bring your desire to be wildly curious and expand what you think you know out of the shadows?
If you’re good at moving quickly in actions and decisions, can you bring your ability to pause and slow things down out of the shadows?
If you’re always getting things done and being productive, can you bring the side of you that loves to play and do nothing out of the shadows?
✨ Changing Our World, Changing the World ✨
We must find ways to make space for and honor the feminine/yin parts of ourselves – for if we don’t honor our natural cellular makeup of both yin and yang, we will forever feel that balance is something that eludes us, remains just out of reach.
And we will finally feel like a harmonious “pleasing and consistent whole” once we allow for our personal scales to rebalance.
Though it is society itself that pushes our internal scales out of balance – by solely pushing the agenda of the yang/masculine/rational – the only way to change society is by first changing ourselves.
And when you begin to wonder, am I really making any difference in the world by just changing myself?? The answer is yes!
Because what if you, and that person, and that person, and another few hundred or thousands of people are thinking the same exact thing?
I don’t tend to believe that top-down changes are sustainable – or they just give an illusion of change, but with a bunch of unhappy people feeling constrained by rules pushed upon them.
It is change made from the bottom up that truly shifts a society.
And bottom up change starts with the individual. As cliché as it sounds, it does start with you.
It might take embodying a little bit of the Maverick archetype energy – a little piss and vinegar – to stand strong in the face of a society that doesn’t support your changes at first.
To say – ok enough! I’m going to live my life differently! More…slowly. And beautifully. And intuitively.
But know that when you give yourself permission to change, you give everyone around you permission as well. Come on, think of the ripple effect.
And you thought you were just one person.
And remember that no matter how much we try and re-arrange the pieces of our external lives to create the conditions that we think should bring us the feeling of balance…it will forever be impossible to maintain, it will forever feel just out of reach –
if it doesn’t arise first from within us.
“The autumn equinox reminds me to balance all parts of myself.
The active AND the passive,
the known AND the unknown,
the outer journey AND the inner journey,
the seen AND the unseen,
the logical AND the intuitive,
the conscious AND the unconscious.
From this place of unity new doors open,
new directions and new possibilities are revealed.”
adapted from “The Alchemist’s Journey”
Happy Autumn, friends!
What yin/feminine energy traits are missing in your own life and personality that could be brought out from the dark?
May you embrace the incoming yin energy and the beginning of the dark cycle as a time to rebalance your own internal scales and create harmony from the inside out!