On Cultivating Yin

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Why is it so easy to give but so hard to receive? I’m not referring to the old Christmas-adage here, but rather reflecting on the relative difficulties involved with sitting back, practicing non-action, and letting good things come to you.

In our late capitalist society, we’re encouraged to hustle—to engage in a kind of vocational polyamory wherein we’re encouraged to occupy multiple jobs and passion projects. We’re urged to not only be assertive, but also to be aggressive in going out and taking what is ours. But I’d argue that by constantly striving to achieve, by pushing, by “manifesting” and by squeezing every last drop of energy that we have into trying to get what we want, we are actually hindering our progress (and suffering from adrenal fatigue in the process!).

I’ve learned from lessons at Maha Rose, from podcasts by Mama Medicine, and from discussions with my friend Claire, that although it can be harder to receive, there is vibratory power in letting things come to you. In fact, I contend that I have missed out on possibly fantastic opportunities by pushing myself to constantly network, engage in social media, party, work, etc. There are great things to be found in embracing yin energy, reflecting, meditating, and just seeing what happens.

In The New Yorker article “The Gig Economy Supports Working Yourself to Death,” author Jia Tolentino makes reference to the Fiverr “In Doers We Trust.” The ad features a black and white portrait of a woman with gaunt cheekbones and dark rings under her eyes, with the copy, “You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.” Tolentino argues that “At the root of this [ad] is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is the evidence of a flawed economic system.”

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Image from The New Yorker “The Gig Economy Supports Working Yourself to Death”

Although Tolentino is more referring to the late capitalist model, I believe that this excessive need to overachieve also pervades our daily life and inhibits us from reflecting and receiving. In taking round-the-clock exercise classes, in engaging in copious self-care rituals, and in shopping for wellness products, we are encouraged to seek satisfaction externally, we perpetuate a kind of yang lifestyle. It’s no wonder that yoga positions like savasana, where we’re instructed to play dead and focus on somatic experience, are most difficult for the modern-day yogi.

What if we tried sitting back, and instead of being the driver of our own lives, we took a proverbial chill pill, cast aside our plans, and just waited to see what happens? Learning to receive is about cultivating patience and trusting both your internal and external worlds. We rush to see and to do because the ego does not have faith. Encourage relaxation, if only for a week, cultivate yin, and see what happens. You might just end up being more productive!    

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