You may be reading this because you stumbled upon my page or perhaps your fascinated with East to West methodologies. Or perhaps some other reason but, either way it boils down to this:
Yin and Yang is a simple concept. One of the biggest killers of people in this world I strongly suspect, and this has been backed up in further studies, is from too much Yang. Or in the west we may say too much stress.
If you are looking for a more ‘factual’ or western explanation of mindfulness, balance, stress, Yin/Yang, or demystifying East to West philosophy your in the right place. This article is the western science applied to Yin Yang and how it affects the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which you will learn about in the next minutes. You will also have some action steps to improve your own balance and awareness.
A native American father tells his son
“There are 2 wolves battling in my heart.
One is violent and dangerous.
The other is full of warmth and compassion.”
The son ask “Which wolf will win“
The answer “The one I feed“
I just read this story for the second time. Only this time from a different book.
It was Daniel Goleman latest book written with the Dali Lama, A Force for Good. Highly reccommended for building compassion and depth of understanding.
It was through Daniel Goleman that I first started ‘formally learning’ about Emotional Intelligence. After reading just one book I got hooked and ever since have been focused on developing Emotional Intelligence (and Social Intelligence) in my life and for others.
WARNING: You may get hooked too!
I would really love to share a more in-depth explanation of this and share with you some of the scientific reasoning on how it works and how this is the basis for Yin and Yang.
So looking at the wolves, you may wonder, you may ponder different meanings. And that is the magic of metaphors. You take your own meaning out of it. Since you take out your own meaning, it’s more powerful then simply being told the reason or answer.
The more you think about how you have feel towards the story or metaphor, the more internal or self focused you may become. Through focus comes awareness. So take a moment to really feel the picture above.
I’ve been fortunate to study with some of the best thought leaders known. By chance I read this metaphor by Daniel Goleman and the Dali Lama and a week later I was working through a Emotional Intelligence in Leadership course by Dr. Richard Boyatzis. Last year I also heard Dr Bruce Lipton share similar work. Dr Boyatzis and Dr Lipton shared different stories but from a scientific, highly logical or masculine angle. So what we have is a pile of experts explaining something in various different language patterns and also emphasizing how important this is to individuals and the collective whole.
In Taoism, or Eastern works they say (in very brief words) Yin Yang represents the dualistic nature of life. Yin Yang is also represented in our body/souls. Yin Yang are opposites. In the above picture one is evil one is good which is completely wrong in Taoism. But it may help you understand, one is compassion, peaceful, kind. While the other is non compassion, anger, superiority. I say it’s wrong in Taoism as the label of evil in western language means something to be avoid and really bad. Sometimes it’s natural and perfectly good to feel anger. Don’t avoid either side, as all sides and emotions make up the whole. Life should be whole rather than dualistic.
Now what I really want to share with you is not about Taoism or Yin Yang. It’s about the Autonomic Nervous System.
Under that light, these wolves form part of larger system. That system could well be labeled the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). In short, it’s purpose is to regulate the body’s unconscious actions. It is divided into two further systems. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Para-sympathetic Nervous System (PNS).
The Sympathetic Nervous System.
It’s primary process is to stimulate the body’s fight-or-flight response. When we undergo stress or anger, this sympathetic nervous system fires up accelerating the heart rate, and constricting blood vessels which increases blood pressure along with a couple of other changes to body. You see with more blood racing out to our arms and legs we are able to run faster or fight more efficiently.
As a consequence, we have less blood in our brain. Our ability to think logically goes down. When fighting with someone or running from an animal you don’t need logic. Run! Fight!
In fact when fighting an instinct takes over not logic.
Another example is when you’re running late, and can’t find your keys. You start stressing, look frantically and then relies there in your back pocket.
The Para-sympathetic Nervous System.
The parasympathetic system kicks in through mindfulness, faith, hope, compassion, seeing kids laugh, patting a dog, experiencing joy with friends, having intimate moments with a lover.
When we do these things the parasympathetic system lowers the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, allows more blood to flow into the head. This results further in boosting the immune system. It not only works again but the body goes into recovery mode, rejuvenating, rebuilding the body.
It’s with this system that you’re at your cognitive best. And on every measure done, you’re in a better state.
Sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions typically function in opposition to each other.
This natural opposition is better understood as complementary in nature rather than antagonistic. Hence previously mentioning good and evil as being wrong. They compliment each other and are both necessary in life. Yin and Yang is a break down of the whole. You can’t remove either one. A problem, the problem is to much of either side can bring imbalance.
Now your action. What you need to do is to simply be aware of what nervous system mode you are in. The more you are aware the more you can influence. So I would like to ask you to consciously ask yourself through out the day, where am I? Am I in the stressed sympathetic or relaxed para-sympathetic mode.
When have I been using each system? What could happen if I used the other mode?
In our modern lives we really need to ensure we have our parasympathetic systems kicking in as much as we can. The stress will come in due course, that’s for sure. But don’t put off getting back into balance. If you’re going to be out of balance, consider being out of balance with laughter and compassion so you can bounce back, rather than anger and stress.
Have a great day, thanks for reading and sharing this with your friends. Much love and warmth.