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 probably been backed up and written about by scientist, is DIS-Ease. Dis-Ease comes from living out of balance. In the West, too much unhealthy stress. In the East, too much unhealthy Yang.
I’ll cover here a bit more ‘factual’ or western explanation of mindfulness, balance, stress, Yin/Yang and 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. This story is a theme for life and expressed in many different ways which I’ll share for you.
The book I just reread this in was by Daniel Goleman and 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!
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 The East: 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 however it’s the translation. 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 avoided 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.
How does Taoism or Yin Yang come across in Western Science: It’s comes out through the Autonomic Nervous System. Western Science hasn’t caught up to the traditional Eastern ways yet so it’s largely based on what can be seen. If it can’t be seen, it’s hard for Western Science. Hence doctors today no longer use sense of smell and systemization generally takes precedence over intuition.
Under that Western Science approach, the two wolves form the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which in short, regulates which wolf body’s unconscious processes get the most energy. The two wolves become the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Para-sympathetic Nervous System (PNS).
The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS).
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.
Or your are stressed but instead of relaxing deeply, you are submerged in social media or someone else’s drama.
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.
We are human beings that are meant to be relaxed and able to spring into action when required. Not full action animals that just relax at night.
Sympathetic and Parasympathetic divisions typically function in opposition to each other. It’s rare they are activated together, however they do with some specific emotions such as Bliss.
This natural opposition is better understood as complementary in nature rather than antagonistic. Hence previously mentioning good and evil as being not so resourceful. 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. Too much of either side can bring imbalance or be the result of imbalance creating a variety of Dis-Ease, or lack of purpose/love/fulfilment.
ACTION: 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. Alternatively, keep more awareness on your heart or your breath. Heart Rate Variability or Breath Cycle are indicators of how your ANS is functioning.
ASK YOURSELF: When have I been using each system? What could happen if I used the other mode?
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF: Reacting in situations, this is typically your SNS taking over often leading to an Amygdala Hijack. Medical jargon for the blood is not flowing to the parts of your brain required to communicate, self regulate and calm down. In fact, many people today really struggle with getting out of the SNS, Amygdala Hijacks and are reactivating with their following actions. This is simply due to the way our societies and technologies are built with a capitalistic, short term, self-gratifying nature. Technology companies that can control the ANS in it’s users are set to dominate any rivals that require delayed gratification. Human nature is to take the easiest path and without education, people will take the shorter, easier, route.
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.
Have had amazing success reducing stress in clients through using Heartmaths and mBraining. Here is a diagram from Heartmaths which illustrates what happens when you become to out of balance with too much Sympathetic Nervous System. This is serious stuff. If your suffering like this, simply schedule a session with me. We can help in less than 50 minutes.