The idea of two flows of energy coming from the One Source of energy are described in many spiritual traditions, and understanding the concept can create a container in your life to deepen your firsthand experience of the two energies. Balancing the yin and yang energies within can bring a person back to wholeness, healing emotional wounds, and creating greater happiness.
You can directly observe and feel the yin and yang energy within you and in the world around you in every moment. Everything in creation has either a yin or yang expression. The breath, for example, has two components; the inward flow, and the outward flow of air. The seasons of the year, the times of the day, and the cycles of life, all follow a similar pattern of rise and fall, in and out, birth and death. The sun, for example, can be considered yang, giving its energy outward. The moon, on the other hand, may be considered more yin, receiving the light of the sun and reflecting it back out again. The sun and moon are also good examples of how within everything there is also the potential for the opposite flow of energy to exist. The moon receives light from the sun, but also reflects this energy back outwards. Within the yin state is the potential for the yang expression, and vice versa.
The yin and yang are not meant to be concrete labels, but rather a description of an energetic state, existing in a moment of time. The sun, for example, would be considered yang in relationship to the moon, but could also be considered either yin or yang, depending on whether it’s rising or setting. A sapling tree exists in a yin state (for the time being), while the mature tree exists in the yang state. Other examples of yin and yang are: cold and hot, light and dark, the pulsing of blood in and out of the Heart, birth and death, creation and destruction, and growth and decay. Each state is defined by its relationship to its opposite. There can be no light without dark, no heat without cold, and no birth without death.
It can help to become familiar with the general characteristics of each state so that you can begin to see the subtler expressions of these two energies within yourself. The energetic characteristics of yin energy are femininity, receptivity, fluidity, creativity, intuition, allowance, gentleness, softness, inspiration, transformation, inwardness, and nurturance. Physical characteristics of yin are cool, dark, soft textures, rounded shapes, sinuous lines, cool colors, water, earth, and air. Yin is associated with the heart, wisdom, and feeling tones.
Compare this with the quality of yang energy, and you can see that they are very different from one another. The energetic characteristics of yang energy are masculinity, structure, logic, control, power, assertiveness, and the act of creation. Physical characteristic of yang energy are hot, light, hard textures, geometrical shapes, warm colors, fire, rock, and metal. Yang energy is associated with thinking, knowledge, and the capacities of the mind.
Both the yin and yang energies are equally important, and there is an art form to allowing them to coexist within you and to be expressed through you. Take time to notice within yourself these two energies, honoring the expression of both in your life. As you master allowing your yin and yang expressions to exist in balance, it naturally dissolves much of the suffering within life. There is a great deal of anxiety, depression, and angst in many people’s lives due to the repression of either their masculine or feminine expression. Many people are still closely identified with the energy associated with their gender, causing an unconscious repression of the seemingly opposing energy. The paradox is that both energies can exist simultaneously in balance, even while outwardly appearing to oppose one another.
Battle of the Sexes
You can observe the conflict between the masculine and feminine energy by observing relationship dynamics between many men and women. Oftentimes in romantic relationship each partner is seeking to find balance of their own masculine and feminine energies within their partner’s energy. When a person is unconscious as to the existence of both flows of energy within, there can be a tug of war between the masculine and feminine expression—a phenomenon commonly referred to as, “the battle of the sexes,” whereas each person in a relationship is trying to prove that either the masculine or the feminine way of being is superior.
In this situation, each person is overly identified with either the yin or yang expression, and does not recognize that what they are really seeking is a balance of the two energies within themselves. This externalization of the internal conflict often causes defensiveness and polarization towards their partner. Instead of observing, appreciating, integrating, and learning from the energetic expressions of their partner, many people tend to resist this learning due to their own lack of awareness, and the compulsion of the mind to mistakenly identify with the form (either masculine or feminine), and then defend it as though their sense of self were being threatened.
In truth, both flows of energy are equal, and can only exist in relation to one another. There can be no masculine without the feminine to define it, and vice versa. This is a simple concept, yet profound in its implications in a person’s day-to-day life. These two energies are flowing within you all the time, seeking to exist and be expressed in a balanced way. You can observe this in yourself in how you move your body, how you use your mind, how creative or logical you are, how you structure your day, how you socialize, how you prioritize your life, and how you interact with the world around you.
How Balanced Are You?
The balance of yin and yang energy is as subtle as how much tension you are holding in your body at any given time. Holding a certain amount of tension in your body while you are performing tasks is necessary to stay focused, alert, and simply to keep your body upright and all the muscles functioning properly. This yang act of tension, however, must be simultaneously balanced with conscious relaxation (the yin energy). If not, over time you will likely find yourself becoming agitated, irritated, or angry. Are you able to hold just enough tension in your body to complete a task, simultaneously relaxing your body with each exhalation? Can you move fluidly between tension and relaxation moment by moment? Is your energy flowing through you like the tide of the ocean; smooth, fluid, and with an even in-and-out movement, or does it feel more like a river that is flowing one moment, and then damned up the next moment?
As you breath, each moment of inhalation is cultivating and bringing in more energy (yang expression), and each exhalation is releasing and dispersing energy (yin expression). Pause for a moment and notice your breathing. Are you allowing the yin and yang to be balanced within you during each breath, or are you continuing to hold tension, even while you exhale? Are you taking shallow inhalations and forceful exhalations, releasing more energy than you are cultivating? The flow of breath is a wonderful place to begin your practice of balancing your energy, as it affects every other aspect of your life. Balanced breathing creates a steady and relaxed mind, steady and even emotions, and a healthy physical body.
The first step, however, is to really familiarize yourself with the experiential difference between yin and yang energy. You can do this simply by holding an awareness of the masculine and feminine as you go about your day, observing the dynamic interplay between the two energies in life around you. The more aware you become of these two aspects of the creative Life Energy, the more you will begin to notice them within yourself, seeing areas of your life where you may be imbalanced. As you begin to notice patterns of imbalance, you can then choose new thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which will allow you to stay more in balance.
Staying in Balance
As you master staying in balance, you will likely observe that much of the conflict in your life naturally dissolves. This is because your inner state of balance is being projected outward, bringing more peace to others, and to life around you. You are no longer looking to others and the outside world to balance your own energy or bring you peace and happiness. So begin by observing without the need to change anything. As you learn through observation, your self-awareness will naturally deepen. This will be much more effective than “trying” to do anything in particular in regards to your masculine and feminine energy. This imbalance is not something that can be monitored and remedied by the thinking mind. Instead, it is a balance that can only be restored through feeling into each moment.
An indication that you are losing balance would be the arising of any negativity within you. This negativity can take the form of stress, anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, boredom, or any other negative state. Again, it is not something to analyze and judge how much of which type of energy is being expressed through you, but rather an opportunity to feel into each moment, holding the intention to find balance between these two aspects of the Self. As soon as you feel out of balance in any way (some form of negativity arising within you) it is a wonderful opportunity to notice what thoughts or beliefs you are holding onto which may be repressing either your masculine or feminine energy. This may all sound a bit abstract, but it can be expressed in concrete terms, and I will offer an example from my own life to illustrate the point.
A Journey Of Discovery
One aspect of life, which in the past caused me a great deal of internal conflict, was the seeming paradox in life regarding control, versus letting go of control (yang versus yin). On the one hand there is a very strong push in our culture to be in control of every aspect of one’s life, pushing oneself to monitor and plan for all possible outcomes, to think logically, and to create our life in a practical manner (the yang, or masculine expression). On the other hand, we are encouraged to relax, and just go with the flow (the yin, or feminine expression). This can be confusing and appear quite paradoxical, causing a person to feel that they must be both in complete control of their life, while simultaneously appearing relaxed and easygoing.
I felt this internal struggle very strongly in my life beginning in childhood, and what I noticed during the earlier years of my life is that anytime I made an effort to either let go of control of the circumstances of my life, or conversely, to take control of my life, that the outcome was generally the same: for a brief while things would go great, and then over time, I would start to suffer. This was a source of so much confusion and frustration, as I felt torn between these two aspects of myself.
On the one hand it felt empowering to take control of my life, creating structure, routine, being organized and ambitious, and having clear goals for myself. But what I noticed was that the longer I stayed in that state of control, life became dull, boring, predictable, and I would often find myself becoming stressed, anxious, and obsessive or compulsive about the details of life. Being so uptight and controlling towards life seemed to squeeze all the joy out of my experience, nor did it make me a very fun person to be around.
Conversely, when I decided to just let go for a while, letting go of goals, routines, and structure, and instead just live spontaneously for a few days, weeks, or months, life seemed to suddenly become exciting again. New opportunities often arose, and new inspirations, relationships, and creative energies would flow into my life. This, too, felt wonderful. However, what I noticed was that after a while of staying in this easy-going state, I would also start to feel anxious, depressed, and lost, unable to build anything lasting in my life.
Through trial and error I have uncovered the nature of the two energies within myself, and how to stay in balance. As I started to notice the pattern emerging in my life of oscillating between these two states, I discovered that I was holding onto beliefs that I had to be one way or the other, rather than live in continual fluidity between the two states moment by moment. As I moved in the direction of integration, it led me to investigate the moments throughout my day when I would lose balance. These moments can be ever so subtle, and happen in the blink of an eye. The moment that you find yourself reacting to life with any negativity, however, is an indication that it is time to slow down and become aware of how you are using your mind and body. In this way, you can bring awareness to how the imbalance occurred, and then take appropriate action (or non-action) to self-correct.
An Example of Balance Between Yin and Yang
A good example of this might be working on a building project. Building a shed, for instance, could be considered a yang expression. During the building process I might be having a really great time, enjoying the process of using my mind to plan out how I was going to build the shed, and then taking action to create the structure. There might come a moment, however, when I would start to feel stress arise within me. I might notice that the stress was in relation to planning for the next steps of the build, getting too far ahead of myself. While some planning is undoubtedly required during a building project, there comes a point where the planning function of the mind becomes out of balance, and can cause anxiety (an excess yang energy).
The first step in regaining balance, then, would be to pause in the moment that I begin to notice a subtle feeling of stress arise, and become aware of the energetic state that is out of balance—in this case it would be the masculine energy. I could then shift gears and just let go of planning for the time being, using my intuition to move forward (rather than the thinking mind), and trust that it will all work itself out (the yin expression). In the moment that I let go, suddenly I feel lighter and more peaceful. For a moment tension arose, but by allowing the feminine expression of letting go of control, balance is restored.
However, sometimes it is not such a simple or straight-forward process. In the above example, I might have found that by letting go and just trusting that it would work out, I would actually begin to feel more anxiety. If that were the case, then I could pause, become aware of my inner state, and notice that the anxiety caused by “letting go” was perhaps on account of not having enough information about the building process. And so instead of “letting go,” during the build, I might actually need to go research the process a bit further and allow myself to receive more information (another way in which the two energies could be expressed—as seeking out information, and then allowing oneself to receive information).
Another common example of energetic imbalance is during social interactions between people. Lets say I were conversing with someone who had a lot to say and was talking for long periods of time without any breaks (a yang expression). Over the course of the conversation I might start to feel a bit uneasy in my body. I might start to notice that I was feeling overwhelmed by the other person’s energy, or perhaps I might feel tension rising up within me. In the moment I notice a subtle negativity arise, I would bring awareness to my inner state, noticing for any imbalance in my energy. Likely I would feel the need to stand up, stretch, or excuse myself from the conversation. When I checked in with myself I may have noticed that I was being overly receptive and passive during the conversation (the feminine expression), and that I needed to regain balance by moving my body, or taking some other action step (the masculine expression). This was made known to me by that fact that I started to feel uneasy, negative, and imbalanced in some way.
This process may seem like common sense, and yet often when you observe conflict arising within a person (or between two people), you can also observe how it is directly related to the imbalance between their masculine and feminine energy. These patterns are often learned and unconscious, and so we have to be very alert and aware in moments when we feel negativity arising, in order to interrupt the pattern. It is an ongoing investigation of how to remain in balance between the masculine or feminine energy. As you gain more awareness in this regard, it will become like second nature to remain in balance and peaceful.
Feel the Balance, Don’t Think It
But remember, you cannot think your way into balance by mentally monitoring how much yang or yin energy is flowing through you. It is only through returning to the present moment, and then feeling your energetic state, that the answer comes to you. The answer will come to you through direct experience, as you try out a new behavior. You will know if you’re on the right path when you feel a sense of clarity, relief, and peace. Come back to your breath, bring your attention to your body, and wait for an inner knowingness to arise, showing you appropriate steps to take to restore balance. If no intuition arises, then just try the first thing that comes to you.
For instance, if you are aware that you are overextending yourself (yang), than simply sit down for a few moments and focus on your breath (yin). This will likely be enough to restore your energy to a place of balance, as well as open the door for intuition to come to you for staying in balance—perhaps you need to take a break from whatever you are doing to look at the trees and sky before going back to work.
Conversely, if you are feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, or lost (yin), then simply do something, anything, to get your energy moving (yang). Take a brisk walk, do some deep breathing, or start singing a song to yourself. Just getting your energy moving will start to restore balance, bringing you a sense of empowerment. And in the following moments you will likely receive some clarity and intuition about how to move forward to further restore your inner balance.
The Energy of Conflict
During conflict, often times a person will try to regain their feelings of energetic equilibrium by reacting against the energetic expression in the other person. This energetic “tug of war” is a common source of suffering between people. In the example of the social interaction where one person was talking excessively, I could have tried interrupting the other person, talking over them, or talking louder to get them to stop talking, which may have provided me with some anxiety relief, if only briefly. This is commonly what people do when conflict arises. They try to overpower the other with their own energy, in order to relieve their own anxiety. This approach may work temporarily, but ultimately creates imbalance. In addition, by trying to do energetic battle with another, you are making yourself dependent on your interaction with the other person for your own inner feelings of balance.
Lets look at the energetic dynamic more closely in this example in order to get a clearer picture of what’s going on. One person is exerting an abundance of yang energy (or masculine energy) by talking without sharing the space equally with the other person, creating an imbalance in the energetic dynamic. The other person, feeling uneasy with the imbalance of energy, begins to push their own energy out at the other person by interrupting or talking louder (a yang expression). So one person is out of balance with too much yang energy, and the other person also becomes out of balance by expressing too much yang energy. This course of action does not restore balance, but rather perpetuates the imbalance and tension, and over time, conflict undoubtedly arises. The end result is that one person emerges dominant in the conflict, which may feel good, if only temporarily.
In addition, each person is reinforcing the idea that they can restore their inner balance by relating with the other in this imbalanced way. This can be the beginning of a codependent pattern. One person might actually begin seeking out conflict from the other person, as a way of balancing their own energy. This is a common occurrence in many romantic relationships.
Another reaction that is quite common in this situation is for the listener to become even more yin in their expression. As the person talks at them, they begin shrinking away, withdrawing their energy, and eventually feeling drained during the conversation. They intuitively knew that they couldn’t combat the other person’s energy with more yang energy, so they pulled away (the yin expression), often unconsciously, as a way to balance out the other person’s energy. In most cases people are not aware of their own reactions in this regard, but have learned these patters as coping mechanisms in times of feeling imbalanced within. Instead of taking action to restore their own inner balance, they tried to restore balance in relation to the other, which can ever only temporarily restore equilibrium. Over time, however, resentment would likely build within both people, and conflict would arise.
How Imbalance Can Lead to Codependency
Both instances described above are examples of codependency in action. This lack of energetic awareness is the cause of conflict between romantic partners, friends, and family members. Learning to feel the difference between the two flows of energy within is the beginning to your energetic autonomy and freedom. Learning when to take control and when to let go of control, allows you to be more in the flow of life, no longer so dependent on others for your sense of self, or for your happiness.
So how do you interrupt the patterns of codependency? You can start by bringing more awareness to your own inner state of being, honoring your feelings (which are different than emotions— a topic to be covered in the following sections), and allowing both energies to exist simultaneously. This happens by placing your attention on your inner energy field. Try it now—simply bring your attention to the subtle vibration of energy within your own body. When you feel the energy within, you will also receive intuition about moving forward in a balanced way. In every moment we can potentially be expressing both masculine and feminine energy; to be firm yet gentle, to be structured yet flexible, or to be assertive yet receptive. This is not so easy for many people to do. The reason for this is that our energetic expressions are often largely a result of our conditioning.
Beginning in childhood we learn to create a self identity based on our gender, and to behave accordingly. We also learn forms of expression that bring us attention, validation, and love from our parents, family, and friends. Through this process, we adopt patterns of both restricting and overextending our masculine and feminine energy, creating the phenomenon of co-dependency with other people in order to balance our energy and get our needs met. There is an art form to untangling yourself from the web of codependency. It is a wonderful path to embark upon, one that is not always easy or comfortable, but one that can transform the quality of your relationships and your life. Eckhart Tolle references these points in many of his teachings