Events & Workshops
There is so much encouragement in modern civilizations about HOW TO YANG: Set a goal. Push through! Push harder! – And I’m all for having Yang energy in my life and work. And yet, it´s like with all the good things in life: too much is counterproductive. Too much doing and pushing can lead to complete exhaustion and too much talking, without listening, makes a bad leader and a poor friend.
The concept of two primary, complementary forces in all of life – Yin and Yang – became popular with the Chinese School of Yinyang which studied philosophy and cosmology in the 3rd century BCE*. The Yin force can, for example, be seen in the qualities of water, softness, surrender and the cold. Yang can be perceived in the experience of fire, hardness, (positive) aggression and heat.
Neither pole was seen as superior to the other and, as an increase in one brings a corresponding decrease in the other, a balance between the two poles has to be reached in order to achieve harmony.
I love icebaths, and cold showers. And when I did my Wim Hof Instructor training I had to push through extreme Yang experiences. And I did. – But I overdid it. Wim Hofs waterfall in Poland offered icecold water, cooled by huge natural ice blocks on the pools corners below. And about thousand kilos of ice in our hotels outdoor icebath tub were a respected challenge, even for us cold trained Wim Hof Method lovers. After we had been in constant stressful alert due to a masterfully created undercurrent of anxiety for nearly a week – no program, just boot camp-like commands to be followed within minutes – I overdid it.
After several nights of poor sleep, I got up when my alarm rang at 4 am. (The 5am club is for babies, you know.) For a last cold dip in the icy river. No excuses, no matter how tired and exhausted my poor body was. And two days later, at home, I lay in bed with a flu. – A week with lots of Yin Time, soaking in the warm bath tub and day dreaming in bed should follow. I hadn’t allowed myself enough YIN, back in Poland. Not enough relax between the pushing. Not enough integration of all the transformative adventures.
We have a mammalian body. We have an automatic mammalian nervous system and an instinctive, reptile like part of our evolved brain. And all of them like to swing naturally between tension and relax, wake and sleep state, breathing in and breathing out. – You can mess with their natural function and you can biohack your human potenzial, but you can’t live well for a long time without getting back into your balance of Yin and Yang.
When I saw that combination of grace and power, the fast and the soft,Lou Reed
the yin and the yang, that’s what I’d been looking for.
You master an icebath one breath at a time. First you set your goal (Yang): I’ll stay in it for at least a minute! Second, you prepare actively (Yang). Third: You step in, breathe out and push through the pain and the mammalian flight reflex. THEN YOU DO YIN. You do Yin, no matter how freezing cold the water is, you breathe and let go, you relax, you trust in the wisdom of Yin. And then the magic happens: It get’s easier. You have out-Yined the mammalian stress response. You have mastered the hardship not with more hardness. Not with a stiff neck or tense muscles, but with softness. You have surrendered and you got your gratification. You can relax in the middle of the freezing cold. And you can learn to relax anywhere.
Often seen as weak, the attitude and acting in surrender can open new doors for us in everyday life. K.H. Wolff offers an interesting, Zen-like definition of surrendering: „To surrender means to take as fully, to meet as immediately as possible whatever the occasion may be“.** Unbiased, like a child, we can be fully open to a situation, a business opportunity or our loved one, and see with fresh eyes.
In my experience as a giornalist and project designer, this is the universal gateway to creativity. Only with fresh eyes, only with a fresh perspective, can we create new solutions, true innovations.
(Surrender) means to meet, whatever it be, as much as possible in its originariness,K.H. Wolff.
„Did I Yang too much in the last weeks“, I just asked my partner? „Yes, you did“, he answered, „you didn’t rest enough“. That was really helpful for me to hear, because I grew up like many of us, with the idea that my working hours, my performance, are never enough. So, I offer you to initiate your loved ones into the Ying & Yang wisdom. Share these ideas with them and: Surrender to their offers to notify you gently, when you get out of balance.
*www.worldhistory.org, Mark Cartwright, 16 May 2018
**Wolff K.H. (1976) ‘Surrender’ and ‘Catch’. In: Surrender and Catch. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol 51. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-1526-4_4
Pictures: Wiebke Dirks, Unsplash / Ester Tuttle / Scott Rodgerson