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Spaciousness: Yin Principles in Self and Culture

For a long time in U.S. culture, the yang principle—dominance over nature, competition between ourselves, unbridled growth at all costs—has been winning. It’s “go-go-go,” all the time.


Overly yang systems tax our nervous systems, adrenal glands, and mental health. They also damage our families. This includes the biggest family of all: the Earth, and our collective ecology. As in all things, when a situation gets too lopsided we see the pendulum swing, and the opposite force arises—in this case, the yin principle. You know how it goes: Too much sugar, we crave real nourishment; too much noise, we crave quiet; too much work, we crave rest and play. A balanced world needs both: the soft, cool, receptivity of the lunar yin, and the driving, hot, active solar yang.


At this time, I believe, we need the receptive principle to be restored to our culture. 


When I use the word “receptivity,” I mean it in multiple ways:
The physical aspect of receiving stimuli with more space and introspection. Not running over things, or hurrying through what is happening, but noticing detail and being receptive to the natural flow of things. The relational aspect of receiving a person as who they are right now, this moment, free of the patterns and impressions laid down in the past—the actual person sitting in front of you, here and now.The acceptance of gifts from the world, whether they be as small as receiving a compliment or as big as accepting transformational help. Creativity requires space and relaxation. In order to receive an idea or an inspiration we must be open to impression, and receptive of the creative pulse that is arising.


These principles even apply to receiving the inhale in breathing! For many years I taught yoga and breathwork. We would begin each session by asking people to make their breath audible. Almost universally, the exhale was loud, long and expressive—but the inhale was short and tight and constrained. How much of the primal nourishment known as oxygen can you take? Can you let it fill your lungs, stretching your body from the inside?

When we create more space in our lives—through conscious mediation, silence, giving ourselves time to reflect and appreciate and enjoy—a funny thing happens. We begin to experience new things. Yes, more creativity. Yes, more sensitivity. There is greater space for lush intimacy, and our relationships come alive. And all of this informs how we design our global culture and institutions. The Earth’s collective systems are overstrained and overtaxed, and the healing must start within: designing our own lives and social structures for less pushing, and more dancing. 

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