Recently I have been working hard to establish my writing and speaking career, whilst at the same time doing my day job of facilitating and training in organisations across the length and breadth of England three weeks out of four on top of networking to keep the contracts coming in. Essentially I am working two careers: one I consider to be my vocation, that of writing, speaking and blogging, which I don’t get paid for, yet. The other is my training work, for which I get paid. Hence two careers. Truthfully, I love both, as both fulfil my passion of helping people be their best selves.

However, working six to seven days a week, which I have been doing for the past eight months, is beginning to take its toll. I have pretty good stamina, but on a couple of occasions recently, I’ve had what’s commonly called a meltdown, crying into my granola and feeling like it’s all too much to handle. I’m spinning plates, trying to be perfect in all areas, because what’s the point of doing something if you don’t do it better than good? That’s a rhetorical question by the way, tinged with sarcasm. However, I have told myself I have to give my all to every single task, be it writing, training, coaching, or speaking. Now that’s a good intention to hold and to practice – to be at your best in all you do, but what if being at your best involved taking care of yourself in the process?! Which is what I wasn’t doing.

Thankfully I have people in my life who tell it to me straight. One such person simply said, “Sahera, you’re too YANG! You’re pushing, pushing, pushing, making things happen, out there in the world doing some great stuff, but Yang on its own is unsustainable. It needs Yin to source it; you need to be more Yin”.

For God’s sake I thought, speak plain English please. “How does that actually translate into action?” I asked, a typically Yang response. This man is very wise. He smiled. “Claim moments of peace”.

“Ok, so what does that mean?” I asked in frustration and some desperation.

“Practice more Yin,” he replied. He suggested rather than expending all of my energy out in one big burst, to instead practice holding it back a little. “Rein some of your energy in, let it out bit by bit, practice collection”. Melisa Pearce puts it quite simply,

“Forward impulsion is nothing without some sense of collection or control of self.”Touched by a Horse

Those who know me can attest to the fact that I am extremely passionate, particularly when it comes to my work. The thought of not giving my all is anathema to me. However, what I am coming to understand is less is more. If I rein it in, I’m more in control of my energy. I can focus it, channel it and choose my shots, instead of my habitual scatter gun approach. If I don’t go all out all of the time, one, I conserve energy, and two, I get to increase my sensitivity to my audience. I can project outwards and reflect inwards at the same time, thereby practicing both inner and outer attention. In not pushing all of my energy out there, some of it is being kept back in reserve, watching and observing, rather like a football player sitting in reserve, strategising his game precisely because he’s been watching while waiting.  

This is Yin energy. Yin is feminine, reflective, quiet, observing, receptive. It sources Yang. Yin is in, whereas Yang is outward energy. It is masculine, bold, active. Yin makes Yang what it is, but Yin can only do this because Yang does what it does. The two cannot exist separately, they co-exist to make a whole, they source one another.

Connecting with our Yin energy and our Yang energy is imperative for a life of balance. When people talk about work/life balance, what they’re referring to is precisely this. Work=Yang energy, Life=Yin energy. When we’re at work, we’re generally “out there”, leading, making things happen, creating, fixing. It’s important therefore to balance that with some Yin activities; read a book, walk in the park, exercise, meditate, chill out to music, put our feet up, play with our children, this is all Yin practice.

What I’m slowly learning is that you can also practice Yin whilst being Yang and have a win/win; a win for you, lowering your risk of burnout, but also ironically increasing your productivity and your ability to strategise, because all of you isn’t all out, some of you is out, some of you is (Y)in!

Connect with your Yin energy whilst at work; see if it makes a difference to your results and to your state of mind and well-being. It takes courage to step beyond the fear of taking time out, to stop, to slow down, to not give it your all, all of the time. I promise you the world won’t come to an end if you stop, you won’t be a failure if you pull back and keep a little energy at home inside of yourself. Your body will thank you for it.

So many of us are busy and time is precious, so the concept of claiming moments of peace through practicing Yin energy is appealing precisely because you can do it several times a day without it taking up too much of your time. You can do it at your desk, or while in transit, or even in meetings. Here are just a few suggestions to press the pause button, several times a day:

  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath in, slowly inhaling the breath through your nose for a count of 4, hold the breath for 2, and release for another count of 4. Do a minimum of 4 rounds
  • Get up and stretch! I love to stretch. Do whatever works for you, roll your shoulders, move your arms, do side-bends, anything that gets the blood flowing
  • Have a bath instead of a quick shower; allow yourself the time and space to luxuriate
  • Get outdoors – it’s really important to get natural daylight and fresh air even if for 10 minutes. Walk around the block and bring your attention to what you see and what you hear, practising mindfulness walking
  • If you’re driving, don’t jump out of the car as soon as you’ve arrived at your destination; take a moment to centre yourself before you get out
  • Whatever you are doing, bring your attention to this very moment, the moment you are in. Focus on your breathing whilst at the same time focusing on your activity in this moment

Have the  Courage to Connect  with your Yin energy – your day is likely full of Yang activity; a little balance never harmed anybody, but it could make all the difference. Enjoy.