(By Misook Lee, LAc) When I was a young mother of two sons, I always struggled with some illness. One day, I read a book titled What is Yin Yang? written by traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors. It was an eye-opening moment for me and I think it was when my medicine studies first began.
The word Yin-Yang consists of the two Chinese characters Yin 陰 and Yang 陽. The character Yin represents the shade of a hill which is a hidden, dark and cool condition. The other character Yang indicates the sunny side of a hill which is an open, bright, and warm space. However, the concept of the Yin and Yang is not about static and opposite contrasts, but it is focused on the dynamics of a changing condition as time passes. In the morning, the sun rises in the East and the sunny side of the hill is the East side. However, in the evening, the East side of the hill becomes shady and the sun shines on the West side. As a result, the Yin and Yang side of the hill is constantly changing over time. The hill is always there, but the phases of the hill can be changeable. This is the basis of the traditional East Asian viewpoint of the world: everything is constantly changing.
According to another traditional East Asian perspective, Human beings are in between Heaven and Earth and the sun stays above in the heaven, continuously moving and giving intangible Yang energy to all living things in the world. On the other hand, the flat earth always stays still and provides tangible Yin material sources to life.
There is a saying “Every flow has its ebb.” Every month, the moon changes from full moon to a new moon. When there is a full moon, it is the brightest condition of the moon, but it is also the beginning of the moon phase’s decline, too. In the same manner, we can say a single day consists of dark night and bright day time but since the change of the brightness is like a smooth sine curve, we usually do not notice the dynamics.
The famous image of Tai Chi shows the relationship between Yin and Yang very well. Yin (black) and Yang (white) lean against each other and make a smooth S curve. Inside of the Yin (black) there is a Yang (white) component, and vice versa. Therefore, Yin and Yang look like opposite sides, but they are interdependent, inter-transformative and also mutually consuming.
After learning Yin-Yang theory, I saw the world in a different manner. I tried to see everything in a Yin-Yang way. I thought about the possibility of change when everything looked stagnant. I happily persevered when bad things happened. I could find how to be calm even when good news came to me.
According to TCM theory, disease is a condition that occurs when our body is out of balance. Acupuncture is a great modality to help to regain our balance. When we treat patients, we treat them according to Yin-Yang methods: we treat the front side and back side of the body. We treat using both moxa (heat, light, superficial) and needles (cool, substantial, deep). We use tonification and sedation methods as needed. The effect of acupuncture appears right away or sometimes gradually with more treatments.
However, when I see patients who suffer from physical pain or mental stress, I want to help them regain their balance. I want to support and offer solace to them that comes with the knowledge of life’s ability to transform. I want to say to them: “You can make a change, and let us do it together!”
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