As we approach the holiday season I would like to wish everyone a happy, safe and restful break over the Christmas and New Year period. Remember that it is meant to be a joyful celebration of time with family and friends. For most of us it is also the longest holiday of the year so making time for rest and rejuvenation.
I believe we can find some good advice on how to not only cope but also to rejuvenate ourselves in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and in the life of Jesus. In TCM, nourishing the Baby Yin refers to finding stillness at the most active time of the day and in the New Testament we also find accounts of Jesus taking time off from a busy schedule.
The Dutch priest and writer Henri Nouwen wrote a beautiful little book called Out of Solitude where he talks about the life and ministry of Jesus:
“In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.” Mark 1:35. In the middle of sentences loaded with action – healing, suffering people, casting out devils, responding to impatient disciples, travelling from town to town and preaching from synagogue to synagogue – we find these quiet words. “In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place.” In the centre, of breathless activities we hear a restful breathing. Surrounded by hours of moving we find a moment of quiet stillness. In the heart of much involvement there are words of withdrawal. In the midst of action there are words of withdrawal. In the midst of action there is contemplation. And after much togetherness there is solitude.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the middle of summer is the peak of Yang energy symbolising warmth and activity. Think of the archetypal Aussie Christmas with lots of kids, family and cricket on the beach and you get the idea. It is warm, it is social and it is busy.
Everyone is probably familiar with the Yin/Yang symbol which is arguably China’s most famous export to the world. It can be seen to represent the flow of the seasons represented by predominantly Yang in summer to its decline in autumn and the cooler Yin weather in winter.
The little black dot within the white represent that in the middle of summer, when it is the most Yang, the beginning of Yin (or winter) is already there. This is sometimes described as the Baby Yin. Nourishing the Baby Yin means that even in the middle of summer we need to set off some time to rest.
By resting, we engage the Parasympathetic Nervous system which is responsible for relaxation and increased digestion. It allows the body (and mind) to recover from stress, to heal and repair itself.
So whether you want to take the advice from the life of Jesus, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or modern medicine: take a break. A nap in the middle of the day because you can, a quiet walk on your own, some time to cool down in the water, whatever works for you.
Make this the season to nourish your Baby Yin, and smile.