“In the beginning was Yin and Yang which gave birth to the 5 Elements, which in turn gave birth to the 10,000 things” – Dao de Jing (Tao te Ching)
I consider myself lucky now that I had a health crisis as a young teen. It pushed me towards Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and understanding the cyclical nature of life at an early age. In the modern West we have come to believe life is this linear downhill ride; beginning with vitality and ending with decrepitude and death. The Daoist philosophy is that life is a compilation of smaller and bigger cycles. Like waves, they are predictable and can carry us high if we know how to time our actions. If we do not, we get pummeled. These cycles occur on a daily, monthly, yearly, and 7 year (for women) or 8 year (for men) cycles. To increase our health we learn to adapt our behavior to work with the natural cycles rather than against them.
Cycles have their origin in Yin and Yang theory. According to this theory, Yin and Yang interact in 4 ways:
- Stand in Opposition. Yin and Yang represent opposites. A wave crest is Yang while a wave trough is Yin. Spring and summer are Yang times of year, while fall and winter are Yin. Yang is hot, extroverted, and excess. While Yin is cold, introverted, and deficient.
- Are Inter-dependent. Yin and Yang cannot exist without each other. Without day there would be no night. Without an interior there would be no exterior.
- Are Inter-consuming. Yin and Yang consume one another. When we are hot (Yang) we sweat, depleting body fluids (Yin).
- Are Inter-transforming. Yin and Yang change into one another. Night turns into day.
Examples of adapting our behavior to the cycles:
- Daily cycles: Sleep from 10pm to 6am. Save greatest activity for morning and early afternoon.
- Monthly (menstrual) cycles: Rest during menses. Save greatest activity between ovulation and menses.
- Yearly cycles: Eat more cooling foods during spring and summer. Eat warming foods during Fall and Winter.
- 7 Year cycles: Begin preparing for menopause at age 35.