In the Yin Yang theory, everything – every process, every transformation, and every object – has both a Yin and a Yang aspect. The Yin and Yang energy roles represent different qualities: Yang energy manifests outwardly, and tends to be aggressive, dynamic, initiating and expansive. Yin energy reflects inward, and tends to be subtle, responsive, unseen and withdrawing.
The highest level of Yang energy is the reaching of a goal or climax. The completion of Yin energy is the return from Yang’s climax to its point of origin. Climax is like reaching the top of a mountain, but the energy cycle is not whole without the Yin journey from the mountain top back to the base. Since Yang is dynamic and expansive in nature, it needs to be balanced by an element of restraint or control (Yin energy). Since Yin is naturally reserved and contained, it needs to balance by the quality of unblocked openness (Yang energy).
This pattern is vividly illustrated in sexual relationships and is a good model for sexual encounters. Men tend to focus on manifestation, and, once a climax is reached, their journey is complete. For women, however, it is essential to go through the whole process; the second half of the journey is as important as the first. Just as in a symphony, the music leads us along a journey, lifting us up, and then bringing us back at the end. The symphony doesn’t stop at the third movement, nor should a sexual encounter.
Carrying expansive energy, men should exercise control over themselves during love-making. Carrying restrained energy, women should allow themselves to let go. When men control themselves, they can more easily delay their climax. When women allow themselves to be completely free and unrestrained, they find it easier to reach their climax. In this balanced way, together, the male and female energies can achieve a climax with a greater feeling of union and wholeness.
The same pattern can again be seen the life span of a person. In the course of any life, there are Yin and Yang phases. However, generally speaking, the phase of growing up, studying, entering society, having a family, establishing oneself in a profession or career, achieving goals, and reaching the highest point of achievement or climax is the Yang phase of life. Often, success is defined in terms of the accomplishments of this phase of life. But the Yin phase of life which follows is just as important.
For many people, retirement from work is retirement from life. It can even become a matter of simply passing time until they die. Small wonder, then, that people can have a hard time handling retirement.
Actually, “retirement” may be a poor term to use. It is better to think in terms of settling into the Yin phase of life, perhaps even a Yin career. In the Yin phase of life, energy and physical strength may not be as intense as during the Yang phase, but mental maturity, emotional stability, and cultivated values can come to play a much deeper and more rewarding role. The breadth of view and wisdom of the Yin phase can make it possible to do more, and do it differently, than one could during the Yang phase, even if its achievements are not as obvious.
Former U.S. President Carter did not stop working when he stepped down from being President; he continued to work effectively in many different directions without the need for public recognition. The renown and much loved actress Audrey Hepburn spent the second phase of her life as a special ambassador to UNICEF. Bill Gates, after retirement from his climactic achievements at Microsoft, is devoting his time to a Yin career in educational and health charity projects through the Gates Foundation. Retirement from one’s career is the completion of the Yang phase of life, but it is the beginning of the flowering of the Yin phase of life.
Many people manage the Yang phase well, but do not consider that the Yin phase needs management. They do not see that they bring to the Yin phase the skills and maturity they have gathered during the Yang phase. After completing the Yang phase, instead of turning inward, many simply burn through what they have achieved, waste what they have accomplished, or gradually slip into a kind of decay, falling apart like a house that isn’t maintained.
A successful life means a successful Yin phase as well as a successful Yang phase. The Yin phase may not be as dynamic or exciting, as forceful or as openly recognized by the world as the Yang phase, but it has different kind of fulfillment. One can donate his time and energy to family and society without thinking of material compensation. There is plenty of time to read and chat with friends; there is leisure time to appreciate reading, traveling, and enjoying coffee, tea, or wine; and there is time to turn inward and discover the inner joy of meditation and Chi-energy cultivation.
So, delete the term ”retirement” from your vocabulary, and live a successful Yin phase of your life!