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Articles presented here are not meant to provide specific medical advice, diagnosis or interventions. They are general in nature and meant to provide generalized information and broad basic principles. For advice, guidance, intervention, medical insights, remediation and/or alternative methods, or any other applicable procedures, diagnosis or prescriptions, one should consult their own local practitioner. Diane Gross is not able to provide advice by phone, US mail, text or email.
The Yin and Yang of Time
Imagine cruising down the highway on a beautiful spring day in your best friend’s fancy new sports car. You converse amiably as he or she skillfully navigates the twists and curves of the road. The scenery is lovely and you are enjoying the company, however, there is a sense of urgency in the air since you are both quite late. As you chat your eyes move past - and then back to - the gas gauge. Its on empty. “Uh, I think you need some gas”, you say. To your great surprise your friend responds with, “Well, I don’t have time to stop for gas. I’m too busy driving and besides, we’re running late!” You are not sure you heard right, so you try again. “Yeah, but we don’t have enough gas to get there”, you offer. “Its on empty!” Again, the response; “No way I’m stopping! We’re already running late, and I am too busy driving to take time to stop for gas.”
Most of us would agree that the above scenario doesn’t make a lot of sense. Refusing to stop for gas all but guarantees that, not only will they not arrive to their destination on time, but that they may not arrive at all. Yet this is often the way many interpreters, and people in general, approach their life and work. I often hear interpreters say their schedule is just too full to take time out to rest or meditate, or just to sit for a short time in stillness. Great value is placed on producing, doing, and achieving, while ceasing the doing and simply being is given little credence. Sometimes feelings of guilt may even surface during times of reduced activity and productivity.
In Chinese medicine everything has a yin and a yang aspect. A balance of each is necessary in order for there to be harmony and balance. Yin is a more restful, quiet, yielding type of energy, while yang energy is more active, dynamic, and forceful. Each must be balanced by the other. Too much rest and quiet time (yin energy) can lead to lethargy and boredom. Excessive yin time may also ‘snuff out’ some of the fire of the yang energy. This can cause the resourceful energies required for quality interpreting and for general creativity to become stagnant. Too much activity and doing (yang energy) can lead to burnout, fatigue and overall stressful feelings. It may also ‘burn up’ some of the yin energy, leading to illness and making interpreters more susceptible to injury.
Many people, not just interpreters, live lives that are not in balance. Yet often these same people are surprised when things stop working, or when they ‘run out of gas’. But systems, including the human body, need balance in order to function optimally. For interpreters, this includes the need for a balance of recovery time (rest) and interpreting, stillness and motion, and meditation and activity.
The benefits of meditation and sitting in stillness are well known. Many research studies over the years have demonstrated this. Some of the benefits of meditation include:
- Improved concentration
- A reduction in feelings of stress
- Improved sleep
- Lower blood pressure
- Better personal relationships
- Overall improved health
It is important for anyone, including interpreters, to make the time for meditation and quietness everyday. Doing so affords the opportunity to get centered and recoup energy. It prevents you from ‘running out of gas’, and allows you to approach all your activities, including interpreting, from a more balanced perspective. Just imagine what a day would be like if you felt completely rested, with plenty of energy reserves with which to approach your work! Or what a day would feel like if you were engaged and active in a balanced way.
It can be helpful to assess whether you need more yang or more yin activity in your daily schedule. If you feel you have little or no time to relax, then you probably need to add some yin activities to your life. If you are a couch potato, then some yang activities might serve you. And paradoxically, sometimes one is needed in order to support the other. For example, you may need more yang activity (e.g. exercise) in order to sleep better (yin activity). Or you may need more yin activity (e.g. sleep and meditation time) in order to have the resources to support the yang activities (e.g. interpreting) in your daily life.
It can also be instructive to consider the balance within the yin and yang aspects, respectively. For example, if you meditate one hour everyday, but also only sleep two hours every day, then there may not be a balance within the yin aspect of life’s activities. Or if you regularly interpret for 8 hours at a time, but get no physical exercise, then there may be no balance within the yang aspect. So there must be balance within each aspect as well as between the two aspects.
Stopping for gas actually facilitates your ability to get where you’re going. So too, slowing down, meditating or being contemplative, actually increases your effectiveness as an interpreter and as a person. It also reduces your risk of interpreting related injuries. Making time to ‘fill up” and restore your energy, and balancing yin and yang activities is essential for a balanced and happy life. You actually waste time and compromise your productivity and health when you don’t do it.
Diane Gross, DOM (NM), L.Ac., Dipl. OM, CI-CT (Ret.) is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, licensed Acupuncturist, Nationally certified Diplomate of Oriental Medicine and retired CI/CT interpreter.
Email <dgross@TerpHealth.com> or call 1- (336) 337-7172 to request information regarding workshops, management training, and/or ergonomic diagnostics sessions (see all services here) or to order her books click on these titles:
“Sign Safely, Interpret Intelligently: A Guide to the Prevention and Management of Interpreting Related Injury”
"The Art of Personal Alchemy: Transform Your Emotional Lead into Gold"