This is an excerpt from Chinese Herbs for Peaceful Sleep, an online course with Daniel J. Atchison-Nevel
A very important concept that we are going to discuss is that life is experienced and lived in cycles. Sleep itself exists as part of that cycle, is a cycle of its own, and has many cycles existing within it. In this worldview, human being exist and may be viewed as the interplay between the descending Yang forces of the heavens from above and the ascending Yin forces of Earth from below. This interplay evolved out of the undifferentiated wholeness. Out of the undifferentiated wholeness evolved the first division and then out of this division evolved the dance of the descending Yang forces from above and the ascending Yin forces from below. The dance of the Tao.
This interplay between the descending Yang from above and the ascending Yin from below birthed and continues to birth an endless series of cycles. One of the ways we can view human beings is as a focal point existing within these cycles and as part of the cycles. So this is our worldview. We view humans as these embodied fields or these focal points. It is a critically important point to remember that we are simultaneously embedded in the whole and contain the whole within us. That means, we are inseparable from the whole, we are part of a whole, but we also contain the whole within us.
We are also simultaneously moving through the world, and receiving the world as we move through it. We are moving through the world and we are receiving the world as it moves through us, and these are very important principles to keep in mind as we move through all of this information. So as the world is moving through us, as we are moving out to the world and as we are receiving the world as it moves through us, we are constantly relating to and reacting to both the world out there and the world in here.
There is really not a difference between the world out there and in the world in here. It is really just a point of focus. Where we are placing our attention at any time? In reality, we are always embedded in the whole. We are either focusing and attending to the world outside of ourselves or we are focusing on and tending to the world within ourselves. Now, in reality, and in our everyday activities, both of these are going on simultaneously. Even as we are reacting to exterior phenomena, we are having interior world reactions that are happening, and even as we focus inward, we are reacting to things as they happen in the outside world.
When we sleep, the primary balance of what we are doing shifts from moving through the world as we do in the awakened state to receiving the world in our sleeping state. It is not that we are not still a little bit moving out into the world but primarily we are receiving the world when we sleep. This is one fundamental difference between being awake and asleep. We are in a more Yin, more receptive state as opposed to our awakened state, where we are more Yang, acting out into the world. When we consciously place ourselves in a meditative state, we are moving from a more active movement through the world state to the receiving the world state. In a meditative state, we may move from an inward focus to an external focus, from a moving in the world state to a receiving the world. state. There is an ebb and flow to this, perhaps moving in and out, acting on, and then receiving. Sleep is different. It is a steady movement from acting on the world to receiving the world. A steady movement from focusing and tending to the exterior world to focusing on and tending to the interior world.
This is one of the reasons, from our worldview, that makes quality sleep critically important. When we sleep we are meeting a deep primordial need to focus our attention on really cultivating, paying attention to, and tending to our inner world. When we do not have peaceful sleep when we are not cultivating quality sleep dissonances and imbalances from awake time do not get addressed and tended to. Disharmonies arise in our relationship to our interior world. These disharmonies can manifest in our awake lives as mood disorders, diffuse anxieties, stress patterns, and a variety of functional disharmonies including autoimmune and immune disorders.
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Photo Credit - Ariella Prol (child) and Jared Bistrong (lake)