Translating Ancient Chinese Wisdom into Medicine for Today

Cultivating Yin

…to contemplate and cultivate Yin…

About this Blog

Welcome and thank you for visiting with us!

We (Sabine Wilms with the assistance of Brenda Hood and Lillian Pearl Bridges) invite you to join us in a daily practice of taking a brief moment to contemplate how we might cultivate Yin right here, right now.

Our intention is to share a brief thought, statement, image, or practice regularly, as often as feels nurturing to us, so that we subtly and gradually make room for and nurture Yin in each of our personal lives, as individuals, in the creation of an intentional community, and ultimately on a cosmic level. Explore our offerings so far and, if you appreciate them, sign up for gentle little reminders of the “transformative power of Yin,” to restore a much-needed balance of Yin and Yang in our modern Yang-embracing world and culture.

Do nothing, and nothing is left undone! This project may or may not continue past its culmination in a four-day retreat on Orcas Island on October 17-20 on “The Transformative Power of Yin,” led by the three of us. We are simply going with the flow without pushing it and shall see how this evolves. You can also follow us on our Facebook page “The Transformative Power of Yin.”

Sabine WilmsComment
simple ordinariness

Strongly flavored liquor, fatty meats, pungency, and sweetness are not the true flavor. The true flavor is simply bland.

Being a miracle-working genius with extraordinary talents does not make you a fully realized person. The fully realized person is simply ordinary.



Sabine WilmsComment

In response to a Facebook message going around that equated self-care with a long list of “shoulds,” like getting up with the sun, exercising, eating healthy, doing laundry, cleaning house, and on and on, my goal for today is:

Today I shall be kind to myself and give my body, heart, and mind the love and rest they deserve.

Sabine WilmsComment

Always ask yourself:

“In what context has this been designated Yin (or Yang)?”

Brenda HoodComment
The Dao of Heaven and Earth

《黃帝內經素問:陰陽應象大論》Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, Plain Questions, Chapter Five (The Great Treatise on the Resonant Manifestations of Yin and Yang) (Sabine’s translations, published and discussed in detail in Humming with Elephants):


The Yellow Emperor said: “Yīn and Yáng! They are the Dào of Heaven and Earth! They are the guide ropes and connecting threads of the Myriad Things, the father and mother of Alterations and Transformations, the foundation and beginning of giving birth and taking life, and the Palace of the Shénmíng.

Commentary by Zhāng Jièbīn 張介賓, Lèijīng 《類經》 (“Categorized Classic”, 1624):


The Dào! It is the guiding principle of Yīn and Yáng. Yīn and Yáng are the One divided into Two. The Supreme Ultimate (tàijí), it acts and engenders Yáng; it is still and engenders Yīn. Heaven is engendered/engenders through activity; Earth is engendered/engenders through through stillness. Hence Yīn and Yáng are the Dào of Heaven and Earth.

Sabine WilmsComment
full moon night

To wonder whether a full moon night is yin, is like asking whether a white horse is a horse. Oh the folly of human language!

Sabine WilmsComment
Wading shallowly

Wading through the world shallowly, you are thus stained by it only shallowly. Stepping deeply into affair after affair, your scheming becomes deep as well.

Thus the cultivated person chooses a simpleton’s honesty over worldly sophistication, shakes off convention and restraint instead of getting bent out of shape over trifles.




(Sabine’s translation of the Càigēntán 菜根譚 (“Chatting about Vegetable Roots,” by Hóng Yīngmíng, late 16th century, with gratitude to Tom Ehrman for the suggestion.)

Sabine WilmsComment
honoring receptivity

What does a life look like that honors receptivity, not productivity? Outwardly, not much different perhaps, but I begin and end each day with gratitude for the

gifted duck eggs from my neighbors

slowing down harvest from the garden

mushrooms growing in the forest

first egg from my young chickens (not as a product from my little homestead but as a gift from nature)

lessons from the sea

insights from dreams and meditations

rather than the pages of writing I produce.

Sabine WilmsComment
stillness in the rainforest
rainforest car.jpg

Listening to my neighbor’s chainsaw killing a tree in a few hours

alternating with the stillness of the giant cedar growing outside my window

a precious reminder of the usual slowness and seasonal rhythm in my current island life, which I treasure so much, compared to my previous frantic 80-hour work week and life in the city.

I am blessed.

Sabine WilmsComment
"unopened letter from god"

Dreams are precious medicine we receive from our unconscious but only if we are quiet and wise enough to listen.

“A disregarded dream is like an unopened letter from god.” (The Talmud)

Sabine WilmsComment
Guanzi "Inner Practice" and Quieting the Qi







For this reason, this qi,

You cannot stop it with physical strength,

And yet you can quiet it with your inner power;

You cannot call it with your voice,

And yet you can welcome it with intention/awareness.

(Guanzi, Nei Ye《管子,內業》”Inner Practice”, Sabine’s translation)

Sabine WilmsComment
understanding change

Fixing Yin and Yang as specific designations to some thing removes our ability to use Yin and Yang to understand the transitions within an entity that maintain the integrity and sustainability of that entity.

Brenda HoodComment
Guanzi “Inner Practice” on Stilling the Heart





Always, the Dao has no fixed dwelling place.

[But] in a heart of cultivated goodness, it quiets and settles down.

When the heart is still and the qi patterned,

The Dao is then able to be stopped.

(Guanzi, Neiye 《管子,內業》 “Inner Practice, Sabine’s translation)

Sabine WilmsComment
Savoring Drops of Stillness

Stillness is not just the absence of noise. It must be savored drop by drop, to plumb its depth and experience its luscious richness. Like the darkness of a new moon night in the rainforest, which from the inside of a lit room looks just black, absent of light, but after a few minutes of drinking it in reveals itself as a complete world of rich shades and hues.

Sabine WilmsComment
Re-Sonance and Purring Cat Therapy
kitten closeup.jpg

Living with PTSD has been a challenge and a gift, because every time it demands my attention, I am forced to contemplate my relationship with the external world and to consciously restore a harmonious “re-sonance” between my internal and external environment.

Resonance, humming, vibrations, in most people this happens constantly, unconsciously. That is the power of music and other “positive vibrations.” People like me just have to work a little harder and get help from a cat purring on my heart.

Sabine WilmsComment
dumping judgment

As soon as we start dumping judgment on Yin and Yang, we lose the value of Yin and Yang as a way of understanding the greater whole.

Brenda HoodComment
Counting Bunnies

I have a lovely older wise friend, an incredibly educated and knowledgeable man with a long life of activism, who I am so fortunate to get together with on rare occasions.

I would love to ask him a million questions about his important, path-breaking work in pushing the boundaries of standard medical care in pediatrics, oncology, nutrition, psychology, etc. And yet, we go for a walk instead and our main focus, besides stopping to enjoy the always gorgeous view of the Langley harbor and Camano passage in silence, is on counting the bunnies.

We got 77 yesterday. A good day.

Sabine WilmsComment
Yin harmonizing with Yang

From Chǔ Shì Yí Shū 褚氏遺書 (Posthumous Writings of Master Chǔ), a now lost text from the Southern Qí dynasty (479-502 CE):


Even though blood belongs to the category of Yīn, for its movement, it must harmonize with Yáng.

Sabine WilmsComment