How can the Spring Equinox help us as we come out of the pandemic?
As many of you know, I like to write a blog at each of the major turning points of the year, and we have recently passed the Spring Equinox (last Saturday). I had planned to publish this on Saturday, but the more I thought about the equinox, the more I realised the need for deeper contemplation.
The equinoxes are times of balance
The Spring and Autumn equinoxes are the only times in the year when day and night appear equal all over the world; it is a time of balance between dark and light uniquely shared during just these two points in the year when the world is connected through this event of equal sharing. This event follows the equilux, just a few days earlier, when day and night are exactly equal at different points around the world. So, we have a local time of exact balance followed by a worldwide event of apparent balance.
In the Celtic tradition the spring equinox was associated with the Goddess Ēostre, from whom the Christian name for the festival of Easter was taken, and was a time for self-reflection and re-birth after the long, dark winter. It is the cusp from which we can step into the lengthening days after the darkness and isolation of winter and begin to plan for the year ahead: seeds were sown, marriages arranged and solemnised, animals were born. Life, which had been on hold for the winter months, could begin again.
It was also a time for balance and our ancestors saw the astral balance between dark and light as a power to be harnessed for our own good. The balance between life and death, mother and father, heaven and earth; all was in harmony and was equal. It was a time of reflection on our own lives and where balance was needed.
How can the equinox help us today?
Today we face many of the predicaments that would have been faced by our ancestors but for different reasons. We still experience inequality in our society, we still rely on the movement of the seasons for our existence, and this year in particular we are mourning those we have lost and considering how to move from isolation back into society.
As we make decisions about how we want to do that, what feels safe and what doesn’t feel safe, what we are ready for and what we are not ready for, we can draw on this ancient wisdom of taking time to reflect and giving ourselves the space we need. Just as a plant doesn’t shoot up out of the ground from nowhere, but rises tentatively at first and then blooms when the time is right for it, we need to do the same. We need to emerge from our long darkness with care, consideration and kindness.
This is the perfect time to reflect on how we want to live in the new world we are facing. How do we want to work? To Socialise? What are our priorities now? As human beings we have changed our world faster than our brains or bodies have been able to evolve. We are bombarded with stimuli that constantly trigger the ancient fear centres of the brain and our modern threats are subtle and complicated. This is an opportunity for all of us to consider what kind of world we want to inhabit.
Whatever any of us believe privately about the afterlife, as this individual being living here now, this is the one chance we have to live a life that is meaningful and gives pleasure to ourselves and others whenever possible. To quote the wonderful poet, Mary Oliver, ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’
Try this exercise:
Take a few moments to arrive, maybe focusing on your breathing, your feet on the floor, and your hands in your lap.
Reflect on those areas of your life that bring you most pleasure and are most rewarding and allow yourself to feel gratitude for these. They may be very simple things such as the smell of coffee, the sound of a bird and so on.
Now reflect on those things that create barriers, that reduce the opportunities for these experiences. They may external factors such as time spent working, or internal such as missing the opportunity for a pleasant experience because of time spent worrying about work.
Now consider where small changes could be introduced to bring more balance into your life. This may be simply taking your coffee somewhere quiet and enjoying it without distraction; even if you are working at the same time, stop and enjoy each sip and then continue.
Finally, make a note of your reflections and form an intention to make whatever changes are needed remembering to be kind to yourself about how and when you will introduce these. You may want to write something like ‘I am giving myself more opportunities to enjoy simple pleasures’, ‘I am taking care that I am not overwhelmed by agreeing to too many events’.
Thich Nhat Hanh is often quoted as saying, ‘If you miss the present moment you miss your appointment with life. That is very serious.’ So maybe this is an opportunity for us to ensure that we design our lives so that as much as possible we can be fully engaged in what matters to us.
However you choose to emerge into the lengthening days, come out of isolation or return to work and education, I wish you joy, peace and health, and a very happy Easter. With love, Natalie.