I am someone for whom it took a long time to settle into a life of balance. As a child I lived very much at the mercy of my emotions. I threw enormous tantrums and I was enormously stubborn (possibly that hasn’t changed…) As a young adult, my unwieldy emotional life morphed into a life of cyclical depression. Far from removing my emotions, depression just put a damper on both ends of my ability to feel emotions—the “good” as well as the “bad.”
Healing, for me, has meant being willing to lift the damper of depression and reopen my capacity to feel and experience the full range of human feelings and experiences. It’s required that I develop a new understanding and relationship to what it means to be in balance.
It seems to me there’s this idealized image out there that a life in balance looks like that serene surface of the undisturbed pond, that equanimous Buddha sitting in stillness. What’s not included in those classic images, though, is that the reality of life in a body is a journey of cycles and seasons across a vast spectrum of pleasurable and unpleasurable experiences. Though much of spiritual heritage, in practice, has focused on escaping this inevitable flux, the heart of many spiritual traditions, and specifically, some lineages of yogis would say that this pulse, this swing of expansion and contraction, ecstasy and agony, is actually and simply the true expression of the Goddess’ movement in the world.
When I grasped after a sense of balance that was free of emotional disturbance, I actually gave up my felt sense of aliveness. This has brought me to reconsider that balance is not holding some static fixed point at some perceived or idealized center. Rather, I’m trying to re-imagine approaching balance as simply the ability to move to the extremes of manifest reality skillfully and with the wisdom to know that whatever we are in is passing. There will always be a swinging back to the other side, and there is a center point being held.
The Equinox, as are all the Holy Days of our journey around the sun, is a valuable symbol of this understanding of balance. When the duration of night is equal to the duration of day, it can be a time to practice really taking a look at and celebrating equally both the parts of ourselves that dwell in dream-space and the unconscious (sometimes this is referred to as “the shadow”) and the parts we are conscious of and find most easy to love. It can also be a time to examine where we are living in extremes—and rather than enforce rushing out of those extreme places, to be curious about them and take a wider look around to consider where the counterweight is already dwelling.
Consider the following ways of observing the Spring Equinox, or get creative with your own and let me know! I’d love to hear about them!
Five Ways to Observe the Spring Equinox:
- Spend time in Liminal Space. Liminal means “on the threshold”. All the seasons offer an energetic threshold that we cross over. Any threshold requires that some things be left behind—think about taking off your shoes or shedding a coat upon entering your house—and also offer opportunities to enter into something completely new. Think of the days post-due date where a pregnant woman waits for her baby to come: I’ve heard more than one friend talk about this weird waiting time, where you’re not sure if you should wait around or go about your normal routine, because things could change any second. Liminal space is feminine space, where not much perceivable “doing” is happening but where a lot is being done. At the Equionox, the liminal spaces are can literally be marked by the dark and light: find out what time sunrise is, and consider sitting quietly somewhere where you can observe the transition from night into day, and then again in the evening, from day into night.
- Observe and collect relics from the natural world for use in rituals later on. Anything collected on this day will hold the energy of equinox: light and darkness balanced, and the poised energy of spring that pushes down and wide (rooting) and up and out (sprouting). Observing and gathering objects from nature (with their permission of course) creates small concentrated forms of that energy that can be used like spiritual vitamins at other times of the year. This year I collected a handful of cedar cones and have them drying on my windowsill, where they continue to absorb the light, dark, and energy of this season. I pray for their blessing each time I see them, and shared a few for intention setting in my last New Moon Dream Circle.
- Create intention around balance. What’s out of balance? Go through each area of your life: your body and physical health; your work/vocation; your relationships; your spiritual well-being; your engagement in the full spectrum of life. What has swung out of balance that’s ready to be evened out? Where is there support already to do that, or how can you set up the support needed? See if you can be really kind in your assessment, and be watchful for perfectionistic tendencies that want to “improve” you. Balance might just mean having a softer attitude towards what’s already present.
- Get Moving. Spring is the start of the astrological year, and though we’re conditioned to make January 1st our “resolution” time, the natural world doesn’t really get rolling until about now. So assess what’s been incubating over the dreamy months of winter, and ready to start putting out roots and shoots. It might take applying a little more effort than the cozy winter months needed. Start your days motivated by making BREATH your first meal. Stand outside or near an open window and just take deep breaths, or try an invigorating breath practice like Breath of Fire.
- Mark it as a holy day with your children. As the old paradigm of patriarchy, and the institutions upholding it, crumble, the next generation is going to need tools, symbols, and stories with which to live and create the new world. Take some time with your little people to do any of the above, or just stand on the earth barefoot and breath. Because seasonal transitions can be a little destabilizing (ruled by the air and space elements, according Ayurveda) try this simple song with your kiddos to ground and reset. Or bring the whole family to the next Circle Round.
The ancient ones knew that the Equinox, and each of the Earth’s Holy Days, were powerful seasons that could connect us to deeper, vaster, more awake, aspects of ourselves and creation. It’s time for us to remember.
(Check out upcoming celebrations of Earth's Holy Days here.)