Today, Sept 22 marks the Autumn Equinox. A time of year when the tilt of the earth is neither towards nor away from the sun. We experience this as having equal amounts of daylight hours, to nighttime hours. In fact, the name "equinox" is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night).
Equinox is literally a time of balance - the earth is balanced on its axis, and light/dark is balanced. It can also be viewed as a time to reflect upon the metaphorical balance within our lives. The key word being balance – a state of equilibrium, steadiness, stability, and harmony.
Taking a moment to reflect on your life, in what areas do you feel balanced? Unbalanced? In the realms of grief and suffering, do you feel able to compassionately find balance between the darkness and lightness of your experience?
In reflecting on the possibility of balancing the darkness and light of your life, it’s important to humbly remember that you can’t have one without the other. The depth of your grief (darkness) reflects the depth of your love (light). You wouldn’t see the light of the moon if the sky weren’t dark. You would never experience the bright warmth of a spring thaw, if you didn’t endure a cold dark winter. When you think back to a joyful memory of a loved one, you may laugh and then cry because both the joy and the pain are equally valuable representations of the effect of that person’s life on your own.
I’ve come to know that darkness is the chair on which light sits.
I remember the first time I felt “light” after Cam died. It was during a meditation and yoga retreat. We were doing a walking meditation, and I noticed an overwhelming sense of lightness and openness in my hips. I felt like I was floating, but at the same time so deeply connected to my body. I was completely entranced by this feeling of lightness – it felt new, different, and wonderful compared to the darkness that had overtaken my life for the previous 6 months. In those moments, the feeling of lightness and openness in my hips, morphed into such gratitude and wonder at the miracle of my body, and the depth of sensation. It was such a striking contrast to the heaviness and disconnection I had been feeling. I remember feeling both surprised and hopeful that there was joy buried beneath the layers of grief.
Despite this good feeling/bad feeling perception, I have learnt that healing grief requires movement towards your pain and suffering…which means an intentional willingness to embrace your pain and sit in darkness. Dark Night of The Soul stuff. That, however, doesn’t eliminate the opportunity for finding some light. Even if it’s just noticing the warmth of the sun on your back, watching a bird float on the breeze, eating a tart juicy raspberry. In fact, it’s those moments of mindfulness and awareness that can bring much reprieve and calm in the middle of a storm.
It was a wonderful lesson, feeling light in my walking meditation. For me, it has been a practice in “intentional attention,” because, for some reason, it seems that pain is more noticeable, and more easily remembered than feelings of contentment or ease or happiness. Simply making that observation has been instrumental in giving experiences that are light more focused attention. I’m more open to noticing it, and intentional about really experiencing it.
I believe that yoga and meditation are doorways into experiencing balance. You develop physical, muscular and postural balance. You learn ways to bring lightness and openness to the body – through movement and breath. You develop equanimity towards your emotions and thoughts by experiencing their flow, and their impermance. Perhaps most importantly, you are invited to slow down enough to notice it all.
The equinox is the perfect time to reflect on balance in your life. In Autumn, it’s an opportunity to look backward to reflect on the fullness and abundance of your harvest; and look ahead into the next season of fading sunlight and increasing darkness and contemplating what that means in your life as well.
Why is this important? Because when we are in a state of balance we are stronger, steadier and more able to find resilience within ourselves. And I think everyone would agree, feeling good feels good. Part of loving yourself, is giving yourself permission to do just that!
Make space to hold both.
Be courageous, care for others, a hero lives in you.
- Allison Crowther -
I went to our city's 9/11 Memorial Service and Fire Fighters Memorial today. One of the first speakers to speak, made a point that has stood out for the rest of my day and has impacted my perspective immensly. She said, for as much tragedy that there is in this world there is as much help, heros, love and support.
It's obvious, we live in a world where fear, tragedy and loss is all to prevalent and common. You can't watch the news without hearing something devastating. It's easy to get wrapped up, and immobilized in the fear and heart- break of it all.
Seeing all the Fire Fighters at the memorial - both on duty, off duty and retired, was a timely reminder that there are heros in our midst, all the time! There are people who put their lives on the line to save others. There are people who hold hands in solidarity. People who pray. People who hug. People who love. People who protect. People who are in service to others out of altruism and compassion. There is goodness. There is light. There is hope.
It was beautiful and heart warming how members of the Fire Service, families and friends came out today to recognize all those who have lost their lives. All the brothers and sisters who give so much of themselves, for the well being of others.
Time was taken to remember the lives of all Edmonton Fire Department members who have died in the line of duty - their names were called and a bell rung in their honour. All members who have died in the past year - their families were presented with a flag and again, a bell was rung in their honour.
It was such a wonderful visusal to have row after row of Fire Fighters, in their Dress Uniforms marching in formation and standing behind and standing for their comrades, and families who were receiving recognition today.
We remembered 9/11 and all the lives lost. We remembered the 19 Fire Fighters who were killed in Arizona this summer. We remembered. By remembering we honour.
Re-member. We re-organize. We re-live. We re-member ourselves as communities. As families. As co-workers. When we remember, we re-member ourselves and others.
The whole ceremony was so touching. The music of the bag-pipes and drums moved me to tears. Just like it's supposed to - music moves us from our heads to our hearts, from thinking to feeling. The formality of the Fire Fighters in formation was both humbling and awe inspiriing. Seeing the active duty crews and retirees show up and be present was a show of solidarity, and support for one and for all.
I left feeling sad for all the lives lost and acknowleged and remembered. I also felt hopeful. Hopeful that as long as communities such as these come together each year to remember and honour those lives lost through ceremony and ritual, the lives of those whose death affected will be so much more supported and rich as a result. Hopeful that these honouring traditions will take root in more areas of our communities and even families. Hopeful that love can be spread from person to person, city to city, country to country in showing of support in grief and loss.