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.