Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Making the Darkness Conscious

On our Nature Table: balancing stones, Wild Child by Lynn Plourde, felted acorns, red manzanita bark, and seeds of awareness

When we see inner and outer realities as a single continuum, the universe becomes a mirror.  This makes life the best teacher.  As such, our eyes have been turned towards nature all month.   

Autumn is the season of restoring balance.  It is a time for letting go and emptying our minds so that we can see with clear eyes.  It's the bittersweet end of the abundance season and the beginning of earth’s decline into the resting season.

The Autumnal Equinox takes place each year about September twenty-third. The name "equinox" is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, the night and day are approximately equally long.[i] 

This week, as we enter the time of introspection, we can also begin cultivating equanimity.  As Swiss psychologist Carl Jung explained, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”  To honor the Autumnal Equinox, we'll have a candlelight letting-go ritual this week.  Here's how: 

When unpleasant events arise, write them down.  Become aware of the sensations in your body and the feelings that accompany these situations. Do you raise your shoulders when you feel stress?  Does your stomach tighten when you are angry?  What happens to your breath when you are anxious?  Include these bodily sensations and feelings in your notes.  

Consider drawing pictures of the things in your life you would like to transform.  Examples might be impatience, judgment, negative thinking, or self-doubt.  Encourage younger children to remember a time when they felt upset, frustrated, or saddened.  Then help them identify the cause of their being upset and express it through artwork.  Very young children might express their feelings by experimenting with a variety of colored crayons or by drawing different shapes.

On the evening before the Autumnal Equinox, gather your family together around a candle that you have placed on a large plate.  Ask everyone to bring his or her drawings and words.  Explain the Equinox to your children:

"Twice per year, around March 20 or 21 and September 22 or 23, the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night are nearly equal in all parts of the world.  We call these two days the March Equinox and the September Equinox. They are the two days of the year when the light is equal to the dark.  We have light and dark within us too.  The light in us is the part that brings joy to the whole world.  The dark is the part of us that experiences sorrow.  Equinox is a perfect time for balancing the light and dark within us."

Take turns sharing what you wrote or drew.  Next, consider turning off the lights and saying a verse like, “Tonight we create a balance of darkness and light.  Tonight we make the darkness conscious.”  Then light your candle.  Take turns placing your drawings and words on the plate by the candle, symbolically bringing light to them and releasing them into the fire.  When we use rituals such as this one at home, I say something like, “let us enjoy breathing together.” Then we sit together and cherish the moment.  Before blowing out the candle, consider saying, “Now we go forward with balance.”

Remember that this exercise is also about cultivating wisdom.  Developing awareness of when equanimity is absent helps us learn how to reclaim our balance.  We cannot expect to eliminate the darkness; however, we can bring light to it with our awareness.

This (2010) equinox is also a full moon, so we've been planting intentions all week.  Try sprinkling bird seed in your garden or even on a candle plate like the one shown above.  As you release the seeds, state your intentions with a strong, clear voice. "My intention is to listen deeply and use loving speech," or "My intention is to bring balance into my home." As the moon becomes full, her energy helps bring our intentions forth from the depths of our consciousness into the tangible world of our everyday lives.

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Equanimity for Equinox

We've been counting down the days until autumn, enjoying some cool weather, and watching the moon as she grows more and more full each night.  This morning we had some fun with a leaf printing project and now we're making a double batch of Roasted Red Pepper Potato Soup with goodies from our CSA and potatoes from a friend's garden.  The windows are open, the breeze is cool, and the the smell of onions, garlic, and peppers roasting in the oven has filled every corner of the house.  

With equinox approaching, we've been discussing how, like us, the earth must rest -- and that autumn is the beginning of her resting time.  We made a big, red, autumn tree and hung it in the classroom with the title, "Equanimity Equinox."  On one side of the tree we've written, "give, rest, dark, serious, sad, night, quiet."  On the other we've written, "receive, play, light, silly, happy, day, loud."  We can't have one without the other.

I've also been reading up on Michaelmas lately.  Michael is the "greatest of all the archangels and is honored for his defeat of Lucifer in the battle for the heavens in the Bible." (from Wiki).  Waldorf schools also use Michaelmas to teach students the importance of using courage to prepare for the colder, darker, winter months.  I'd like to give this a sacred feminine twist.  Maybe we'll tweak it into a goddess subduing a dragon.  Maybe we'll just forgo this festival altogether and have our own celebration to honor Persephone's return to the underworld.

"Greek mythology tells us that, each year as Persephone left to join her husband in the underworld, the goddess Demeter would begin to grieve, bringing on the cold, barren winters.  But a few months later Persephone, the goddess associated with awakening, would return to bring spring and its verdant growth in her wake . . . thus were the seasons established."  (read more here.)

This is the beauty of archetypal stories.  The names and places change, but the message is the same.  Each of us must, for a time, plummet into darkness and face our demons.  In the darkness, we find the light.  No life can be without a measure of darkness and without it, the light would lose meaning.  In autumn we begin our descent into the dark half of the year.  We can't stop it.  All we can do is make it conscious and trust that spring will come again.  This is the how balance is created.

Still, I think it's important for our daughters to hear stories that speak directly to their experiences.  Hero stories greet us at every turn... but what of the heroine?  Persephone's story seems more fitting for us, I think.  

I guess I'm still undecided about Michaelmas.  For now we're just experiencing the change of seasons, watching the moon grow, and seeing ourselves reflected in each autumn leaf.
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