The Snow Falls Still

I guess I got a bit excited last week when we had a couple of warmer days. The snow was melting and I was leaning myself optimistically into spring. But the winter spoke up again and reminded me that it is not yet through with us. Montreal saw a good deal of snow fall early yesterday, though the bitter cold of the past weeks seems to be gone. I remain optimistic as the days grow longer and the sunlight feels warmer. We make our official transition into spring this Friday as we reach the equinox.

Just about six months ago I wrote a post on the equinox – the balance of night and day – while trying to ride the momentum of the shifting seasons in ‘turning the corner’. I still find myself trying to ‘turn the corner’ now and again, often related to my food or work habits (input and output). ‘One more day of indulgence,’ a voice says, ‘and then I’ll get back into my discipline.’ I sense this voice would go on forever if we let it. Even in my most productive and disciplined phases, this voice constantly pushed for more, never satisfied. I trust we have all seen these conversations taking place in our minds. I feel it shows the duality of life. There seem to be two of ‘us’ taking part in our internal chatter. Doesn’t this seem odd? Who are we talking to? Who is responding?

In the midst of our inner tangling, however, there is a silent observation that often goes unnoticed. This is simply clear sight, not leaning one way or another, but just observing all that pops up. We are usually so caught up with our thoughts and where they might take us that we seldom appreciate the quality of pure awareness itself which makes cognition possible. But this quiet awareness – completely unbiased alert observation – is nonetheless the foundation for every thought, word and deed. This ‘ground floor’ is where I have been endeavouring to invest my attention of late. This is the process of meditation, essentially, a return to the wholeness that we already are (but may not see).

In this space all dualities come to union and rest. Their continuing play of apparent opposition is seen from a place where they never left. Every equinox and solstice, whether in our skies or in our lives, can be seen as a sign of balance, expressing itself through our oscillating nature. Every season, every tide, every ebb and flow, high and low, can come and go in this space with ease and freedom. Every duality and division, all conflict and contradiction, can be understood more deeply, equally embraced by the loving silence of clear sight, unconditioned and uncreated.

This Friday’s equinox falls in line with a new moon and a total solar eclipse. There will be no shortage of opportunity to ‘turn the corner’. Perhaps we can recommit to clearer sight and see what happens. Though only those in Greenland or Iceland will get anywhere near the full effect of the eclipse, much of Europe and North Africa will be blanketed in the shadow of the new moon, itself leaning close to earth on the perigee of its elliptical orbit. It all seems to be a chance to respect the rise and fall of seasons, on every imaginable scale – from the rise and fall of our every breath to the expansion and (inevitable?) contraction of our universe – and come in contact with that which remains solid and unswayed by the winds of change.

I try to keep this sort of thing in mind as I cross any kind of threshold.  Because on the surface, transition is all there is. It is truly constant. But just beneath our surface experience of life, it is all quietly embraced by the ‘everlasting arms’ of presence. There is a deep peace and grace issuing endlessly from this space, given freely by this inconceivable presence. This is where I want to hang out. This is where I’d like to meet you.

Seasons

I wasn’t planning to get ‘deep’ when I started writing today. I am planning to make a juice today (a lengthy and involved job) and I have a few other errands I need to run, so I was just trying to rattle off a wee entry for the week…but this is what happened. So take it lightly and in stride. I’ll do the same. 🙂

And I’ll close with a quote of Rumi’s, which I love:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

Turning The Corner

Equinox

Seasons are shifting. You may have noticed. The equinox is upon is. It is happening today – in about four hours (10:30 PM EDT). Today the sun shines directly over the equator and both day and night are equal length – twin windows of sunshine and moonlight. This turning point happens twice a year – once in March and once in September – falling directly between the solstices. The equinoxes are points of balance between the extremes of light and dark. I often stop to note these shifts and take time to appreciate the great cycle of life forever in motion. I see these moments as opportunities to check in with the quiet still-point which registers these passing phases (as if I needed more excuses for reflection.) As much as I would like to be perfectly still and observe life in effortless balance, I still find myself somewhat caught in the swing of the seasons, trying to piggy-back on its momentum to some deeper plane.

I cannot count the amount of times I have tried to ‘turn the corner’. I have been doing it for years – for as long as I can recall, really. Perhaps not all the way back into early childhood, though I cannot rule it out. My parents may be able to speak to that. I suspect that, to some extent, it is common for all of us to do this. Our recurring urge to ‘turn the corner’ arises as a desire to reset, to start again. OK. Here we go. Clean the slate. This time for real. One more shot. This perpetual impulse to ‘start fresh’ feels closely related to perfectionism (at least that’s how it feels to me). There seems to be some part of us that resists moving forward unless every step behind us has fallen faultlessly, sitting at least somewhat resolved in our rear-view mirrors.

I am hit with this feeling more often than I might like, despite trusting that every step forward is supportive. Even now, only a couple of paragraphs into writing, I have already stopped several times to consider tweaking this word or that bit of punctuation, apparently unable to carry on before feeling ‘satisfied’. I tweaked that last sentence even while discussing the very act, and then again after the fact, several times now – and this one too! This analytical impulse seems to be rooted in the desire for everything to work out ‘just so’, falling into its right place. While I have always appreciated tidiness and symmetry, at times it can become a bit compulsive. I can recall as far back as age six or seven (or whenever our family got Tetris on GameBoy), continually pausing and restarting the game after even the slightest ‘error’ (as judged by the young perfectionist-in-the-making). I wanted to set everything up just right and could not fathom one block being out of place. The same behaviour carried on through Super Mario, Golden Eye and various other games I played, pausing and restarting when any element of the level or my performance displeased me. I wanted to turn the corner and start fresh. It was a pattern that spread into parts of my life far beyond video games.  (Full disclosure – I spent about an hour playing Tetris today – for the first time in years – just at the thought of it…until I turned the corner and got back to my writing.)

Later in life, this urge asserted itself in the form of frequently committing myself to rather lofty ideals (followed just as frequently by defeats). Long before working toward any of these ideals ever occurred to me, I often got carried away visualizing my incredible (and obviously destined) success, unconsciously investing expectation in particular outcomes. As events unfolded in different directions, I would experience deadening let-down when my dreams fell to pieces. Repeating this pattern over and over exhausted me and eventually led to deepening depression and apathy, my strong idealistic streak being increasingly undermined by a lack of faith in my ability to accomplish anything important. I seemed incapable of dreaming small, and more and more incapable of chasing any dreams at all.

And yet some part of me kept emerging to ‘make a change’, to ‘set things right’. Whether it was my birthday, half-birthday, New Year’s Eve, Lent, March Break, or the third Thursday of June, I looked for any old excuse to start anew, to turn a corner. I wanted to break away from the past and really get the ball rolling once and for all. Though I had dug myself into a bit of a hole, this undying urge to ‘turn the corner’ eventually saw me make significant progress toward freedom and inner peace. I began letting go of clutter, inside and out, and found that the rough road behind me had been paving its way to peace all the way.

The key seems to be quick forgiveness, starting with ourselves. After owning up to our past shortcomings and letting go of judgement, we can see our paths resolve themselves in the rear-view mirror of our minds. Once we accept this inner forgiveness, we can effortlessly and playfully recommit to the loftiest ideals possible, knowing we may well fall off the pony a million more times, continuing to forgive and persist nonetheless. Indeed in any worthy venture, patience and persistence seem to be guiding lights.

Understanding that life is a process, accepting that we are all on journeys of learning and growth, we find a willingness to make mistakes, and a greater faculty for ‘turning the corner’ and ‘getting back on the horse’. Although I seem to need regular reminders, somehow I keep on trucking. On some level we all do, but struggling with our lulls can actually entangle us even more. I have learned this the hard way, and try not to fuss too much when good grooves take sudden turns.

Most recently, after riding the wave of a two-week juice fast into the new school year, kick-starting my writing routine after some summer fun, my lofty dreams of discipline and work fell flat. I tried to right the ship but it ran ashore. September has largely slipped away with little work done. Last week I hardly wrote at all. I slept in most days. I could feel the seasons shifting, and it made me feel heavy. A cold ran through our home and we all had the sniffles, some of us even worse. But I did my best not to wrestle with any of it, taking it in stride and trying as best I could. (Or giving up and watching a movie with a tub of hummus and a sleeve of rice cakes). Now two days into a fast, I am ‘turning a corner’ yet again, renewing my commitment to my morning regimen and riding the momentum of the equinox into a new season! The equinox is hours away and a new moon is upon us tomorrow – it feels like a truly great moment to turn the corner. Join me!  Ride the wave of the seasons!

Seasons