Essential Balance

Today is the Spring Equinox . . . an equal measure of light and darkness in our days. Exactly halfway between the first light of Imbolc/Groundhog Day and the fertility festival of Beltane/May Day. Exactly halfway between Winter and Summer Solstice.

It’s time for weighing in.

I’d venture to say it’s been a rough winter – a rough year for many, but definitely a difficult winter. Most of us have never been forced to endure the entire dark season without a holiday, a community gathering, a show, or even a family potluck. It’s absolutely unprecedented. Even for those of us who are introverted hermits, the lack of community presence has felt significant.

I think a lot of people have learned something, though, from this hard time. People are absorbing the lesson of what it means to be family, as we’ve had to stick to our “bubble” and learn to get along with the folks in our midst, instead of always running off to hang out with someone else.

People are also turning toward their own natural environment to find satisfaction and inspiration. Everywhere I turn, my favourite nature spots are increasingly populated – to the extent that I find myself needing to search out new quieter spaces. At the same time as I’ve been frustrated by it, I think it’s also a sign that folks are finding solace in their own collective backyard, since they can’t escape on a holiday vacation to some other country.

We’re learning something about tuning into what is right near us and with us.

Even though our society is rife with manufactured distractions and temptations to escape, we are discovering that the deepest satisfaction lies in connection with self, other and Nature. No distraction or temptation can overcome that truth, no matter how hard we try to escape it.

I found myself railing against a lot of things over this past year. Needing to be present to the members of my family who were suffering from mental health issues due to Covid, I was frustrated by own resistance. I wanted my independence, I wanted for everything to be normal and for everyone to just sort themselves out.

But I was needed. A lot. It took a lot of decision-making, attentiveness and work, to learn the lesson of growing into a better family member, a better adult, a better mother.

Everyone’s always talking about self-help and “doing the work”. It comes across as being some kind of noble path. It even comes off as being sort of fun, interesting and pleasurable. But actually, it feels hard and annoying to have to really look at yourself and understand your own selfishness or the ways that you’re deeply misguided. Even when you do notice, it remains difficult and takes a lot of adjustment to correct the pathways you’ve carved that are harmful and ungiving.

In the biggest way, this Covid era has given us all, as individuals and as a society, the opportunity to reckon with ourselves. We’re being asked to strike a new balance between self and other, self and Nature, self and spirit.

It seems like we’ve created a world where people can just do and build and create whatever they want to, for the goal of having wealth, freedom and entertainment. Everyone wants these things, of course, so we’ve created a system of rights where it’s possible to pursue them, pretty much regardless of the cost to the environment or to the human collective. We like to think there are laws that protect both, but they are pretty minimal actually.

I think instead of striving desperately to go “back to normal”, we need to take this opportunity to reset the balance. How do our actions contribute to endless distraction and mindlessness? How do our choices contribute to environmental degradation – as simple as getting on a plane for a vacation once a year? How does our penchant for freedom and independence affect our young people and their mental health? Is it really good to be able to do and have pretty much whatever we want? Is it really beneficial to be able to order anything from Amazon and have it delivered to your doorstep within a few days? Is it really okay to still be eating at McDonalds? I mean, really?

The answers are uncomfortable and inescapable.

But if we allow for a rest here, balancing between winter darkness and summer light, between the first stirrings and the full fruition, we can find the peace that passes understanding. It’s possible to let go of how we wish it was, and settle into how it is. This is where appreciation starts. Even if the edge is a bit painful, this is where the learning begins.

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