Modern life, especially modern life in an office, means detachment from nature and its cycles. We wake up in a house, walk into a car, walk into an office, then back into the car and back into the house. Sunshine, rain, and wind fail to change how our days progress. Weather and changing seasons matter little from the 20th floor of an office building. Working in Phoenix in the summer, I had to carry a winter coat to work because it was so cold inside the building even though it was 110 degrees outside. But the Earth shifts and changes, and it has a lot to teach us if we tune in.
This week, however, we had an equinox, one of the four times a year when the seasons officially change, and for a brief moment, we think about the earth and its cycles. Generally, I think only of the seasons changing in the northern hemisphere. From my brief internet research, about 90% of the world’s population lives in the northern hemisphere. Here in New Zealand, however, we just celebrated the fall equinox. As the world’s bloggers were talking about rebirth, I am watching the sky turn gray and the weather turn cold. It does not feel like the rebirth the rest of the world is experiencing.
But yoga provides another perspective. The equinoxes are the points of transition for the Earth. They are our reminders that as one part of the world is in a state of rebirth, the other is in a state of shedding that which does not support it. As the leaves fall off the trees and the wind starts to blow stronger, we know that on the other side of winter, we will be experiencing the rebirth that we see in the northern hemisphere. In other words, we notice the cycle, the same cycle that affects us whether we pay attention or not.
But this recognition that the Earth goes through both stages at once is our reminder that so do we, as individuals. We can get stuck in our northern hemisphere view that it is spring, or we can open up and feel that at all moments, we are struggling to find the balance between letting go and rebirth. The image that keeps coming to mind is the phoenix, who must burn into ashes and from those ashes is reborn into a strong bird once again.
So, even though we see and experience only one or the other at a time, either spring or fall, both are impacting the Earth at the same time, and therefore both are affecting each and every one of us. Yoga is a reminder to tune back into the changing patterns of the Earth and ourselves. As we take the time to notice our own bodies, our own breath, and our own reactions to life, we can learn to tune into the way the Earth’s cycles affect us.
Yoga also teaches us about balance. There are particular balance postures, where you are standing on one foot, but there is also the balance between strength and flexibility, the balance between responding and reacting, and the balance between tuning in to our internal awareness and being affected by that which hits us externally.
Thus, it may be easy to ignore the cycles of the Earth, to go from the house to the car to the office where you need a winter coat even though it is sauna-like outside. But for a moment, tune in and notice that the Earth is able to hold letting go and rebirth together, as it transitions to fall down below and spring up above. What areas of your life do you want to allow to fall off, burn to ashes, so you can allow them to rebirth into something stronger and more useful to you?
Happy Fall and Happy Spring.
© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved
This blog is not affiliated with Fulbright or Fulbright New Zealand, and all opinions expressed herein are my own.