Authored by Leanna Heffner
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, March 20th marks the Spring Equinox, and brings us an opportunity to cultivate a sense of balance and awakening into our awareness and daily practices. The vernal equinox has long been celebrated by many traditions as a time to connect with the cycle of the seasons, when not only daylight and darkness find themselves as equals, but as the light continues to grow in length and intensity, all living beings begin to stir and awaken, energetically moving towards summer when the activities of growth, fecundity, playfulness, harvesting, and exploration reaches its peak. During the Spring Equinox, we find ourselves nearing the end of winter, a time that steeps us in stillness, contemplation, deep pauses, and an inward quiet…wrapping us in the cloak of darkness, the blanket of snow, the coziness of finding warmth within the cold.
(art by Melissa A. Benson)
And this winter was like no other in the modern world, when the pandemic has brought our previously buzzing, fast-paced world to a near halt. Six months ago at the Fall Equinox – and 6 months into this pandemic – we found ourselves still adjusting to a new reality, learning how to navigate a time in the world when so many norms were wiped cleanly away.
As we entered this winter, many of us wondered exactly what the season would bring. Perhaps you found a quiet stillness within this winter that took you deeper into a path of spirit and intention. Perhaps you found your shadows awaiting you to engage in a long dance while enduring dark times. Perhaps you were finding ways to adjust and keep the ship running, as it were, pushed to the max and without time to find the pauses or the quiet muffled stillness of winter.
Whatever your experience this past winter, and this past year - you have arrived, as you do every moment, at this particular moment. And so, take a moment to pause and reflect. What are you bringing to this moment? What are you carrying in your heart and in your breath?
From this extraordinary time in the world, the pandemic has made an indelible impact on us all. We have been pushed out of our comfort zones and find ourselves in a time of transformation, in which our world will never be the same. Just as spring is a time of transformation, the world is being made anew. This is a momentous time in history and a profound time of change in which we see the calls for social justice mounting, the growing calls for connection and care of our Earth and home, the awakening to finally and truly see how our fast-paced lives have robbed of us the presence and rootedness that a slower and simpler life provides.
As we move through this Spring Equinox, shifting from the darkness of winter into the bursting blossoms of spring, the time is ripe for planting the seeds of how we want to show up for this time in our lives. We can ask ourselves: how do we want to encounter this time of transition – both in this spring season but also in this pivotal time in the world and in our lives? How can we be fully present throughout this transition, feeling into the extremes of lightness and darkness, day and night, winter and summer, stillness and movement, while also finding balance and grounding? Just as the Equinox finds balance between two extremes, the light and the dark, how can we create space in our lives to flow through these extremes without hanging onto long for one? Where can we let go of the old ways and attachments that no longer serve us? In which ways can we cultivate adaptability yet steadfastness? How can we do the hard work to bring our society into better alignment, to create a more just and equitable world, to find deeper connection and care?
While these are questions that you can attempt to answer in your mind, using your intellect and thought, the answers also lie within your practices of embodiment: yoga, breathwork, dance, walking, meditation. They do not require, nor should they be tied to fully formed thoughts, words, or verbal intentions. Hone in on your practices, ground yourself in finding balance and unity through your breath and your body. Your embodied practices remain steadfastly at your fingertips, to invoke at any time you need them.
Over the next few weeks, you can spend some time exploring practices to bring a sense of balance and help you tap into deeper knowing. In your asana practice, for example, take extra time to root yourself in balancing poses (such as tree pose, half moon, crescent lunge, eagle, warrior III). Mindfully ground yourself in stillness and intention in mountain pose, first finding your breath and feeling your feet fully planted, before moving into the balanced pose with a slow and purposeful intention. Allow the space and acceptance for swaying and falling without judgement. Perhaps close your eyes or move your arms, while deepening your breath, in the midst of your pose. Cultivate awareness of what you are bringing forth into that moment, what are you carrying in your heart – can you both hold what is in your heart and honor it, while also observing it with non-attachment?
Certain pranayama, or breathing practices, can also be powerful in bringing us into alignment and balance. Sama Vritti, which consists of equal breaths, can be done by invoking long and slow breathes in and out of the nose, with the length of the inhale equaling the length of the exhale. Nadi Shodhana pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing, is also often used to bring in a sense of calm, equanimity, and to balance prana (energy) throughout the body.
Lastly, we can take this time to bring our selves home, to that from which we are and we came from is an important way to regularly root ourselves – by stepping outside and into the natural world. Going for walks, looking up at the moon, breathing in the crisp air, readying ourselves to dig in the dirt. All are healing and all are needed.
As you feel the natural world awakening this spring, give yourself every opportunity to join in and reconnect to all of that of which you are a part. The trees, the mountains, the streams, the boulders, the stars, the dirt, the sunshine, the creatures, you and I...feeling within your body mind and spirit: So hum, hum sa. I am that.