Emotional Wisdom series

Solstice: Honoring the Cycles and Rhythms of Life

We are on the cusp of the solstice…

Whether you are in the northern hemisphere, where the sun is at its most effulgent, or in the south, where it is most reticent, this pausing of the sun in its path is a potent time that invites us to remember the many natural cycles that imbue our lives. In our modern culture we have become so disconnected from these rhythms. Most of us bury our noses in our devices, seeking virtual connection, rather than going outside to notice where the sun is, to watch the cloud beings and smell for the changes afoot, to look to the moon in the dark sky and allow her phases to inform us. What would it be like if we were more connected to these cycles?

We do all have our experiences of this recognition: a moment when we happen to look up and see the shimmering mystery of the full moon, or when we take a few minutes to watch a sunrise or sunset. These encounters carry an inexplicable sense of connection, a feeling of peace or joy. However, most of us do not have a consistent way to relate to these natural cycles of the living world. We lose ourselves in the mind-dominated trance of our devices and media and then, disconnected from our body, our heart and from nature, we wonder why we feel so stressed.

I struggle with this myself but I have a saving grace; a wildly energetic and joyful, car-chasing dog! Smokey cannot be let out unsupervised and so it is that I walk out into the woods every single day, regardless of the weather or my own inclinations. This is a magical time for me. A time to be with the rhythms of the natural world, to know the path of the sun as it shifts through the months, to follow the intricate changes as all the living beings respond to the seasons. It is my time to listen and feel and just be. And then, of course, there comes the evening time when Smokey needs to go out for the last pee of the day, and there is the moon, ever-shifting through its phases, continually tugging at the tides of the ocean, the sap of the plants, the blood in our bodies.

Why should we care about these cycles?

What is the gift of this awareness? It allows us to regain a sense of wholeness, balance and relationship. A huge part of our dis-ease in modern culture comes from our sense of isolation and disconnection from each other and from the living world that has created us. We are starving for real connection and yet we seek it in the shallow liaisons of social media. The rhythms and cycles of the natural world invite us to enter into a real relationship of reciprocity; to offer our acknowledgement, gratitude and respect and to receive nourishment, acceptance and healing. In this way we can re-establish alignment and connection in our lives.

We have so much to learn from these other-than-human relationships. Above all, they show us how to move with the inexorable changes that are part of our life: the tides of emotion and physical energy, the shifting sands of life circumstances, the alternating winds of success and failure, of pleasure and pain, of joy and sorrow.

The rhythmic sequence of daylight and darkness remind us of the cycles of energy and fatigue in our body. We’ve been socialized to believe we must be continually active and productive in order to prove our worth. We push through our fatigue in service to the imperatives of our ‘list’. The consequence is often exhaustion, stress or various forms of dis-ease.

The ever-shifting patterns of weather reflect our emotional weather, ever changing in response to life. We tend to see rain as negative, just as we view sadness as depressing and a ‘downer’. But rain is life. It sustains the living world; and the so-called ‘negative’ emotions are all part of a fully lived human experience. Just as it is not sustainable for the weather to be sunny all the time, we are not designed to be happy all the time. The weather of our emotions is full of wisdom, informing us and moving us to respond effectively in relationships and life situations.

The inexorable cycles of the seasons teach us about the phases of our life: The spring energy of creativity and manifestation. The periods of expansiveness and fruition akin to summer. The times of fall when we need to release and let go of who, and what, must pass. The winter phases when life seems fallow and apparently nothing is happing but when, in hindsight, we realize that there was some process of gestation happening deep beneath the surface. Once again, in the name of staying ‘positive’ and ‘productive’, we resist these inevitable seasons of life. Then, when we are not happy and productive, we may feel we are failing according to these dysfunctional cultural norms.

Learning to Connect…

So how can we connect with the cycles of the divine, living world and allow them to nourish and guide us to living more sustainably? Here are a few possibilities and perhaps you can find your own ways to honor this relationship.

Spend time in nature! Even just a few minutes each day. Sit and watch the sun play with the clouds, listen to the birds, feel the interplay of the elements around you.

Your body is part of the natural world. Follow its rhythms. When you have energy, use it well. When you are tired, give yourself permission to slow down or take a little rest. We are the only animal that has forgotten how to rest.

Honor all the expressions of the weather beings and, in the same way, acknowledge the weather of your emotions rather than judging and shunning them. Give up the ridiculous notion you’ve been taught that you are supposed to be happy all the time. You’re not. You are designed to be afraid in the face of danger, to be sad in the event of loss, and to be angry in response to violation or manipulation. And you will be happy when you feel a sense of connection to the human and other-than-human beings around you.

Connect to the primal rhythm of your breath. It is always there for you, reminding you of the unending cycle of reciprocity; “inspiration” – breathing in spirit and oxygen from the living world and “exhalation” – releasing, letting go and offering nourishment back to the plant beings.

When faced with a long list of ‘to-do’s’, ask yourself “what do I feel like doing, what am I called to do?”, rather than “what should I do?”. There is a time for everything. Allow yourself to follow the rhythm of your heart’s guidance rather than the questionable imperatives of the ego-mind.

Remember that the one constant in life is change and learn to let go and move with the inevitable tides, seasons, phases and rhythms of life.

Or, if all else fails, get a joyful, precocious car-chasing dog that can’t go off-leash!

Ultimately this is not just in service of our own personal fulfillment. It is about entering into a relationship of respectful reciprocity and deep listening. The myriad other-than-human beings do respond when we pause to recognize and honor them. The breeze that picks up at a significant moment, the birds or the peepers who sing or become silent in rhythm with the situation, the spark of the fire that pops and leaps in time with a poignant thought or word. These beings are listening to us just as we can listen to them. And now, more than ever, they need our respect and our protection. This is an imperative for the survival of our species along with the countless others that are facing extinction. In simple, practical, daily ways we can turn away from choices that add to disconnection and mind-centered individualism and turn towards small acts that contribute some much-needed gratitude and respect and which nourish ourselves, each other and the living world.

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