Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

Approaching Autumn Equinox: Reflecting on Balance

in Classes & Workshops, Wheel of the Year

Two views of Chimney Rock, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

(I wrote this Reflection for the first week of my e-course Gaian Soul Practices for Autumn Equinox: Harvest Home. It stirred up quite a conversation in the class forum on the subject of stress, passion, and balance in our lives. I’d love to hear your comments on it, too.)

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together . . .

— Ecclesiastes 3:1-6

At Autumn Equinox, day and night are held in equal balance, with the Dark ascending.

We have come to the exact opposite point on the Wheel of the Year from Spring Equinox six months ago, when Light was ascending. Even as we bask in the sunshine of the last warm days, we notice the lengthening nights, and we pull our wool sweaters out of the closet and make plans to winterize our homes.

Herbalist Julie Charette Nunn wrote this on Facebook recently:

I am having a cup of black tea with wild rose petals this morning. I can see my goats when I look out the window. I am cultivating peace today. Now, journeys, meditation and gratitude practice. Later, fermenting some cucumbers with whey and salt. I must say I like the waning moon, when the energy has risen, when the wild manifestations are complete and there is time to rest and return. Peace.

I love Julie’s description of the balance of her day: time for work and time for contemplation.

But some days, you need to put in long, long hours (I had one of those just yesterday). And other days, you can unplug and go off and play, all day long.

As I was reflecting on the theme of balance, it occurred to me to turn once again to the wisdom of Mama Gaia. I noticed that there are only two days a year when everything is held in balance — at Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox. (There are also two days a month in the lunar cycle when light and dark are in balance — at the First Quarter Moon and Last Quarter Moon.)

This balance is fleeting. It doesn’t last long. Between the two points of perfect balance on the Wheel of the Year, everything is change. In the Spring, each day brings more light and we enter the time of activity and external pursuits. In the fall, the darkness gathers and we are drawn to inner reflection, quiet, and rest.

Some say that balance is overrated, that no one ever accomplished anything great by having a balanced life.

When speaking of the life/work balance that so many of us worry about, life coach Danielle LaPorte says that passion is the antidote to stress, not balance.

I think there’s some truth to that.

But even though passion fuels us, it can also burn us out.

And so, we turn to the beauty of living according to the rhythm of the seasons.

For a time, in a metaphorical summer phase of our lives, we can work from dawn till dusk (a very long day in summer!), following our heart’s passion or working to achieve a goal. Then the tide turns, we stop at the point of balance and listen to our inner voice. The metaphorical Autumn comes, we celebrate our accomplishments, and slow down. We turn within. We begin to rest, savor, and dream.

But a problem rises when we stay too long on either side of the metaphorical, equinoctial lines.

When I wrote about the Bindweed card in the Gaian Tarot, I said it represented a life out of balance. Something is taking up more than its fair share of time, attention, and energy. It could be profligacy of some kind, and we never allow ourselves to swing back to austerity, then come back to center. For example, for me, eating too many carbohydrates and sweets leads to weight gain, fatigue, and a feeling of sluggishness. If I never course-correct by cutting back on the foods I love but that don’t love me, I’ll end up with chronic health problems. Currently I’m eating quite austerely, to balance out a summer of eating whatever I pleased.

Sometimes, if you’re in a Bindweed phase, you have to swing all the way over to the other side in order to bring it all back into balance. That’s what a diet does. That’s what rehab does. It’s what a retreat does. It’s what being seized with creative passion does. But you don’t stay there forever. Those phases last only for awhile.

I see the dance of balance as one where we are constantly waxing, waning, and coming back to center.

This week, as we approach the darkening, restful time of the year, I encourage you to contemplate the place of balance in your life, and to develop a new relationship with it.

What does balance mean to you?


Watch Bruce Springsteen & Roger McGuinn perform Pete Seeger’s tune, “Turn Turn Turn,” based on the lines I quoted from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

(If you liked this post, you will probably really enjoy my Gaian Soul Practices for Autumn Equinox: Harvest Home e-course. We’re just starting our second week, and you can still join in.)

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .

  • Christine Garvin Tue - Sep 18th 2012 10:40 am

    I love the oh so important messages you have brought out in this piece. In a culture where working hard is equated with being a worthy human being, we often forget to ask if we are happy – or maybe more important, content. Although true and constant balance between the different aspects of our beings is impossible, understanding the need for ying and yang, internal and external, and that each part plays different roles in each of us individually, is necessary for health, well-being, and as a protection against that which might ail us.

    Passion is great, but not only can it burn us out, it can burn out those around us, too. When you’re constantly living externally, that not only impacts us, but it can lead to dominating and sometimes even messiah-like behavior. It is exalting the masculine and negating the feminine, which plays a huge part in where we find ourselves in the world right now. For example, a passion for using ‘alternative’ energy sources such as coal has allowed for the growth of mountaintop removal. Something stemming from a good place – trying to reduce our dependence on foreign oil – gets out of control if we don’t sit back, go inside, and think about the long-term consequences.

    I naturally love to go inside, and so maybe that’s why it’s so easy for me to love this time of year. But if those who love to work more than anything don’t learn how to sit back just a little bit, the rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer won’t slow down, and the Earth won’t be able to handle the output.

    • Joanna Wed - Sep 19th 2012 9:39 am

      Christine, thanks so much for your thoughts and continuing them on your blog. I can’t agree with you more. I am really looking forward to slowing down and turning inward as the season deepens.

  • Cari Ferraro Tue - Sep 18th 2012 12:18 pm

    What a wonderful post, Joanna. I’m so glad I watched the music at the end. I learned this Ecclesiastes passage from this Byrds song, and to see and hear Roger McGuin, the old Sensei, singing this with Bruce Springsteen, his fingers never missing those notes, his voice steady and strong, is beautiful to see. And emblematic of the theme, as the generations cycle through their own seasons. I am more aware of this than ever this year as I became the oldest but one in my growing-up family. This is a beautiful discussion about balance, an issue ever in my life and ever elusive. A balancing act, it is always in motion, no matter how still we may strive to be, we are always adjusting and coming back to center. Thank you for this meditation, Joanna.

    • Joanna Wed - Sep 19th 2012 9:41 am

      Thanks Cari, and I’m so glad you loved the video. Me too! Love your thoughts about the aging McGuinn & Springsteen too, “cycling through their own seasons.” I remember first hearing the Byrds version of “Turn Turn Turn” in junior high school!!! and it set my heart on fire. Blessings to you and yours.

  • Bobbi Tue - Sep 18th 2012 1:54 pm

    Joanna, I enjoyed reading this post very much. It is so true about balance… it is like the unicorn at times – a beautiful and mythical thing we search and search for, yet never seem to find.
    I couldn’t agree more about the pendulum swing. I find that in my life all the time. I just try to recognize when it passes through the midpoint (usually at warp speed), knowing it may be a while before it slows down enough to linger there!

    • Joanna Wed - Sep 19th 2012 9:42 am

      Thank you Bobbi. So glad it resonated with you. I love the idea of recognizing the moment of balance at the midpoint as we swing on past it. 🙂