(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.)