Reflections at the Equinox
It’s been a beautiful summer for us. This year for the first time in over 20 years, I didn’t have my summer school teaching in Oxford. So I spent the delicious month of July here in Devon, helping the garden grow. Then we had a wonderful holiday at our Welsh cottage with our oldest daughter and her partner and her children, reconnecting with all the fantastic things you can do with an eleven year old, a six year old and an almost five year old. Jumping through waves, climbing hills, eating ice cream, listening to stories.
We also had the challenge of spending 10 days with Robert’s sister who has advanced Parkinson’s and is now suffering from dementia. We hoped very much that being in our Welsh cottage in a place she has loved since she was young, and which is full of memories, would bring her back to herself in some way. But it was difficult for her to see the hills and the sea beyond the distress and pain of her illness. It was a grim time.
In the times we were able to get away for an afternoon and watch dappled sun on the waterfalls, or just walk by the sea, we felt how strange it is to grieve for someone who is still alive, but not at all the person they were. There was a longing for her to be released, yet a sense that there was still her energy here in this form, with some kind of purpose. So we would return from those afternoons with hope and love for her, and continue to explore moment by moment what was possible to share.
We came away from August with a real sense of light and dark, expansion and contraction, wholeness and fragmentation.
I am still with some of that experience as I approach of the Equinox and that sensation of standing at the edge of darkness, balancing between the light behind and the darkness to come. In my experience of leading Equinox workshops, the Autumn Equinox is not an easy time. Maybe it’s because in some way we’re looking for balance, poise, meaning, in a still point that we try to grasp and define. But there is no still point. Everything moves and changes, little bit by little bit. And trying to find and hold a moment is like trying to hold water.
In my garden there is growth, but less and less urgency, as if the plants are longing to create seeds, and the earth although warm, is craving sleep. I find myself just beginning to turn inwards, needing to anticipate this change so that once it happens I’ll be flowing with it. But I’m anxious, even frightened, about the dark to come. This year more than I have been for some time. Perhaps it is the sense of uncertainty that was so strong this summer, not just in our own lives but in the world around us. I feel like giving up trying to find peace and security, and just being with what is. But that also feels like giving up, giving in to the dark.
So these are Equinox “issues”. When we create our Equinox workshops, Robert likes to begin with a very simple exercise. One person stands between two other people, facing one of them, with their back to the other. One of these people is summer, light, the past, the other is autumn, dark, the future and the unknown. Both of the “helper” place their hands lightly on the shoulders of the person in the middle, who has their eyes closed. Robert softly beats his drum. And very gently the two helper softly push the person between them, so that they fall slowly forwards, and slowly back, feeling what is behind them and what is before them. Gradually the two helpers move a little further away so that there is more and more time that the person in the middle is on their own, feeling the space in between, the space of uncertainty of unknowing. And just as gradually they move back so that eventually the person in between simply rests between the two helpers.
This is always a surprisingly profound experience and everything we do on the Equinox weekends grows from it. Whether we are working with breath, with touch, with meditation, there is always the base experience of the rocking.
This year we won’t be holding a workshop at all. We’ll be walking on Dartmoor. A group of women will walk from Scorhill stone circle to meet at group of men who are walking to Grey Weather stone circle. Grey Weathers is unique in that it presents two circles, not quite touching, of equal size. It’s a very wonderful place, and physically and energetically seems to embody the themes of Equinox. Like most stone circles it does this on the non-human plane, the way stones are the great recorders of our presence on this earth.
So I’m wishing everyone who reads this the chance to feels what happens when light meets dark, summer meets autumn, whenever and however you are. I hope you can find somewhere outside where you can be quiet and breathe and feel this subtle shift inside and outside you.
Wishing you a bountiful harvest.