Yesterday, at precisely 2:29 UT (Universal Time) the Sun shone directly on the Earth’s equator and a moment later, it headed south. The autumn equinox marks the moment when the sun and the moon command the sky for an equal length of time, but because nothing is ever still, this balance only lasted for a second. With every moment that passes after the equinox, darkness gradually overtakes the day.
The transition from summer to fall is a seasonal shift that we’ve all revolved through many times as the cycles of darkness mark the end of a period of light; as the cycles of chill in the air signify that we are no longer able to go to the beach (well, for those of us living in the Northeast, that is…)
Taking the equinox to a symbolic level, it’s tempting to think that periods of darkness in our lives indicate that something is wrong. But darkness is a part of the cycles of the earth, moon, and sun; and although we might find other ways to occupy our attention (the commute; the buildings; the internet; the money) the fact is that we are occupied and directed by change, cycles, seasons. And right now, the impending movement of a cold, dark, unpredictable winter is an energetic pull.
To mark this equinox, we might begin by dropping right down into the center of our darkest selves; we might begin by acknowledging that although self-sabotage, anger, resentment, and anxiety are powerful forces they are fleeting and so are capable of being transformed in this moment by actively thinking different thoughts, and by intentionally breathing. And from that space of peripheral perspective, looking back at the problem and finding there a different path to deal with it; a different energy to confront it.
Or, we might mark this equinox by anchoring an internal state of mind called “refuge.” In Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom Joseph Goldstein writes “from this deep place of refuge, we have the power to see the self-rejection and anxiety not as things inherent in our makeup but rather as passing forces in our mind.” Goldstein calls this refuge “Buddha,” but I think it’s just as useful to have a non-religious association with the term.
How? By anchoring your feet to the floor. By extending your neck to reach the clouds. By becoming aware that when you are rooted to the ground and yet expanding into space you are your own equinox. Finding balance right now, by imagining a channel of colored light that passes through your vertical meridian. The color of the light is a blend of earth and sky colors; a blend of darkness and light; a blend of who you are when you are feeling corrosive, and who you are when you are feeling restored. The two forces, in balance — they are an energy when combined.
The more you activate your inner equinox through out the day, the more it will become your refuge. It’s a good place to hang out, even in the darkest of days.
And if the idea of finding warmth and shelter in a poem makes sense to you, here is one of my favorites. It beckons winter by enacting it as a place of refuge in the mind:
The Snow Man by WALLACE STEVENS
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.