Libra and the Equinox

libra 2

September 23, 2014.  What an auspicious day, when the Autumnal Equinox, with its perfect balance of night and day, opens to the balanced scales of Libra.   As we move into cooler weather, it seems a good time to practice cooling the mind a bit, and nurturing the evenness of soul that brings peace of mind. Balance, harmony, and inner peace are all summed up, I think, in the Buddhist virtue of equanimity (upeksha in Sanskrit).  I think of this as “making friends with life.”

Meditation and yoga are wonderful practices for stilling the turbulence of the mind, and evening out some of the more extreme reactive swings from high to low.  I also think that some wise perspective helps.  This morning,  I would like to reflect upon three interwoven facets of  living a balanced life.

The first is to remember that this dappled world of our’s is indeed a play of light and darkness.  The second verse of the Tao Te Ching states this clearly:

“Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.  All can know good as good only because there is evil.  Therefore having and not having arise together. Difficult and easy compliment each other. Long and short contrast each other; high and low rest upon each other; voice and sound harmonize each other; front and back follow each other.”

The realization of our dappled world leads to a second aspect of equanimity: a reflection on the alternating rhythms of life itself, as outlined in the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to reap;  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…”

Recognizing this flow of life, then, leads to a third aspect of inner harmony: “taking it as it comes” as the TM folks used to say.  There is a story from Ancient China that illustrates this beautifully:

A poor farmer had all of his meager wealth in one magnificent stallion, but one stormy night the horse escaped from its corral.  The next day, all the neighbors came around to commiserate with the farmer’s terrible misfortune.   “Let’s wait and see,” is all he said.  Two days later, the stallion returned with four heathy mares in tow.  Now the neighbors were loud in their rejoicing.  “Let’s wait and see,” said the farmer.  The next day, the farmer’s adolescent son was trying to ride one of the new horses, and he fell and broke his leg.  The neighbors were desolate, but again the farmer said, “Let’s wait and see.”    And the following day, the army came through the village to draft all the young men to fight in a vicious war, but the farmer’s son was spared because of his leg.

This story, of course, could go on and on, but the point is clear.  Embracing the “time to mourn” not only balances, but engenders the “time to dance.”  As I look back on the passages of my life, I see them as just that: passages leading to more ample and brighter vistas.   As a young man, however, there was no way I could “just wait and see.”  A horrible loss or a shameful failing–the thin line between success and failure in life–seemed all consuming and all-encompassing.  Even now, on the far side of middle age, distrustful anxiety is sometimes a temptation.  It seems so easy to talk about love and trust, but then to live distrustfully, as though life were dangerous and vicious.  Joseph Campbell once said that “we live in one world, and babble about another.”  What is it we truly believe?

We are, however, not alone in this human schoolroom. We are continually given lessons.  We come to see the suffering that our fearful actions bring to ourselves and others, by experiencing the pain of our own mistakes,  And with time, we come to learn, not through pain and suffering, but through light and love and wisdom. We follow the tracks left by wise women and men over the centuries.  We are warmed and supported by the love of family and friends, and we are surrounded by the lessons of Nature’s recurrent equanimity–as long as we pay attention.  In this lovely poem dedicated to the sun, Mary Oliver celebrates the play of light and darkness, while warning of the danger of turning away from life’s graceful balance:

Have you ever seen
anything
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance–
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
empty-handed–
or have you too
turned from this world–

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

 

 

4 thoughts on “Libra and the Equinox

  1. dustmuncher

    I agree this is a particularly significant day..my brother’s birthday is the 24th but he being on the other side of the world (like in your verse) all month I’ve been saying to myself “it’s the 23rd here”..then it comes around,,anniversary of the death of Pablo Neruda..autumn equinox and reunited with an old friend. Love your message 🙂

    Like

    Reply
    1. jhanagan2014 Post author

      Thank you for your note–and for reminding me of Neruda’s anniversary. He,too, heard the soft, recurrent voice of Nature:
      Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
      and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
      maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
      a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply

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