We just had Easter and I have come to realise that for me, it far outstrips Christmas as far as holidays go. This time of year brings lovely lambs, warmer weather (if we’re lucky in Scotland- thankfully this year we are, yipee!) , pink blossoms burgeoning on the trees, not to mention some excellent sweet treats (vegan creme egg, anyone?)
I inevitably started reflecting on why Easter is so much nicer – not only is it less In Your Face than Christmas and obviously has more pleasant weather.. but there is a deeper optimism at the heart of the holiday that celebrates the turning of the seasons, the greater scheme of the Natural order.
the Wheel of the Year
Sometimes at the end of winter it drags on so long (especially in the delightful climates that I have lived in..ahem Scotland..ahem Russia) that we forget what sunshine feels like. Wrapping up in scarf and hat still at the end of March it’s easy to get frustrated – but really we should trust in the cycles of nature, and know that no matter how cold it is now, it will change. Spring and Easter time are the reminder that we will emerge from the darkness.
The Dark Side of the Moon
The thing is, in order for Spring to come, we have to go through the darkness and grimness of Winter. If Christianity is your bag – the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection can only take place because he died and descended into hell..
There can be no light without darkness and we cannot emerge, sparkling into the daylight, without spending time in the stillness of the night. Our world is so go-go-go, we tend to forget the importance of pausing to reflect, of letting go, of confronting the darkness so that we can release it and come full circle into the light.
The turning wheel of the year should reassure us that it’s ok to spend some time in the dark, that the light will always come to follow.
In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna reminds us that the circular pattern of nature applies to us also and this is why we should trust and have no fear:
For certain is death for the born and certain is birth for the dead; therefore, over the inevitable thou shouldst not grieve. Bhagavad Gita – 2.27
be Reborn every moment
The cycles of nature are so powerful that they permeate the world at every level – according to Hindu philosophy the world goes through a cycle of yugas (ages) – currently we are in the darkest of the ages, Kali Yuga. Typical!
Zoom in and there are the orbits of the planets; the cycles of the seasons, and ever 24 hours day moving through night.
These same cycles happen on a micro scale within our own bodies. Our tissues are constantly renewing themselves; women obviously go through moon cycles, and everyone has their circadian (Latin, circa, around; diem, day) rhythms – the waking- sleeping cycle. Then we have the ultradian rhythms, the cycles that repeat throughout one day – blood circulation, pulse, heart rate, left/right nostril dominance, hormone secretion.
Zoom in even more and on average 15 times every minute we go through the most familiar cycle – of the inhale and exhale.
If you let your attention rest on the breath and instead of thinking ‘OK now I’m inhaling, now I’m exhaling’, focus on the sensations of the breathing cycle itself, you start to notice that the end of the exhale has the seed of the inhale within it, the exhale inevitably transforms itself into the inhale. Just like Krishna said, everything that dies must be reborn – or as it’s expressed in the Tao te Ching, being originates from non-being.
When you realise that your being is going through this constant flux, it becomes a wonderful opportunity to practise being fresh in every moment.
Each exhale is the chance to get rid of something and to reboot yourself. We can’t always go on living through the same patterns and habits, sometimes it is necessary to ‘die’ to what is familiar and comfortable, in order to experience a rebirth that allows us to open our eyes to what’s really in front of us. We have to get rid of the old to make space for the new, just ask Marie Kondo..
This means that no matter what is going on, we always have an amazing refresh button that we can hit to reset our nervous system and find a blank slate.
EXHALE – INHALE!
by holding your breath, you lose it – by letting go, you find it
Mutability is our tragedy, but it’s also our hope
This is an invitation, then, inspired by the rebirth of nature and the blossoming of the trees which never fails to delight us every year as if we were seeing it for the first time, to zoom out.
As long as we keep breathing, the cycles will keep turning.
All we have to do is be like dancing Shiva, at the centre of the wheel of fire, and keep our hearts still as everything fluctuates and spins and transforms itself around us.
Breathe in, Breathe out, be constantly reborn and therefore eternal.