Today I woke at 4:30 a.m. to attend our annual Solstice Tea Ceremony. We begin in the darkness of early morning with candle-light to help us find our way. Our Solstice celebration ended today, as it does each year, with clear morning light filling the room & our hearts. Sitting this evening, I experience a clear visceral sense that time is absolutely fluid & circular. Years, months, weeks, days, hours, moments, dark & light just keep rolling on no matter what.
In taking our cues from the obvious & more subtle rhythms of the natural world, we humans are now marking a repeating cycle, the ending & the beginning of a new year/a new cycle of this endless ‘rolling on’. Within this fluid frame of a year’s time, in this moment many of us may be engaging in some year-end, year-beginning reflection.
We might ask ourselves, “Has it been a good year? Has it been a difficult, challenging year? What am I grateful for? What do I want to relinquish? What heart/mind qualities do I want to cultivate?” Our reflection brings forth personal, intimate recollections… stories, images, pleasant & unpleasant feelings & various states of mind & body. Our reflection usually also brings to the surface some stories & images with associated pleasant & unpleasant feelings, including states of mind & body, relating to both broad themes & particular happenings in the world beyond our close, intimately experienced personal memories.
I find it quite amazing how, often unbeknownst to us, our heart/mind sorts through then sifts out much of the countless phenomena that we have encountered & experienced physically, intellectually, emotionally & spiritually through a year. This sifting process leaves us with what is ‘just a handful of leaves’ of all the billions of experiences that have passed through our body, mind & heart during this fluid frame of a year in time.
It’s deeply beneficial to recognize, accept & trust what shows up & not waste our energy looking for something else, something better, preferable, more satisfying. What shows up is just what we need for our practice. We take what’s offered & then without manipulation or editorial commentary, but with a heartfelt interest & care for our well-being, we intimately, mindfully notice, ‘What is my relationship in this very moment to this or that reflected experience?’
Our reflective practice is to take an interest & learn to notice without judging ourselves. This is the ground, the ambiance needed for illumination & for our heart’s release from the swirling eddies of contraction that we get caught in.
And so we notice without judgment & without clinging: Am I reacting/re-acting in relationship to this remembered experience? Is there contraction? Is there tightening, resistance, heat, coldness, numbness or stiffness physically & emotionally? Or, am I responding… able to respond/be responsible… with an open heart & mind sensing, clearly seeing & knowing this past remembrance, while at the same time letting the story, the image, the mental & physical states… letting the memory pass on through?
We can learn to be truly caring & patient with ourselves in our reflective practice as this new cycle/this new year unfolds. We can learn to be responsive rather than reactive. This is a most essential & important aspect of our practice. This is what allows spaciousness, understanding & intuitive wisdom to naturally blossom. This is how we learn to receive the light that we yearn for to fill our heart & mind… the light that is always available, forever nearby. This is our practice.
“The birds they sang
at the break of day
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
From “ANTHEM” by Leonard Cohen