It’s the morning of 27th December.
I sit at my computer to check my mail, quickly and half-heartedly – as I really don’t want to be swallowed up by the allure of cyber space and its inhabitants, having spent a week as intended, appreciating my immediate landscape, my somehow neglected internal world, being in my body and the hearty, loving people my life is blessed with.
The first email jumps at me from the screen, it comes from a tour operator and has a big banner in the middle reading ‘Plan Your Next Escape!’ This suddenly hits me, shakes me from my comfy seat, from the quiet, lazy morning pottering, browsing my mail. I feel a change of gear, my body starts speeding up, as if an outer layer was running away from its centre of gravity, and I am tempted to look (…mm, why not click on to this, might want to go to Ireland next year…). A few seconds, as if I had been asleep and had been suddenly woken up and pushed out there, into the future months…
STOP! WHAT AM I DOING?
The hypnosis breaks, and I’m back in my chair, at gravitational distance from my centre: NEXT escape? Oh so THIS is what we have been doing? And is it over already? One escape nearly over, quick, plan the next one before we fall into that huge big crack that opens up just after the Mid Winter Big-Bang, the terrible void, the tiredness, the sense of aimlessness, feeling emptied. Somebody knows exactly what was going on here then, these are the new instructions…
These are saying ‘WAKE UP! There are things you can have, plans you can make, the next venture you can look forward to, can’t you see? Don’t ‘waste’ time, go go go!’
Yet, I thought I really had been asleep, instead, when following the pre Mid Winter’s haze, the compelling impulse to buy stuff, to get things done, to stock up huge amounts of food, to ‘go go go’ to that deadline, make sure I’m ready for it. Over the years I have increasingly experienced this as a ‘dreamy’, ‘hypnotic’ and yet ‘compelling’ situation. So I have felt the need to simplify, slow that process right down, step out or at the edges, have a good look, pick and choose – where possible – the position I wanted to occupy in it.
From that other place, I have felt AWAKE, I have seemed to catch a glimpse of what ‘truth’ may be found over there, in the sleepy land. The ‘truth’ I seemed to spot in amongst the haze was the impulse to ‘nest’ , to ‘gather up’ energy and supplies, nourishment, for the dark Winter (in this hemisphere), to reconnect with those who are part of our lives, to hold and be held, by a home, the earth, our people, our memories, our hearty food. To ‘shut the passages and stay put, safe and warm’ as the I Ching says.
Then, when the darkest time has crossed over (the Winter Solstice and the celebrations coinciding with this time in different paradigms), we might feel a wish to clear out, to make room, to feel into the way in which our ‘seeds’ might be preparing to grow into ‘plants’, deep into the soil, aware of that transformation being in process, necessary, inevitable and often wanted. Humanity has always created, needed, rituals around these passages of time, these changes in life conditions, to nourish hope, through seasons and cycles.
Nothing out of sync then, in feeling a ‘natural’ inclination to stock up goodies for the Winter and prepare to hibernate, is there?
The trouble is that we then seem to fall under a spell (the haze) where the ways in which we fulfil this nesting impulse is driven by mass bombarded ‘instructions’ about what type of food, when, where, how many presents, what goods (furniture, gadgets, clothes, not nuts!) we are meant to ‘need’.
Our vision tunnels down – from the beginning of Autumn (or earlier) – to this one event we have to be ready, plan intensely for, in the shape instructed. Those unable to join the stream end up feeling inadequate, becoming anxious, whilst those who channel all resources into making it that far, collapse at the other end exhausted (possibly depressed) and maybe in debt.
Paradoxically, what is a time to gather, preserve and stock up vital energy and nourishment, produces drainage, collapse, depression, relationship break ups and debt. Something wrong here…
Being ‘doom-and-gloomy’? Grumpy middle aged woman? Maybe.
Is it wrong to be excited about the Winter festivities, to look forward to the nice food, the gifts, the warmth, to dream about spending them somewhere nice, to wish for meeting somebody new and wonderful by then, to take pleasure in the preparation, in the unique spirit of this time of year?
If it was up to me to decide what’s right or wrong I’d say ‘no, it isn’t’.
However, when this happens in the compulsive, ‘escape’ driven fashion, designed to not ‘feel’, not ‘think’ and therefore not ‘know’ what we actually need (the unfinished or recurring grief evoked by the season, the decrease in light and the more likely depletion of vitality, attention and energy being drawn in), when it becomes a ‘substitution’ for fulfilment and nourishment, when we force against the weather and our health and our means to get ‘the thing’ that’s meant to make us happy, isn’t the very joy, resolution, reconnection and recharge we wish for, in fact, highjacked?
Isn’t what we have escaped from still there waiting for us at the other side, fingers tapping on the table?
Best plan the next escape then…
I consider myself fortunate enough to know people who are truly excited about this time of year, who will enjoy the preparation, the expectation, make cakes, wrap little gifts, look forward to catching up with their people, within their means, in their own way, and with a few slips (to which I’m not immune, for I have sinned too!). I know there are other dreams, other realities around, within us, that not all is driven by automated, made-up-needs induced behaviour. I know that it is very hard to tell who’s asleep and who’s awake, for who’s to tell?!
I have, however, a proposition for this end of year:
PLAN YOUR NEXT RETURN!
I have spent these past two weeks (and most of the Autumn) as much as possible as intended, being present each day and ‘knowing’ where I was and what I needed, enjoying the simple little things and contact with myself and others and the hills. I have had a flavour of letting things be, unfold, process in their own time, their own way, and of watching them shift, my trust in this being reaffirmed – in the Taoist (and Jungian) ‘doing by not doing’ that is often the real miracle (ever read C.G.Jung’s introduction and comment to The Secret of the Golden Flower’?).
This is not about being passive spectators or renouncing any life planning, any application of our will, any endeavour to change. It is about learning to flow, about deliberately and with intention LETTING GO of controlling outcomes, of manipulating emotions, of denying our inner life, of resisting what needs to do its course, about ALLOWING, HEARING, FEELING, WATCHING. This is RETURNING to our centre. And when WHAT IS has been fully acknowledged, let through, experienced, the miracle of change becomes possible.
I propose that ebb and flow are all part of each other, that there is room for both in the scheme of things, that there is invaluable learning in both, that each polarity pushes the opposite to manifest if we attach to it (‘I will only have positive thoughts!’ – Whilst others keep ‘being so negative with us’…) or keeps returning if we resist it (‘I’m never going to be heart broken again!’ – and the cutting off keeps breaking our heart); that true change happens when we allow things to ‘be’ the way they are, true letting go when we are fully with it.
I DON’T KNOW HOW IT IS SO: TRY IT…
And if you are thinking that this is all full-belly, self-indulgent talk for well fed, wasteful individuals of the West, East, North or South, let’s look at the wider picture:
- A political regime (whether overt dictatorship or one of the many false-democracies our globe is plagued by at the moment) that advocates national cohesion and fosters this by silencing, suppressing, hindering or persecuting any voice of dissent, any original thinking and individual creativity – so that nothing will threaten the ‘unity’ and ‘uniformity’ of the nation (holding on to one polarity to the exclusion of the other). This results in fact in fragmentation, the drainage and fleeing of skills and resources away from the Country, the destruction of people’s spirit and initiative, the amplifying of dissenting, subversive forces and mistrust.
- The avoidance of what feels threatening and different, aimed to preserve safety and integrity by allocating the ‘badness’ and ‘unsafety’ elsewhere (any religious, political or personal extremism and separatism), breeds instead feelings of fear, unsafety, threat and in fact resentment and the possibility of mutual attacks (the two polarities, split apart, attack each other).
Take this to any level, see it in families, individuals, communities or nations: what we want to keep at all costs is often lost, and what we are prepared to lose is gained. A thought that can be found in many spiritual and philosophical traditions – including those that fight each other!
So here is my wish:
MAY YOU BE WITH TODAY, WITH THIS EVENING,
THIS END OF YEAR
AS YOU CAN.
IF JOYFUL, ENJOY IT!
IF NOT, MAY YOU HAVE ENOUGH TO SUSTAIN YOU WITH IT.
MAY YOU BE ABLE TO LET GO AND ALLOW WHAT NEEDS TO BE ALLOWED
AND MAY – THEN – THE NEW YEAR
TAKE CARE OF ITSELF
LOVE TO ALL THROUGH IT ALL