As you may know, this weekend will be the Vernal Equinox, a moment when day and night have equal time to express themselves, afterwhich the solar forces will dominate until Autumn. I love the part of Persephone’s story, when she emerges in the spring after her long retreat below ground. I used to pity her subterranean time, but now a half year of hibernation sounds good! What is she doing all that time?
Globally, we’ve been in a form of underground life, and now we are slowly making our way to the surface. How shall we prepare? In some ways, it feels like we’ve landed on a new planet, with unfamiliar rules, and we’ll have to suffer or embrace that awkwardness of not knowing.
I’ve felt this pain recently, as we’ve started to have dinner guests on our porch (with electric blankets!). When loved ones arrive, we stall at the door, all frozen and surprised that none of us know what to do next. Apparently, we’ve gotten it solved each time, but the warmth and comfort I wanted to share feels confused: we aren’t hugging yet, we don’t invite them into our warm home, and we don’t have the language to smooth this rough edge. Should we have practiced something beforehand?
Richard Rohr speaks to this in his book, Falling Upward. He says that many of our efforts to prepare for the future won’t help. We try to do the right thing but this likely won’t help us meet life’s surprises. When our ideas or strategies are ego-centered, because they are OUR ideas, we’re not practicing being with the unknown. Only when we are truly caught unguarded, then fail, and recover do we really grow. Recover may not be the right word here, maybe it should be return or come back.
This calls me back to Persephone: she comes back every year with daffodils and primroses. We’re never really sure which flowers will show up in the spring. Some barge in with a huge crowd of friends, while others, even old companions, are mysteriously absent altogether. I’ve seen the rain shred delicate flower petals like crepe paper and the wind strip cherry branches naked of their pure white blossoms. Maybe, to a child, this looks like Persephone’s efforts are failing, but our years give us the wisdom of experience, to calmly let the snow-like clouds of posies fall or skitter off, wherever they will.
Persephone keeps showing up! Every spring, zillions of babies, of every species, decorate the earth. Some won’t survive, some will endure for decades, but spring, itself, is our push forward, out of the nest or the cocoon or the Covid cave. Part of me feels like the scrawny baby bird, barely feathered and doubtful about flight. What do I know about this world? Another part of me feels a deeper growth, a slower, underground strength that’s been building over this past year of falling, failing and coming back. There’s one other me who just feels delighted and excited. There are shadows to breathe into, true wonder as I see bare sticks bulge into tiny buds, and an unending twittering of new life from the trees all around my house.
Richard Rohr recommends that we keep opening up to the unknown, that we keep dropping ideas of how things might go. Maybe the balance inspired by the Equinox is spending half of our time practicing Not Knowing. Our brains are said to be prediction machines, trying to prepare us for the future based on the past. It will take some will, courage, and desire to train the brain in another direction. I like the idea of mystery, of wondering, what will happen today? In this mood, I can see how laughable it is that I ever think I know what the day will bring! So there is some humility that would also make the mixture sweeter.
Try this: tomorrow when you wake up, just play with that inquiry, “I wonder what will happen today?” Let your body be soft and malleable. Maybe this will be easier if you stretch a bit and feel into your body. Then ask yourself again, “I wonder what will happen next?”. You need to pee. You’re hungry. Take it slowly. Keep coming back to the mystery. Keep looking for it.
Your brain mind will keep taking over, so you’ll surely get plenty of exercise in that arena, but do strive to balance this with relaxing into the mystery that is all around us.
I hope you enjoy your exploration!
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