Equinox – The Balance Point
In the Reiki tradition, there’s a graphic symbol for harmony – for balance. Sei hei ki. To me, it looks like a dancer, or maybe something winged, and I’ve heard that to draw it well requires open, relaxed and sweeping gestures. People who know and practice Reiki use this symbol with clients who are living in the wake of trauma, recovering from addiction, or lifting out of depression. They say it helps the Reiki process restore equilibrium and creativity to body, mind and spirit.
This is where we humans on the planet are in the turning of the season – at spring equinox, a balance point. The sei hei ki symbol may be especially relevant to our days in the change from winter to spring, from COVID times into what comes next.
With a year gone by, we’re tired. We all want COVID to be over, but we know it’s not – yet. We want our vaccines to be enough to protect us from here on, to open our lives up to each other and that joy that seemed more accessible – before. It probably wasn’t more accessible or plentiful, but there is no denying how overwhelmed we’ve been through the COVID year by the steadily increasing heaviness, the inertia, the meaninglessness. The vaccines will help, but they won’t restore what we imagine as the good time before. They can’t. We’re different, now.
A young scientist friend said yesterday, “The people in my neighborhood are at the lowest yet. But at the same time, we’re all seeing this little glimmer of hope.” She offered this after talking about her professional work – her nearness to data that show how the virus mutates to form viable variants. “Of course, we don’t really know what this means except that we’ve got to keep paying attention and learning from this super crafty life form.”
So, the balance. We want to be realistic, as prepared and preventative as possible. And we want to play. We want to laugh and, heck, we even want to frolic. We long for slices (big ones) of time unencumbered by vigilance and worry and constant grief.
So, what does the natural world have to show us about all of this?
We know that nature works through relationship – everything is connected – and, of course, that includes every one of us. We know that vitality of connection relies on vast and lively diversity. And we know that with connection and diversity, the natural world always tilts toward surviving, toward thriving.
We know that plants are “smarter” together. Take the forests. They’re a symphony of life forms, playing together in the same key. And after a disruption like a wildfire, the notes quickly reassemble – bacteria and fungi in the soil, including morel mushrooms, coming online fast. Beetles, grasshoppers rising from under the ground. And as the insects rise the birds come – the kinglets and the woodpeckers, bluebirds and flycatchers. And the beautiful blooms of fireweed, lupine, monkeyflowers – stabilizing soil, securing moisture, allowing shrubs to return. Then sun-loving trees, which cast the shade needed by shade loving trees. The strength, the ability to show resiliency in the face of change – and life is always about change – arises from the broad array of interdependent lifeforms. This is balance. This is what we call sustainability.
And this nature – it’s who we are, too.
It’s part of our natural expression to know the added challenges of deep grief and anxiety. As of today, Covid has claimed 538,000 real lives. Lives with stories – each person born to live days with joys and challenges with boredom and delight, all of it mediated through their one body, personality and character. COVID 19 hasn’t taken whole towns, but it has ravaged whole families, whole neighborhoods. And it has smoldered in our collective sensibility, ever the threat – it could happen to me.
Here – in all this loss and fear – the fullness of our ecology calls us to live on, one step following the next, into the balance that is surely restoring itself, whether it matches any story of how things were or not. To do this, we must get better with grief. With feeling grief in ourselves, listening to it in others, walking with all we’ve lost and all we’ve gained. When there is room for grief, there is room for laughter and delight. The forest – its trees and animals, its birds and blossoms – cannot stop the wildfire once it has started. The loss is tremendous. And even in that loss, life dares a resurgence. Again and again.
I sometimes see the sei hei ki symbol when I walk among trees – especially in the time moving from winter into spring – new growth on deciduous plants, the sway and dancing in the breezes. Balance through storms and high water. Balance among all that bends and all that breaks – all that lives, all that dies.
Anne Lamott, author and activist, tells her Sunday School kids – “Life has always seemed to pull us up to our feet. We’re good at hard.” And, since we’re nature itself, we’re also good at balance. Balance is not perfection. It is not uninterrupted eternal bliss. Balance is moving forward from our truest nature. Evolutionary biology shows us we humans are essentially and continuously cooperative and kind – on balance.
We can do this.
Through this welcome springtime and into whatever comes next.
We’re good at hard.