Today, we arrive here as the Earth prepares to enter the time of equinox
A time of balance between dark and light
As we enter the autumn’s dwindling hours of sun
As we enter darkness, there is loss
The abundant growth of summer ceases
The dying back begins
But darkness has much to offer us
Let us enter the season with openness
We can find growth in the shadow of autumn
We can enter the darkness with expectation and hope
Tomorrow is the autumn equinox. It is the balance point – the time of equal darkness and light. It is the time we stand in the doorway dividing the seasons.
For half of the year the northern hemisphere of the earth and for half the southern hemisphere enjoys more sunshine. Tomorrow we will be balanced. After that, the southern hemisphere will be more illuminated than we are.
Tomorrow is the day we step into the season of autumn. With this change, there is loss. The delights of the bright and vital spring and then summer are put behind us. Like any time we leave behind something that nurtures us (a relationship, a state of life, a home, a good friend), there can be a sense of loss as the days grow ever shorter and the temperature drops. Living things change – dropping leaves, changing colour, changing behaviour. Our own energy shifts too.
Mourning is always a process – even for a season. It is good to be aware of what we are mourning.
Darkness brings loss, but not only loss. Darkness also brings its own gifts. For the plants, it may be a time of rest when seeds and bulbs lay hidden, waiting to explode with new life in the spring.
For us, darkness brings a new opportunity to see in new ways. When we lit incense a short while ago, you probably noticed it more than you would if we had bright light and lively activity to watch.
If you’ve suffered a serious personal loss, you have probably experienced a new way of seeing. In sorrow, distraction disappears and pain opens us up to what is truly important in life – our relationships, our purpose, our ability to love and be loved.
In Greek mythology, Persephone – goddess of plant life – was held prisoner by Hades in the underworld. Her absence caused the crops to cease growing, and starvation took hold upon the earth. At last, Persephone was freed from her captivity and the earth would have returned to continuous abundance, but there was a problem. Persephone was tricked by Hades into eating pomegranate seeds. Because she partook of food in the underworld, she was forever required to spend one third of the year in the underworld. Her absence from the earth is the explanation for the dying off of vegetation in the cold, dark months.
But perhaps those pomegranate seeds were truly a gift. Perhaps it was this that created a necessary time of rest and reflection - a time without the frantic activity that keeps us from knowing ourselves.
Reading: T.S. Eliot, from “East Coker”, Four Quartets
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope for hope
would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Autumn, with its darkness and loss, also brings a time of waiting. We await the winter with its festivals. We await the return of the light many months away.
But darkness is not an empty time with nothing but looking forward to its end. It is a time for looking inward. When the exuberance of summer ends, we have space and time to open ourselves to stillness. There is room for inner growth undisturbed by the glare and joyful speed of the warm and bright times.
Growth is not an easy and comfortable process. It involves knowing ourselves, even the parts we have hidden way. Change does not come without taking time – a focus that the distraction of the light times keeps at bay.
Where will you allow your attention to go in this time of introspection? What will you allow yourself to feel and know when distractions lessen?
Reading: Sweet Darkness, by David Whyte
When your eyes are tired the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb tonight.
The night will give you a horizon further than you can see.
You must learn one thing: the world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.
In the darkness, David Whyte says, you can be sure that you are not beyond love. You can know that you belong.
The time of darkness is a time when we need each other more than ever. It is a time too when we become more able to reach out to one another. We can listen closer without the distraction of summer frivolity. We can see more clearly without the blaze of summer sunshine. Our hearts can be more open to one another.
In the darkness we need one another.
In the darkness of the year
And the darkness of our lives
We mourn our losses
As we turn toward new perception
And toward connection and love