Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn Equinox - Balance Before the Fall

So, this is the beginning of fall, huh? Autumn Equinox, the official first day. Fall in Texas is different: we don’t have one. In other parts of the country, golden sunlight casts its fading warmth on the red and yellow oaks of autumn, lakes are adorned with bobbing flotillas of migrating fowl. Tractors cut vast fields of hay, farmers plow harvest stubble to fallow until the spring.

We define fall in a different way. It’s when the evening lows are no longer in the 80s. Rain changes from the mad thrashing thunderstorms of summer – that is, if we get rain in the summer — to the enveloping downpour that comes with cold fronts from the north. We tentatively emerge from our air-conditioned dens to see the sky, once a pale bleached blue, regain its deeper hue. Lawns come to life, changing to emerald green from parchment brown.

We slip into the leeward side of the seasons as the autumnal equinox arrives. Leaving the suspended state of summer, with its forever young feeling of long days, sunshine and growth, we rejoin the awesome river of change that is life. Fall is about falling, about tumbling from the high point of summer, returning to the flow, about releasing and letting go. It’s about believing that the way to leave a mark on this life is not through accumulating and controlling, to own or to possess, but through creating and releasing, from the children we raise to the works of art we create.

For us, this giving without obligation is a philosophy we come to after much consideration and beating up on our egos. To the natural world of plants and animals, bugs and fish, it is simply the way of life. Leaves separate from the trees, cascade to the ground and return into the Earth. Animals die and decay, their bodies fertilize plants that feed their children. Everything returns to the source, knowing it will return. The circle of life, the cycles of life. Regeneration through generations.

Autumn Equinox is the moment of equilibrium just before this fall. The Earth in its wobbly path through the cosmos is for a brief time spinning perfectly upright and the Sun is shining straight on at the equator—hence the name, equinox. Instead of leaning into the Sun like it does in summer or leaning away in winter, just a for a moment the Earth is balanced -- no, not so much that an egg placed on its pointed end will stand upright, like a lot of folks try to do on this day -- but enough to give us a metaphor to live by.

This momentary drift into balance and back out again is a reminder of how tentative life can be, how fleeting and how sweet. It reminds us to seize those moments, carpe diem, and live them fully, to embrace this life and all its mortality, to never go to bed angry at someone you care about. So we take this special day before we tip towards winter and the waning days of the seasonal year to celebrate the connections we make in this brief time together and honor the abundant gifts the Earth gives to us so willingly.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tragedy has struck - I broke a nail!

Yes, a fingernail break. Why so mundane an occurrence a tragedy? Because I had a nail to break. My first broken finger nail. At age 54.

I'd bitten my nails for decades, ever since I had nails to bite. Let's just say the childhood home was a nerve-wracking place to be. I accepted my stubby fingers and their paper-thin gnawed little adornments. Until middle-age hit and I decided that a grown woman with bit nails was just pathetic.

I tried coating them with hot-pepper juice - that made for a spicy chew. I covered them with artificial nails - a difficult and bitter chew. Whatever was on my nail I chewed off and then I chewed the nails.

I went through counseling, hypnosis, neuro linguistic programming and more counseling. I did shamanic ceremonies to banish the habit. I asked my husband to slap me whenever he saw me biting my nails, but that would amount to battery.

So how did I stop a 50-year habit? I went to the chiropractor. Specifically, a network chiropractor. Instead of cracking your back, network folks address the nervous system to instill a state of ease that then allows the spine to align naturally.

According to Lane Cawthon, my network guy, my sympathetic nervous system was in overdrive, the flight-or-fight response kicking off at every opportunity, even though outwardly I appeared calm.

My laid back parasympathetic nervous system, which should have been running most of the show, was suppressed in favor of the macho sympathetic nervous system, ready to defend against all terrors, real and imagined, mostly imagined.

Here's the deal with the sympathetic nervous system. In its hyper state it consumes vast amounts of protein, leaving little for body parts made of protein - like fingernails.

I'd stopped biting my nails because they were harder to bite and I was less nervous. It was easy. Yet I cringe. All that money I pissed away on habit-breaking techniques! All the beating up I did on myself for failing to break the habit.

In the mind-body dance, sometimes the body leads.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Moon Rosh Hashana & Eclipse of the Soul

New Moon Rosh Hashana & Eclipse of the Soul
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

by Amy Martin

We are walking into darkness, ebbing toward winter, exhaling before we take a Solstice pause and begin breathing again into spring’s light. Shadows grow long, in nature and in our hearts. For the past several months, we have heard mostly the sound of summer running. It is now time to listen to the sounds of our souls, to hear the silence as well as the noise.

Rosh Hashana

At sunset today begins Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. The next New Moon is Samhain, when the Celts set forth their year. It’s a calendar cycle fashioned after the growing plant. An oak sapling begins the moment the acorn falls from the tree in autumn. Winds and rains push the acorn deeper into the soil. Now covered in the dirt and dark, it gestates until the spring, unfurling and branching into the light to grow, produce and then decline. And so does the Celtic and Jewish year. At this time of season when we are walking into darkness, into that risky gestation and birth, the wise get ready, look for clarity and grace.

Rosh Hashana begins 10 days of atonement, an annual clearing of the karmic books, a time of conscience, to right wrongs and make amends, starting the year with a fresh slate. We extend kindnesses to the powerless and underprivileged, challenging the illusion of separation that they are different from us. We consider our food, those that give their lives so we may eat. Atonement. At-one-ment. An invitation arises in each of these days to spend time making real in your mind the highest good of the upcoming year, the kind of life you want to lead, kind of soul you want to be. Atonement time concludes in Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish days. This year Rosh Hashana coincides with the end of Ramadan, the holiest month in Muslim calendar when followers fast from sunrise to sunset and devote themselves to acts of charity.

New Moon

When you woke up this morning, you woke up to a new day, a New Moon, a new life. New Moons signal the beginning of Ramadan and Rosh Hashana and the New Moon is exact today at 5:30 am. A New Moon is a promise, a beginning, a start. For three days she is invisible, unseen in sky, lost in the brilliant solar corona, the Sun and Moon conjunct in the sky. A New Moon is the archetype for submission to a larger force and initiation into our own power, just as the Moon undergoes trial by fire, subsuming herself to Sun, only to emerge renewed, a slender crescent in the western sunset sky.

This New Moon, falling in the sign of Virgo, shapes the emphasis of the next four weeks on harvesting our intentions. It is a time to build plans for new visions, of committing to the nurturing of yourself and the Earth. The mutable nature of Virgo asks what you are willing to release to build something greater. An astrologer friend advises: People are more willing to change and transform things at a deeper level – even if it was something they swore they’d never do!


Do you let the shadows pursue you? Do you let that which you don’t want to look at, that which you can’t identify, have dominion over you, determining your actions? But, you say, you do yoga every day, have had your charkas aligned, been blessed, sanctified, consecrated, purified, learned from the masters and even taught a few. And yet, there it is, your shadow side, waiting still. Denied, ignored or discredited it only grows, pursuing like the Furies, sending signals and lessons that we so deftly evade. Walk willingly into the darkness this season, journey until you find the center of yourself, the clarity and grace found only there. Embrace the shadow and the core that simply is, and await the return into the light.

peace... Amy/Moonlady

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Equinox: Beyond Weather

It’s the first day of spring today, regardless of the temperature. Such ephemeral things as weather don’t determine the seasons. Instead it’s all about the Earth refusing to be upright and rigid. The planet leans and wobbles, tango-ing through the solar system with quite a bit of attitude.

The Reason for the Season

Simply put, Mother Earth is off her rocker, tilted about 24 degrees, spinning like a wobbly top through the cosmos, not quite on the level, right on the edge of being out of control. Sound a bit like your life? But this is a good thing. The axial tilt of the Earth provides its affinity for the iconoclast as well as its seasons. At Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, she’s leaning so much that the Sun is aimed straight at the Tropic of Capricorn, making Capricorn is the first astrological sign of winter, and at Summer Solstice she’s tilted the other way so that the Sun is pointing toward her southern Tropic of Cancer, so the first day in the sign of Cancer is the first day of summer.

Halfway between, the Earth attains a short period of balance. She's almost upright and the Sun stares straight at the equator, hence the equinox. The Sun appears to rise exactly in the east and sets due west. The dark and the light, the day and the night, are equal. We are in balance. Homeostasis for a day.

But think about this: half of the world doesn't have seasons. In the tropics, meaning between the two tropics, it's only summer with wet and dry seasons. Imagine how that affects their mythology; no Demeter there; same with the arctic zones. In the northern and southern hemispheres, we are blessed with seasons that metaphorically embody the cycles of life, these annual reminders of our own mortality, of the need to grasp life and live in the now.

The Egg: the Seasonal Symbol We Share with All

Yet even with the tropics and arctic, we share the renewal archetype of the egg. The egg is potential, the inward consolidation, the preparation needed before growth can begin. It’s the nourishment and protection that young require to have that chance to grow.

Not just a sustaining container that fosters life, the egg is the idea. The egg is about breaking boundaries, coming to the edge, of needing to break out of our shell, to go further, to seek beyond, and pierce the limits of what’s not known, to have the faith in life to press forward. This is the core of spring.

Every egg is both a completion and a beginning. We all come from the cosmic egg, metaphorically. In China, Tien dropped the cosmic egg from heaven onto the primordial waters; in India, Brahma burst forth from a golden egg; and in Eqypt, Ra rode his egg like a chariot. Russia and Europe have beautiful legends about eggs. And in America, here we have the Easter Bunny. Bunny?

Excuse me, a male rabbit passing out eggs? Or least he looks male to me. When it comes to eggs, women have the market cornered. Just where did Mr. Rabbit get those eggs from, a rooster? Ostara, the Saxon goddess of spring, is missing from this image! It’s she who gave the rabbit the eggs. Male rabbits do not make and deliver eggs; they fertilize them. If there's a bachelor male rabbit in this holiday, it needs to be a studly thing, doing what male rabbits do so well, so often and so fast.

The Egg is the Idea

The egg is a female sex cell or gamete. Each one of us here was once an egg. Every woman is born with all the eggs she'll ever have, locked inside her itty bitty ovaries, formed in her body by the time she was four months old in the womb. So you were once an egg in your grandmother’s body. Your grandmother was an egg in her grandmother’s body, and so on.

After puberty, your mother dropped one egg every 28 days and on at least one of those times your father greeted the descending egg with thousands and thousands of tiny and very persistent one-celled sperm. At least one of those fervent hormone-driven guys managed to get through all the layers and layers and get inside, a courtship method that continues as adults.

It’s amazing how small that egg is, as small as one cell, one invisible to the naked eye cell, together with the one-celled male sperm, create the incredibly complex unit we are now. And although we are composed of trillions of specialized cells, we arise from two things: the receiving yin of the egg, and the pursuant yang impulse of the sperm.

Women drop eggs every 4 weeks, the same cycle as the Moon; it's that time of Moon, not time of month. If not greeted by its welcoming committee of eager sperm, the eggs go on their lonely way. What takes a year to manifest in the seasons, and what takes men a lifetime to pass through, women reenact the cycle of birth, death and rebirth every Moon, all because of a dropping egg.

Abundance in Life and Death

The next thing is key. Not every egg becomes an animal, not every seed grows into a plant. Most human conceptions begin with multiple eggs being fertilized; you were probably once part of a twin or triplet. Plants make far more seeds, berries and fruits than they need to reproduce, and more than the birds, bugs and animals could ever eat. Instead most decay and become nourishment for the next round. The Earth churns out life in abundance because reckless fertility is what it does and why it exists.

So celebrate this fertile force with a chocolate egg, a totally appropriate sacrament in this talk of life and death, for many of us are grateful that chocolate, along with a fine dinner and wine, got our mothers in the mood. Eat your egg, allowing it to melt slowly in your mouth, and accept being part of the cycle of life in all its risks and rewards, all its gains and all its losses, and feel in the flow of spring.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

GUERRILLA RITUAL: Olympics’ Opening and Closing Ceremonies

When the Olympics kick off on February 12, sit back and enjoy the spectacle of guerrilla ritual, the kind you sneak on people by promising entertainment and delivering transformation instead. Nowhere does it thrive in such a public way as the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies. Sure, they’re show-biz spectacles set in immense stadiums, with stupendous sets, gigantic props and casts of thousands.

But at their core are approaches unchanged in thousands of years. Drumming, dancing and moving in unison; gathering in circles; making pilgrimages — these elements of ritual transcend language, for in our infant years as a species we had none. They connect us to our roots as humans and fill a need overlooked in modern society — to remember who we are and where we came from.

As something that strikes a primal chord, drumming is a ceremonial staple. In the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, dozens of Native American drummers made a joyful noise while hundreds of tribe members moved around them in procession, chanting with great resolute voices. But it wasn’t just a performance. It was intended as a blessing to all who gazed and listened, each fluttering ribbon on their costumes a prayer for peace. Similarly, Chinese drumming is ritual drumming, always performed with specific intent on auspicious instruments. In 2008 Beijing, a plethora of giant Chinese drums carved from immense tree trunks was on parade.

We can appreciate the ceremonies’ cast-of-thousands spectacles for their grand-scale synchronization and technical wizardry. And while being visually dazzled we may not consciously notice the metaphors they convey: how art and expression are as elemental to our lives as competition, how interconnecting paths weave the tapestry of life, how many can come together to create something greater than the individual parts. But the brain recognizes ritual as embodied metaphor and soaks it all in.

Guerrilla ritual extends beyond the opening ceremony. Every athlete who competes in the Olympics is making a ritual pilgrimage to the site, leaving home and taking a journey in which they hope to transcend all personal limitations, much as the classic hero. In the opening ceremonies, the country-by-country parade of athletes, so often seen as a display of national and ethnic pride, is actually the last leg of their journey prior to the extreme test that is so often a part of the pilgrimage process. These converging paths of athletes coming to a central place weaves a web that although unseen is deeply felt.

Igniting the Olympic cauldron, formerly a simple act, has swelled into a torch relay race over thousands of miles, involving legions of people and lots of celebrities. Again, look past the flash and see the embodied metaphor that makes for powerful ritual: that keeping a vital part of the human spirit alive can come down to just one person willing to reach out to another.

One last time in the closing ceremony, look for the metaphor of how the parade of athletes, now on the first leg of their return pilgrimage home, walk as one unit rather than by nation. And when the cauldron is extinguished in the closing ceremony, notice flashlights and lighters held by thousands and thousands of attendees turning on at the same time, symbolizing how individuals keep a communal flame alive, ensuring that the spirit continues through generations of memory.