[Originally published on Huffington Post]
While the holidays, solstice and New Year may present a myriad of complexities and distractions, this season also offers the opportunity to pause and reflect more deeply on your life, to clarify priorities and affirm clear directions and intentions for the year to come.
As the old year draws to a close and a new cycle is about to begin, it’s a good time to contemplate the patterns of relationship that weave the various systems in your life together: beginnings and endings, what is developing and what is dissolving. What is manifesting, and what are the system’s potentials? Where is there movement and flexibility? Where is there “stuckness” and resistance to change?
To the degree that there is a high degree of connectivity and free flow of energy-information throughout a living system, it will be responsive to change, learn, adapt, heal, sustain itself and thrive. When any part of the whole become rigid, when the flow of energy or information stagnates or when parts of the system become isolated or cut off from the whole, then the health, vitality and capacity of the whole system is compromised. From the perspective of integrated wholeness, we understand that when any living system is suffering from ill-health or impaired in any way, then the remedy will be found by connecting it with more of itself.
In turbulent and rapidly-changing times such as these, if we seek to thrive and to discover, affirm and live more fully into our own wholeness, then having reliable ways to align and attune ourselves more deeply with our wholeness and highest capacity is of vital importance. In this spirit, we offer the following blog post as a seasonal reflection and contemplative practice to help you discover dynamic balance within the whole of your life. May these reflections illumine the path as you journey inward and onward.
Begin by orienting yourself to the four directions: east and west, north and south.
Turn first to face the east — that place of dawning, sunrise and new beginnings, the place of inspiration where what was hidden by the night is revealed and becomes clear. It’s the direction that the earth forever turns toward and returns to. If you’re not sure of the directions, simply hold for now that the direction you’re facing is the east, and then at a later time when you get your bearings, repeat this technique facing each of the actual directions.
Next turn to face the south, that place of the brightest light, that noontime sky when the sun is most high and the light is warmest and brightest. The south — the place where everything is manifest, full-blown, and full grown and, in being in its fullness, is sure to wane from here.
Now turn to face the west. Behold that place of sunsets and completions, the time and place where the last rays of light, the last waves of breath disappear across the threshold into night. The place of transformation and unification of light and darkness, day and night.
Turning again, face the north, home of the North Star — that one relatively still unchanging point in the spinning universe that seems always to be there. That dark place where there is infinite potential for the light of new potentials to emerge.
Returning now to the rising light of a new dawn, face the east, restoring your faith that again out of the deepest darkness, light will surely come, that out of the coldest winter will come a new spring, that out of the darkest night will come a new bright dawn, a new birth and a new beginning.
Return again to face the south. And return again to face the west. And return again to face the north.
Each breath carries you round this wheel and through every phase of the cycle. Exhaling completely, you arrive at the north, empty, open, receptive. As the inhalation begins, you turn to and through the east to reach your fullness at the top of the inhalation facing the south. Then, exhaling, turning toward the west, releasing and letting go of your fullness, trusting to release and let go, returning again and again to the still point of infinite potentials in the north.
Turning again, growing, sprouting, gestating toward a new birth and new beginnings and emergings in the east. Contemplate the meaning of east — spring equinox, inhaling, creativity, blossoming, filling, becoming in your life.
Turning again, reflect upon the meaning of south — summer solstice, full inhalation, ripe fruit on the trees, the prime of life. Growing, strengthening, expanding to the fullness in the south.
Turning again toward the west, contemplate the meanings behind the experience of crossing the threshold into night, autumn equinox, leaves falling from the trees, getting colder, darker, older, endings, deaths, wanings, diminishings, deepenings, dissolvings, exhaling toward the west.
And turning toward the north, ponder midnight, winter solstice, exhalation, receptivity and emptiness soon to be filled, that plenum void of unmanifest potential waiting to be expressed in a new dawn. North is an old friend. You’ve been here before, no need for fear of stillness or frozenness, knowing that spring, inspiration and the seeds of new beginnings are enfolded in potential here. Here you know winter as the womb of spring, darkness as the womb of light and death as the womb of birth.
You can use this process in your daily life to step into the center of a question or a project in order to see how all the complex forces and phases fit together in search of balance. For example, turning toward the east, metaphorically or in actuality, ask yourself, “What is beginning and emerging here? What has yet to fully emerge into clarity? What is being born that needs to be developed and brought through to fruition? What is the potential for breakthrough in this breakdown?”
To the south, ask, “What is clear here? What has reached its peak, fullness, maximal extension or expression and is about to wane?”
To the west, you ask, “What in my life or world is passing or coming to completion? What seeds are being sowed into the earth now and what is being composted to feed the next cycle?”
And to the north you ask, “What remains unchanged? What are the possibilities or potentials latent here that have not yet been recognized or realized? Where am I stuck or withdrawn, and what seeds of potential are frozen that must thaw or be released for the next cycle of being to begin?”
Use the basic truth of the natural cycle to organize your attention and focus your thinking and expand and refresh your perspective. With each cycle of the process, a clearer, deeper, more vibrant sense of wholeness emerges. With each iteration, you deepen your wisdom of balance by seeing how each part is included in the whole, and how the whole is inseparable from its many parts. Each circle defines a whole: a whole breath, a whole day, a whole lunar cycle or year, or a lifetime.
Understanding this, contemplate how the insights you come to may apply across many dimensions of wholeness, many cycles of time, many relationships, situations, priorities or projects that you seek to balance in your life. This quality of multidimensional, whole systems thinking will help you to focus on the many elements of your life and weave them into a dynamically-balanced integral view of wholeness.
Ultimately, your greatest wisdom will be realized in learning to hold all of these perspectives and points of view simultaneously, to behold a global vision of the whole, dynamic system in all of its phases and stages as present in this timeless moment of unified awareness.
As you reflect more deeply about the unique aspects of each phase of the cycle, you’ll begin to see a complete view of the whole system. You will start to recognize that the rhythms of energy and change within you and around you are deeply related, and in each phase of the cycle you’ll see every part of the system in its dynamically-balanced relationship to a larger wholeness. By coming to realize that the same forces that are alive within you are alive and unfolding in the world around you, you awaken ever more deeply to the mystery of life’s circle of wholeness.