Breaking Down and Breaking Through
By Amanda Coleman, LMP
Amanda takes us on a spiral journey to help us gain respect for the dark night of winter and honor the sacred yin healing available to us this time of year. Read on if you dare to go deep…
The year my son was 4, I spent the evening of the winter solstice at a yoga meditation class. When I returned, he wanted to know where I’d been. I explained that this was the longest, darkest night of the year and that the gathering was to celebrate the return of the light. He said “Mom, if it’s the longest, darkest night of the year, how come you weren’t celebrating darkness?”
Darkness belongs to the half of existence known in Chinese medicine and Taoist philosophy as Yin: all that is dark, cool, wet and fecund…like the body of the Earth herself.
In our modern Western world, her role has been largely eclipsed by our focus on her partner, Yang: the light, the heat, the excitement, technology, progress, illumination, electricity. So much so that the dark, cool aspects of us have been deemed “shadow” if not flat out evil or backward…something to suffer or endure or attempt to overcome or put to some “good use” but not to enjoy, revere, protect, love, or value equally.
But we are made of Earth. Her soil makes our bones (calcium et al) and reddens out blood (iron). 50-78% of our body is made of her sloshing seas. We are born out of the divine relationship of Earth and Sky. Neither alone could create nor sustain us, or any of life. All we eat is dark soil and bright sun thanks to the plant’s elemental fusion cuisine: soil, air, water and fire (sun).
The winter solstice IS a time to celebrate darkness. The neat thing about Yin/Yang is that at their extremes, one becomes the other: precisely at that moment when things are as dark as they possibly can be, we slip into increasing light. A New Year is born. Just at that moment when a laboring mother decides—no way, I’m not doing this, I can’t—her child’s head begins to emerge.
And look at the Earth, so you see the signs? She rumbles and shifts, heats and tosses. Her waters break on our coastal cities. Our human systems shudder and falter. Is it the END TIMES upon us?
It may seem so if you fear darkness, birth, Earth and wild process. If you have been focused so much on the other side that you are missing a few important pieces of information…
Imagine for a moment that you wake up one morning not feeling quite right: tired, queasy, off-kilter. And though it comes and goes it never really goes away. In fact it gets worse and worse as months go by… Then a terrible swelling begins in your abdomen. Strange pains come, like being gripped, kicked or pummeled, almost like some wild beast is writhing inside you. Then, it comes. One night you explode with a bloody froth and the gripping, shaking pains begin. You are being turned inside out. You must certainly be dying and all is lost. Ripping and straining you fight for life…one…last…gasp…. Hey. What is that? Wait! It’s alive! And so are you.
One little piece of missing information can make things very dramatic and terrifying. And we do fear birth in this culture. Not the coming out into the light part, no, we revere that and try to get to that as quickly and efficiently as possible. No, we fear what comes right before: the highly variable, stormy, wet and dark process which precedes it. We go to great lengths to speed it up, control it, medicate it, shine lights into it, force it open on our schedule. We just can’t wait to get to the “good part”. From 1850-1937 if you were a wealthy woman and could afford a doctor or hospital for your birth you were much more likely to die—excited doctors intervening with all their “modern” instruments and procedures were just introducing a bunch of pathogens, as it turns out.
I like to believe we’re on our way to balance…but look at how hard we still push to get to the “good part” of the year. And during the holidays we rush to get to the “Joy Part”…more lights, more shopping, more gatherings, more revelry!!! We’re standing there with our shiny forceps so impatient to pull that nascent glimmer of light out RIGHT NOW. I don’t think we really understand that when we work with the forces of nature there’s no need to push. It’s surfing. The birth will still happen. The womb can push the child out. The darkness will give way to light. The process is strong. This is no exorcism—no banishing the dark and triumphing over evil with our righteous will. No, love, this is sweet surrender (FYI the sweet taste is Yin, too, and when consumed in excess can turn to Yang: inflammation LOL).
Renowned natural birth expert Elana Tonetti-Vladamirova says “If there is one thing I would want all first time mothers to know about birth, it is this: spiralling.
Spiral movement. The spiral is a good symbol for us to explore in out attempt to understand these mysteries of our times. The 5125 year Mayan calendar cycle is ending on December 21st, 2012. The left hemisphere of the brain leans toward linear thinking: life is like a staircase: you’re moving up toward heaven or down toward hell. Everything else gets pushed over the edge. It’s either the end of the World, or it’s all bunk and back to business as usual! In other parts of our brain and body we experience life more as a circle: one circle ends and another immediately begins: up and down and round and round. So what symbol could unify our fragmented human experience? What might be that little piece of missing information? Combine a staircase with a circle and what do you get? A spiral. As in the form of our galaxy. As in our very own blueprint, our DNA. Where, as it happens, we store little bits of important information.
Futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard turns to the spiral as a way of illustrating that we are evolving as a species and that the pressures we face now are like the pressures that have always driven Earth creatures to evolve: that we are staring down another turn on the spiral. Like an infant in the birth canal spiraling its way out amidst the mounting pressure: the pressure is used as a field of support as it creatively navigate an intense situation! The spiral movement pattern in the human being is only possible when all the other developmental patterns that precede it are present: only then can we get up off the floor and dance.
A diagram of Spiral Dynamics and discussion by Barbara Marx Hubbard
So when we are going down into a darkness of some sort let’s circle our hips and ride the waves as the tide turns. Then, in the full light of the next day when indeed we are all still here… we can celebrate the light.