Reflections on the Vernal Equinox

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Equinox as tipping-point

Here I am, on the other side of the Spring Equinox… Equi = equal, nox = night. The moment passed on Monday, 20th March, at 9.24pm GMT. It’s the time when the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the sun’s rays and the sun crosses the celestial equator – an imaginary projection of the Earth’s equator in space. Day and night are of equal length – but just for a moment.

I was unable to write this on the day itself, travelling back from France. As I write now, I’m in an in-between period between three busy weekends, two of them away from home – one as a student, one as a teacher. I’m feeling the meaning of Equinox encoded in my life – a balance-point.

So, this is a reflection from the far side – from where I am in Ireland we have definitively tipped away from the darker time of year into the lighter, though in the southern hemisphere summer is giving way to softer light and longer nights.

Reflecting

I’ve been mulling on the Equinox during the period since Imbolc/St Brigid’s Day (1st February, (see here).

I’m in a state of flux, unsettled. Whereas Imbolc is an emergence within a time of hibernation, the Spring Equinox is a real balance-point between darkness and light. I’m watching myself embracing the brighter days, the lengthening evenings, but still with one foot in the darker period. There’s an unwillingness to relinquish the security blanket of darker days and longer nights; a feeling of needing to stay warm and cosy, just allowing the tips of the shoots of my creativity to nudge above the surface – unwilling to allow for the stronger creative energy which characterises this time of year; to step into the lighter phase of the year.

The Equinox this year came just a day before the new moon. Perhaps it’s the sense of quiet emergence in the crescent moon that is still present in me – I don’t yet want to rush out and leap into action. Yet there is something beautiful in the sense of possibility with the lighter days and the waxing moon.

Projecting and presence

On the other hand, I’m also conscious of inwardly leaping ahead to the really bright, long days around the Summer Solstice – or at least to May Day, the next Celtic Festival – Bealtaine. I’m confusing the full sun of late spring and summer with the half-and-half light and dark where we are now. I’m wanting March to be May. I’m expecting a degree of warmth from the sun which it just can’t give right now… My teacher Peter Hersnack said that memory has a tendency to ‘leapfrog’ over our vital energy[i] , so that we are cut off from being truly, vitally present, and I can feel this happening in me with the lure of summer days.

This seesawing between needing to stay dormant and wanting the thrill of high summer, seems to encapsulate the meaning of the Spring Equinox as a balance or tipping-point. I love the sense that, just for a moment on 20th March 2023, the seesaw was poised, as it were in mid-air – before flipping over into the lighter six months of the year.

[i] Referring to Yoga Sūtra 1.20

Warmth, light, movement

The day after the equinox was the first time it was warm enough to have lunch out in the sunny corner of my garden. The sky was a deeper blue than for a long time – the wind blowing the clouds across and tossing the branches of trees and shrubs – a smaller, more delicate movement on the ‘wedding bells’ flowers, the birds chirping away for all they were worth. It was quintessentially March! Such inherent joy!

Life-force

The Spring Equinox is known as ‘vernal’ – from the Latin implying new, fresh or youthful. Day and night equal, and the time of year in the Northern Hemisphere is characterised by this energy of new growth, and of green!!!

Tiny violets emerge in greenery in a Toulouse park on the day of the Equinox

In yoga, the life-force which is so expressive and vital just now in all of nature is called Prāṇa. Prāṇa is what animates all living things – and it’s everywhere, akin to Dylan Thomas’s ‘The force which through the green fuse drives the flower …’. Prāṇa is everywhere in nature, and within us on the breath – the ‘wind’ in us which circulates in many ways, opening up new spaces and possibilities for growth on every level.

Sound-sketch, Prāṇa-Equinox

Sheila Baker has sent some images for Prāṇa using bubbling effects… bubbles of life-containing space!

My sound-sketch wants to explore Equinox as Prāṇa drawn out in opposite directions – front and back, left and right, inner and outer. Stretched, teased, like spinning yarn, as in the spinning-out of the breath in prāṇāyāma; finer and finer until it is almost touching the non-material – pure Prāṇa. Simultaneous clear direction and meandering, bubbling, making new spaces and feeling them grow. It’s still very much a sketch, and it’s also part of a bigger, collaborative process which will come to fruition in the autumn.

Equilibrium

I’ve been exploring the idea of growth and balance in my class; of roots, shoots, branches, branching… Last week we dedicated the session to equilibrium in honour of the Equinox. Seeing the front from the perspective of the back, and vice versa – finding a midpoint in between to sense an inner freedom; feeling the arms stretching out into the world, equally in both directions from the heart outwards – equal, but not both the same. Finding the relationship between our inner and outer space; the challenge, to move out into the world without cutting ourselves off from what nourishes us from the inside. Someone said that the practice nourished them into equilibrium… working with the inevitability of constant movement and the passage of time, the equilibrium can soothe whilst keeping us alert in each moment. Alive in change. Meditation in action…

There is something here of the essence of the Sanskrit word santoṣa, contentment. Not lulled into sleep, but present, here, now – awake.

Poise

Equilibrium/equinox as poise – a living balance, centred and alert: the stillness and alertness of the cat before the energy  and direction of the pounce; the tension of the arrow before it is released; the poise of the Earth for just a moment as it circumnavigates the sun at the moment of the Equinox.

Timing – impression into expression…

In yoga, Prāṇa is understood as the reflection of that aspect of us which is beyond the material: we are nature, and something Other, and our job while living is to let both be present. I have the feeling that my clinging to the security blanket of hibernation is a kind of protection, preventing something deeper in me to take its place and find its voice. Listening to the birds, can I find a resonance with their instinctive vocalisation of the joy and energy of spring? Can I allow the whisper of breath inside to take wing and transmute into the glorious technicolour of musical vibration? I feel that there’s more internal work, more sketching, that needs to happen. It’s not quite time yet for a fully-fledged finished creative piece. The message of the Equinox seems to be to find the balance-point, a place of poise, feeling the sap rising… 

Equinox as a symbol for living presence. In the moment; the point of poise in every moment. A superimposition of the matrix of creation that is always in flux – and the inner light that never flickers.

[1] Referring to Yoga Sūtra 1.20

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Reflections on the Vernal Equinox

Here I am, on the other side of the Spring Equinox… Equi = equal, nox = night. The moment passed on Monday, 20th March, at 9.24pm GMT.

I’ve been connecting with the land and landscape. Over the new year period it was the browns on the hills of the Sheep’s Head peninsula in West Cork.

Meaning in Imbolc/St Brigid’s Day

St Brigid’s Day (1st February), , and the Celtic festival of Imbolc traditionally mark the start of Spring: a time when most life is still dormant

Meaning in the Winter Solstice

I have the sense that all the energy of the year has been condensed into this one day – a sense of being suspended in time. In the moment. Now, atha.