The End of the Year

This feels far from a Beginner’s Mind. The last few weeks of the year bearing down, the winter solstice upon us. For me this is a time of inner fog and a low ebb of energy usually accompanied by a bad cold. It’s been too easy over the years to use this conjunction as reason to beat myself up over my shortcomings. This year, I’ve been able to avoid the worst of that, so far. It’s still hard to deal with a sense that all the momentum building up over the last few months has seemed to fizzle with the shortened days and the first bitter cold of the oncoming winter. As hard as it may be, it’s essential not to let this get the better of me.

The tide comes in, the tide goes out. This just happens to be one of the Mother of All Tides! The end of the year, the “super” solstice; combining a solstice, a full moon, and a lunar eclipse into a few short hours later tonight. For me, a birthday in December also adds its opportunities for psycho-drama. Part of the attitude of acceptance I’ve been preaching requires an acceptance of these events and their potential effects on my organism.

At times like this, it’s easy to mourn the loss of visible momentum. Many people are affected by this season, and below the superficial calls to gaiety and celebration, most people I know are inwardly cringing and looking forward to the lengthening days and renewed energy January often brings. Such mourning, and impatience to get on with it may be unavoidable, but there is something else going on at times like these. Every movement begins with its opposite, we exhale to inhale, we reach back to push forward. This time is part of that cycle of action. To my mind, I think it is an essential part. The disquiet, even the “fog,” are signs that we are processing behind the scenes. We are breaking with old ways and shedding old skins. This is hard and dangerous work. It would be silly to think it could be done with a light step and a smile on the face!

January, named after Janus. He looked ahead and he looked behind, with a face for each of these essential actions. That’s part of what we are preparing to do in this period when the tide is out.

Waiting for “inspiration” when my valued habits seem to have forsaken me, I’ve not been able to post for what to me feels like a long time. The purpose of this forum came back to me as I came to write this. It’s a record of how I’ve passed through these times as much as a place in which I’ve gathered and focused my thinking on the horizons of significance. This purpose means that if I have something to say I say it. It also means that if I don’t quite feel up to it, I still need to express that. It’s in this spirit that I write this post.

We have tremendous elasticity if we allow ourselves to express it. So much of what I’ve brought up here has had to do with the ways in which we short-circuit that process and bring about an enforced brittleness that leaves us unable to contemplate any change, whether an impinging series of circumstances, or the weight and pressure of our own responses to our surroundings. We flatter ourselves with a sense of our fragility and our impregnability all at the same time to avoid facing things. In the wish to maintain a held view we sacrifice everything including our vaunted reason in our embrace of this strange paradox. We also hide its paradoxical nature from ourselves, blinkering one eye and then the other so as not to see the illogic of our position. It’s a funny jumble.

We are fragile, we are also strong, but not impregnable. Our elasticity is the result of our fertility, our inability to avoid being impregnated by the effects of our surroundings. Accepting these conditions we can embrace the powers working in us – or through us if you’d so prefer it. This isn’t “logical” either, but if we accept its illogic, instead of denying an illogic we hold dear as an escape, we gain an ability to ‘stand. – Understand may be too great an ambition, maybe it’s enough to simply feel we are standing somewhere instead of floating precariously at the mercy of all we won’t acknowledge.

This isn’t a time for complete thoughts. Too much lies unformed and just out of reach. There’s value in reaching out to the unformed sometimes.

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7 thoughts on “The End of the Year

  1. Thank you Tony. It’s always heartening to me to hear honoured why the cave of winter matters, this in-between times when our attachment to doing is overtaken by cold, colds, necessary inertia; giving time for the old to die and the new seeds to gather nourishment before they grow. Part of connection, to breathe in an out when the whole of nature does.

    1. You’ve captured something of what I feel at the moment. It feels as if everything has to change radically, my approach to work and politics especially, and yet I’m so tired! The extremely cold weather here seems destined to go on for 2 more months, so it feels like a preparatory hibernation. I like your idea that we flatter ourselves with our sense of fragility. That’s a new and useful thought for me. Thanks

      1. Bridget,

        Thank you so much for your comment.

        Everything does have to change and it will. This moment is a lesson that we don’t control change, even within ourselves. If we stop pushing we may find a way forward.

        You are not doing nothing, I’m the beneficiary of that!

        For myself, I’m listening to the whispers that would be ignored in more active times.

        The days are getting longer. We’ll begin to feel a new momentum soon.

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