21 June 2017, 06h25:
Winter Solstice for the Southern Hemisphere
Today is the winter solstice – it is the day of the year with the longest hours of night for the Southern Hemisphere, whereas the Northern is experiencing the longest hours of daylight.
The winter solstice is aligned with Water, a free flowing and reflective element necessary for all life on earth. Winter is a time of rest when many plants have become dormant, yet southern countries rarely receive snowfall such as our northern counterparts and thus many animals remain active during the colder months. The lower levels of activity, clear skies and dull landscapes are an ideal environment for some self-reflection and contemplation. Here, water assists greatly with inner searches of discovery when we review our behaviour and thoughts, sometimes coming face-to-face with inner demons (shadow aspect). With great effort we are able to see the value of such darkness in times of need when they are brought to bear during struggles for survival. We are also able to cultivate new skills and use them as gifts for ourselves and for others during times of need (light aspect). Thus, this leads to our main theme of today’s article.
The greatest gift one can learn for oneself and to teach others is that of meditation. Conscious focus on one’s breath is a very simple act, but our minds are easily distracted and soon thoughts invade, leading our concentration elsewhere and hindering our journey towards stress relief (and later self-discovery) [Benefits of Meditation]. In general, meditation also involves little-to-no human interaction and a great deal of solitude. Many people avoid and even fear solitude. Modern day society will tell you that you are ‘introverted’, anti-social or socially incompetent when you actively seek out solitude. It is because of the fact that during times of silence; your inner most being, your deepest desires and fears speak the loudest. It is easier to avoid such scenarios, because we are much too often reminded of the ‘could haves’, ‘should haves’ and ‘would haves’ when we sit in solitude [The Lost Art of Solitude & What’s Great about Solitude]. We are duped into believing that the distractions of money and material things can bring us everlasting comfort and happiness without having to face your inner self.
“At the start of our practise, we have to recognise the nature of mindfulness, which we have to develop for as long as we are alive. The presence of mindfulness is what really makes the difference between true happiness and false happiness… True happiness is when we really have peace of mind. False happiness is when greed and excitement overcome the mind – the mind is agitated.”
Venerable Sujiva (2000), Essentials of Insight Meditation Practice.
“The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing; it refuses nothing. It receives, but does not keep.”
Chaung-tzu as quoted in The Way of Zen, 1957 by A. W. Watts.
Material distractions form the basis of modern society. When we refuse to face the truth of our inner self we will never reach a state of contentment and harmony, because we are always rushing and running after the next big pay check and the next shiny car. I am not saying that money is evil or unimportant and that all material things are distractions – no, we all need to eat sometime during the month and certain material things are needed in order to function properly in society. What we do need to realise is that we actually require a lot less from the outside world and a lot more of the inner world. Happiness and contentment are not external, both are generated from within. Also, it isn’t easy, it isn’t instant and it takes constant effort to create your own happiness. Especially in a world that doesn’t believe such a feat is possible. This is where a constant meditation practise (even of 5 minutes a day) can assist with gentle guidance towards the inner self and impactful stress relief. The effects and personal journey that meditation leads one through is hard to describe partly because our language is quite inadequate to describe such explorations of the spirit.
“The difficulty is not so much in the language as in the thought-patterns which have hitherto seemed inseparable from the academic and scientific way of approaching a subject.”
A. W. Watts (1957), The Way of Zen.
“Only when the veils of the old, overconditioned personal self drop away do we liberate the innate capacities of our ‘‘original self’’ to see deeply into the reality of this outside world. Only at the deeper levels of such an emancipation can our true nature register objectively. The result is an extraordinary, fresh impression: things as THEY are, not what they had always seemed to be in our overconditioned imagination.
What we see then are the ways individual things complement one another, as do yin and yang. But these words, like other language functions of the left side, are then no longer in the picture. Indeed, as Paul Valery phrased it, “Seeing begins when you forget the name of the thing you see.” ”
J. H Austin (M. D) (2006), Zen-Brain Reflections.
One of the most striking descriptions that I have come across for the process was the comparison of the mind during meditation like the waves upon the ocean:
“Even though waves arise, the essence of your mind is pure; it is just like clear water with a few waves. Actually water always has waves. Waves are the practice of the water. To speak of waves apart from water or water apart from waves is a delusion. Water and waves are one.”
Shunryu’s analogy lets me understand that the mind is like an ocean, where the thoughts are its waves generated from far in the subconscious (or unconscious). Some thoughts crash onto the shores of consciousness. Then the aim of meditation is to let them pull back, returning to the subconscious once again. Therefore, one cannot have an ‘empty’ mind, which is a common misconception. One cannot empty the mind as thoughts are inherit to it. Shunryu also continues his teachings by noting that:
“When you are practicing zazen, do not try to stop your thinking. Let it stop by itself. If something comes into your mind, let it come in, and let it go out. It will not stay long. When you try to stop your thinking, it means you are bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything. It appears as if something comes from outside your mind, but actually it is only the waves of your mind, and if you are not bothered by the waves, gradually they will become calmer and calmer. “
[zazen = seated meditation]
Here, Shunryu illustrates that we can objectively face our subjective reality and the thoughts that come with it. We must learn to accept what we have done and realise how we currently think without judgement or reaction. With this realisation we will be able to chart a new way of thought, which will eventually lead to a new way of action. A spirit-to-mind-to-emotional-to-physical cascade of sorts, one flows into the other and cannot be separated from the former.
When one comes to think of the mind as a flowing entity, capable of steering its own course of energy, you quickly find yourself in the world of quantum physics [Quantum Physics & Quantum Metaphysics]. The laws of quantum physics are universal, unlike classical physics, and are able to influence any part of our reality, even our minds. Quantum physics has even demonstrated that an observer of a quantum event can influence its outcome. Thus the question becomes, if we step back from ourselves, our behaviours, thoughts and feelings – when we become mere observers of our life’s events: how much would we be able to influence what we have experienced and what we have learned from our lives? Ourselves?… We would, in-fact, be able to re-remember and to re-learn an entire lifetime’s worth of lessons. We would even be capable of re-writing experiences and memories. Such revelations would come to use like mind waves upon our own quantum ocean. It has the potential to become a deep and endless source of inner truth, ultimately leading to lasting happiness and contentment through all of life’s challenges and tribulations. The best of all is that: All of these valuable lessons lie within each and every one of us, we merely need to start listening and let the waves of wisdom crash upon the shores of our consciousness. Allow them effect upon our realities every day as we presently carve the path to ourselves and move towards a better future. I end off with phrases from the Venerable Sujiva, who gives us a practical approach to building on these memories and experiences, whereas Carl Jung gives an indication of its consequences:
“This means that a proper base of the lower experiences must be developed further before the higher levels can grow. For example, your concentration must last longer and deeper, before you are able to watch more phenomena. Therefore, when you watch certain new experiences, you have to watch it longer and clearer before you can watch deeper ones. For the third level to become stronger, the first and second level must become stronger too. You do not forget the lower levels. This means that there will be a constant repetition of the earlier experiences for some time, before a new experience comes. The lesson to be learned is that you must have patience.”
Venerable Sujiva (2000), Essentials of Insight Meditation Practice.
“The recollection of infantile memories and the reproduction of archetypal ways of psychic behavior can create a wider horizon and a greater extension of consciousness on condition that one succeeds in assimilating and integrating
in the conscious mind the lost and regained contents. Since they are not neutral,
their assimilation will modify the personality, just as they themselves will have to undergo certain alterations. In this part of what is called “the individuation process” (which Dr. M.-L. von Franz describes in a later section of this
book), the interpretation of symbols plays an important practical role. For the symbols are natural attempts to reconcile and unite opposites within the psyche.”
C. G Jung (1964), Man and his Symbols.
Thus, the Final Symbolic Message for the Winter Solstice:
– Meditating on the Shore of my Quantum Ocean –
All Natural Spirit
Source Materials for the “Message of the Winter Solstice”: