Happy Autumn Equinox!
Autumn Equinox 2021 falls on September 22nd at 12:20 pm PT. It is the balancing point between light and dark, the approximately equal day and night before we tip toward darkness.
When I think of balance these days, I think of how out of balance we humans have gotten with Eairth,* how our presence has caused such harm to Eairth’s life systems.
How do we walk in balance with Eairth?
What does that even mean?
There are so many plans for mitigating the crisis we find ourselves in, living on a planet whose weather is getting more and more erratic and whose life systems are failing.
For me, the biggest thing is to find a way to live in balance now, in this forest garden home where I am living. To find a way of belonging, of connecting, of being in relationship with Eairth. If I don’t have this, I won’t be able to choose well how to act in the world.
I find what helps me the most are earth-based practices.
It’s been a gradual shift for me to take on earth-based practices consciously, even though I have been slowly moving in this direction for years.
My first official foray into a deeper connection with Eairth was through Sara Avant Stover’s The Way of the Happy Woman. This work helped me get more connected to the seasons—how they manifest not only in Eairth but in me, how I can align with them in how I eat, how I plan my life, even how I do yoga. This was thrilling to me—to realize that I could choose to energetically match my life to the natural patterns of Eairth.
Tending the earth continues to teach me about how alive Eairth is. When I see how Eairth can grow plants without fertilizer, without artificial interaction, simply from the basic elements of earth, air, water, and sun, how can I not be grateful and amazed?
I often greet new sprouts and blooms by singing to them, thanking them for growing, welcoming them. It is not a very big step to simply thank and praise Eairth for the larger gift of life, that allows me and my beloveds also to live.
I take inspiration from indigenous practices, the Native American medicine wheel, Pagan and Celtic practice, the work of Charles Eisenstein, geologian Thomas Berry, cosmologist Brian Swimme, deep ecologist Joanna Macy, wilderness-based soul guide Bill Plotkin, poets Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder, and many others.
While I have found it helpful to learn the data points that comprise this experience of being alive, of plants greening, of earth sustaining us, I have also felt a need to enter more deeply into relationship with Eairth, into more-than-head-based knowledge.
So, other than thanking and praising the plants as I tend,
the trees and ferns and moss as I walk,
what does this look like?
Most mornings, I practice a version of what Native Americans call a medicine wheel, just outside our back door, turning to face each cardinal direction and addressing one of the Elements, or what Brian Swimme calls the Powers of the Universe. The circle I move in also blends elements from Wicca and from Bill Plotkin’s wheel of eco- and psycho-spiritual phases of development. Sometimes I add yoga, too.
I greet and thank East, Power of Wind, of air, of breath, of sky, of the new day dawning. Grateful for the qualities of freshness, newness, of innocence and open mind, of the generous distribution of air that keeps plants, animals, and humans breathing and warms and cools our planet.
I greet and thank South, Power of Fire, of flame, of warmth, of noon heat. Grateful for the qualities of passion, of growth, of flowering, of playfulness, of the instinctive life force that runs through the animal body that I am.
I greet and thank West, Power of Sea, of water, of flow, of depths. Grateful for the qualities of sensitivity and responsiveness, of the ability to be affected by others, to absorb and assimilate, and to be absorbed into the One/the Beloved.
I greet and thank North, Power of Land, of matter, of stone, field, and mountain, of cosmic memory. Grateful for the qualities of gravity, of strength and action, of re-membering and remembering, for my elders, teachers, mentors, and ancestors.
And in the Center, I touch earth and reach up to sky, turning in a circle, bringing my hands to belly and heart, breathing in now. I feel myself taking my place, as human, as being, as earth standing on two feet, as a member of this amazing web of life.
I think what we are all seeking in our lives is a feeling of connection with True Nature.
Call that God, Goddess, the Universe, Higher Power, Beloved, Love, Truth… to me, it is all the same. We had a taste of this connection, this love in our mother’s womb and have been searching for it ever since.
Being surrounded by the natural world, as opposed to the human-made world, helps me feel this connection more easily. Many people experience this—we seek moments of wonder, awe, beauty, peace in nature.
What if these moments are simply openings to True Nature, that which is the most essential and natural to us all? And what if we could consciously cultivate this connection on a daily basis?
There are many ways to practice connecting—this is just one detailed example of a morning practice. Bill Plotkin’s books, Joanna Macy’s work, The Way of the Happy Woman, Forest Breathing practices, books about getting kids in to nature—there are many more ideas out there. One other important way for me to connect is through singing—check out this song by Gretchen Sleicher.
What earth-based practices support you?
* Eairth = Earth and Air, a more descriptive way of spelling the planet we live in, from geologian Thomas Berry