Where the mind is without Fear
And the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Offering on Mt. Batur, Margie Politzer
The first morning light of December. Our month of the deepest introspective work of the year has begun.
It is so often the case that we spend the month of December in a fever of festivity, excessive consumption, family reunion, and all the complications that partner each of these pastimes. For some, December is also the month of planning. Of visualising an ideal year ahead and constructing elaborate plans for bringing it to fruition. We make promises to ourselves, many of which we have little hope of carrying through. Almost as a means of justification for the consumption of the holiday period, we plan on cleanses, detoxes, diets. New regimes, new lifestyle choices. So all in all, December becomes a frenetic period of organisational chaos and inevitable feelings of insufficiency and over indulgence.
But what a far cry from the true energetics of the season. Here we are at our most sensitive. Our most sublime. Wise and intutive. Our bodies become the store house of lessons learned and potent self-acknowledgment. Our season of the Sadhu, or holy person, as we look deeply inwards at the progress that has been made and the gentle rhythms of time as they play upon our life’s and environs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine associates Winter with the Water element. Heavy and dark, water may be subtle yet it is a powerful and unstoppable force. But for me, one of the most powerful gifts of Water, is it’s ability to be comfortable with the unknown, with the hidden depths. For most of us the unknown is a source of fear. We live in a world saturated by the unknown. Nothing on this material platform is certain. But the idea of living in the midst of an unfolding mystery fills the majority of us with dread. And therefore we try to create elements of certainty within our lives as a safety net. We make plans and hold tightly to social beliefs and constructs in attempt to create some sort of order. Nevertheless, all these constructions are illusiory. We can never be certain of what is coming in the very next moment, no matter how hard we strive to protect ourselves from nasty surprises.
Ma Juan, Studies of Water, 1190-1224
As we come to this juncture, the end of the year, we have a tendency to look ahead and make preparations and plans. To formulate some sort of structure to the future as a means of self-preservation and support. And whilst it is a beneficial practice to take stock of the year that has past and set seeds and intentions for areas of work and growth in the year to come, this season of Water is also the ideal period to explore our relationship with the unknown. To sit quietly and create space for the unknown to enter. To spend time in the unknown and become more comfortable with it. To find a space of acceptance and trust that what will be will be. And to develop an attitude of openness and eagerness. To still our tendencies towards preconception and instead become curious and willing.
When we relinquish the desire to control we can break free of so many limiting beliefs and practices. We no longer indentify with the role of controller and instead can surrender into the role of servant. Servant to the Divine. The most high. How humbling. How liberating to be consumed by love and trust and be released from the grip of Fear. Of course, it is no easy feat. But this is why we dedicate ourselves to the practice. To the exploration.
House Shrine, Varanasi
During December my rituals become deeper. More fully embedded in devotion and dedication. I sit for longer in silence. I sing for longer in prayer. Sacred space is honoured with great intent.
When those desires to make plans, make judgements or assessments creep in, we must breath and smile in acceptance of our “need” to do more, or to do “better”. Release the desire to control and allow life to manifest as it will. It requires a great deal of trust. And internal resolution. But these dark days of Winter are here for us to develop that trust. To find resolution. To sit in peace and integrity. Full up with the innate wisdom that lies within us all. This is our time to scrape back the layers that disguise Truth and alter perception. Our perceptions of ourselves, of others, of the world as we know it. To give ourselves over to the Divine. The constant and unchanging. To find solace in the music of the breath.
Chinese hand scroll, source unknown
na dhanam na janam na sundarim
kavitam va jagad-isha kamaye
mama janmani janmanisvare
bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi
O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.
~ Sri Siksastikam, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu