Looking back on the year 2016 lays out an impressive display. There are an incredible amount of highs and lows– immense growth and learning, plenty of mistakes and acting less than ideal, Joy beyond all joy, and hardship we never saw coming. Life is full, and to be grateful for the whole spectrum of encounters takes a lot of courage and trust in the grand process.
In Yoga, our daily reality is based on the pulsation of spanda– the ever repeating oscillation between positive and negative, contraction and expansion. This is the nature of all movement, of life itself. To accept the contractions is to prepare and engage the rigor of the next expansion. This is the means to not get caught in the swells that the highs and lows can drown us in.
We have just moved through the Winter solstice, the tipping point where one full year completes the cycle from contraction to expansion and back again. We have begun the earth’s movement back into the light. This represents the opening up of our awareness, the recognition of previously unseen possibilities and connections, and the abundant, unconditional expression of Love. As individuals our cycles between contraction and expansion happen as quickly as the movement of the breath in and out, as thoughts take us to heaven and to hell, as we receive good news one minute bad news the next. To be intentional in our individual movement towards the light takes a repeated effort, we have to consciously be ‘onboard.’
To survive in the ocean of samsara (the nature of duality) we seek to gain the perspective that steadies ourself amidst this inevitable movement. To hold the sides of your boat in an effort to try to stop the sea from rocking doesn’t work. The sea seethes with life, the pulse between high and low is constant and continuous. What steadies us, then, is to realize that within the movement there is the still point of equanimity. Equanimity is the ability to welcome it all with the knowledge everything leads to expansion, with the steadfastness to do the work that follows it all through to expansion. To see our response to and alignment with Spanda is our purpose and practice.
There is an ancient prayer that calls us to wake up to our purpose and engagement in the world:
from the Unreal to the Real
(from thinking at some point we will not have to deal with contraction, from thinking something could never expand)
from Darkness to Light
(from being swallowed by the waves of the highs and lows, from acting out the highs and lows with eyes closed)
from the Finite to the Infinite
(from seeing only the wave we are riding, from forgetting the intrinsic life support of Spanda’s pulsation)