As you read this, the equinox may be fast approaching. Maybe the equinox has already arrived and is with you now. Or perhaps the equinox has passed and left you wondering if you observed its passing with the right amount of attentiveness.
Whatever your current situation, I would like to encourage you to pay attention to the equinoxes when they come. They are an important part of the rhythm of nature on our planet, and integral to the interplay of earth and sun. For me, each equinox is a poignant time, an opportunity to reflect and plan in my life, and especially to promote greater balance in the things I do.
Understanding the Equinox
As you probably know, twice in the year, just after the halfway points of March and September, the earth reaches a halfway point of its own and strikes a special balance with the sun. At this time of equinox, the sun’s light of day and the starlit darkness of night, a spectacle of other and more distant suns, are equal in length and therefore balanced, wherever you are on this usually slightly imbalanced planet.
At each equinox, the upper and lower hemispheres of our earth are united, both turned to the sun in equal measure. Importantly, I will suggest this balancing occurs and is true in other ways too. At the equinox, there even is a general balancing of the earth and many of the processes of life on our earth. At the equinox, our own divided selves can more easily be made united and balanced too, in a way that is quite like that of our earth’s balancing against the sun.
You may remember from school that our planet’s axis is tilted a bit in its orbital plane around the sun. In late July, the northern hemisphere is angled in toward the sun, and the southern hemisphere away, causing summer and winter. In December, the earth’s tilt is the opposite relative to the sun, with the southern pole leaning into its warm rays. This switches the seasons for the northern and southern hemispheres, and completes and continues the long seasonal rhythm of our planet.
In March and September, by contrast, there is a meeting of these two extremes in their middle, when both poles are parallel to the sun and aligned with the path of the earth’s orbit. As our earth follows its elliptical orbit, its tilt inevitably reaches a middle point, even if for only a moment, where neither pole is tilted toward or away from the sun. This is the equinox, the earth at its middle point in relation to the sun.
At each equinox, the tilted axis of our comparatively small planet is momentarily and for a general time in greater harmony with our giant sun, with the southern and northern hemispheres of our earth exposed to the sun equally – hence the Latin name equinox, meaning equal night. If you think of the sun against one side of your face, with your head tilted forward or backward slightly relative to your body, this is exactly the position of the earth at the equinox.
At the equinoxes – vernal (spring) and autumnal (fall) – the earth is physically balanced in a way that is unique in the year, and in subtle ways we often fail to appreciate and certainly do not fully understand. Every young scientist knows, for example, that you can balance a hen’s egg on end right at the equinox (for about ten minutes around the exact time of the alignment) and at no other time in the year. The equinox is truly a time of balance, in ways we scarcely can imagine but can sense and feel nonetheless.
A worthy line of questions, for those of us interested in nature and the connection our health to nature: what else around us is re-balanced in the bi-annual event of the equinox? What other things are aligned and made whole again, or triggered in new beginnings, during the special time of equinox?
We of course can only begin to know, young or old, scientist or not. But we should begin, and beginning in our own lives.
Life at the Equinox
To be attentive beneath the earth’s balancing light and darkness certainly hints at a greater and overall balancing of the world around us. At the equinox, the excesses of summer and winter, physical and emotional, seem and really are gone. Midway between these more extreme times, there is a subtle stillness and general pausing in the movement of year, life, and earth.
Our climate is generally more balanced at equinox, wherever we are, with the prospect of better or worse weather often held in abeyance for a time. And the pace of life – of all life and not just human life – is more measured too. Gone, but perhaps remembered and foreshadowed in places, are the withdrawal of winter and the frenzy of summer.
There is of course continued and even an increasing sort of activity at each equinox, but of a more focused sort, as there is in all moments of balance. This activity is the preparation for coming summer or winter, or for a new phase of life, human or not. But even this perennial activity seems uniquely and specially balanced at the equinox, neither as frantic as it will be nor as subdued as it was. Life and living planet around us does seem to have one side fully in sun and active, and one in night and reposed, together imbuing balance. In this time of general balance, I will suggest, there is opportunity for our health and renewal.
If you watch people, it is clear we are often more balanced at and around each equinox. Gone from us are the excesses of our own summers and warm emotions, and our winters and cool reasonings. Our two human hemispheres are like those of our earth, more united and one. We, like all nature around us, reach a keener and more even state at the equinox. We are neither there nor there, but here finally. We are more ourselves, more whole and potentially more present in the world and our own lives.
In each of us, as in nature, there is the same still pause before the coming ascent or descent of our own self with the season. We need only look to find it and to take advantage of this time. It is in this pause in the world, and in our selves and lives, at each equinox, that there is opportunity – for renewal and measure, for new personal balance, and for planning and carrying our re-balanced self into the months ahead.
Health at the Equinox
Our opportunity for renewal and discovery at each equinox is ultimately an opportunity for new personal growth and greater health in our lives. It is an opportunity to live more deliberately, to live more deeply and naturally, and to seek and sustain life that more perennial and in deeper rhythm and balance with the world.
Here are questions worth considering in the next equinox, in the next balancing of light and life and spheres, which may help you reflect on your life and better prepare for and make the most of the months ahead:
· Is your diet, the daily foundation of our health, in balance this equinox? Have you broken the vicious, more extreme cycles of health-reducing foods that are all around us in modern civilization? Do you have the needed momentum to maintain a truly natural and health optimizing diet throughout the coming summer or winter, both with their challenges, until you reach the next equinox? How much of your diet today and your diet to be in the new season is natural – raw vegetables, fruits, meats, and nuts? How balanced is your diet across these natural human foods?
· Are your activity patterns in balance, amidst the balancing of movement and activity that is around you now? Are you free from stress and do you enjoy your work and balance it against the rest of your life? Do you walk each day, alone or with friends, stepping into and exploring yourself and the natural world around you, whenever and wherever you walk? Have you discovered and embraced the simple, lasting human joy that it is to be out of doors, under sky and in nature, witnessing living and non-living things? Are you equally as relaxed and confident and self-possessed in your steps as nature is, in each of its parts and in its totality?
· In this time of balance, have you strengthened and stretched and balanced your own body and self? Have you made your body and spirit poised and welcoming, like the equinox, through the simple fine-tuning, strengthening, and stretching of daily calisthenics? What ten minutes of activity each day might be less important and even imbalancing, but still keeps you from the poise and equanimity that calisthenics inevitably bring to us?
· In your life, are you as natural and balanced as a person as you can be, in harmony with and welcoming others? Is the natural pull toward balance that is all around you at this time of equinox a pleasure or a lesson? Are you creating a strong, balanced human life of close friends and openness in your relationships? Are you direct and even in your emotions and expressions, poised and balancing in your actions toward others, curious and seeking both sides in your thoughts, and one with the completeness of self that all these things represent?
At this equinox, and at the equinoxes to come in your life, I invite you to pause in the great pausing of things that occurs at this time, to balance in the wider balancing of things, large and small, that happens twice each year. I invite you into the equal light and darkness, the even sunlight and starlight. I invite you out into this special time in the natural world, in the solar year, and in our common human life on earth.
I invite you out in health, and into everything this small word can mean in our lives and the world.
I invite you into equinox.
Mark Lundegren is the founder of HumanaNatura.
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