The Autumn Equinox is here again. As the sun’s path lowers in the sky and the season changes, the light changes also; it becomes a paradoxical mixture of clarity and softness; there is a kind of sweet melancholy in it, but also a joy. These seemingly contradictory states lead me to reflect on the themes of this festival, and as we honour the time of equal night and day, my thoughts turn to the subject of balance.
Balance is often equated with stillness and yet when I stand on one leg, I am aware that in order to stay still and not topple, my body is going through a series of subtle muscles adjustments. This suggests to me that balance is actually quite active – we put effort in to achieving that centred, rooted place. I think this is true for all areas where we seek equilibrium, right from our emotional selves to our health and working lives, we constantly have to adjust our balance to settle, and it’s not hard to realise when we are off kilter – we feel it in the symptoms of unease, worry, illness and discord. But even these are not a problem because such emotions and conditions communicate that it is time to adjust our footing and regain balance. The trick is to stay aware and keep actively engaged with the process.
I have been drawn to work with the Egyptian Goddess Ma’at recently as part of a wider practice of honouring the lunar cycle. I have chosen a series of Goddesses who, to me, express certain energies of the moon’s phases and I have been meditating with each Goddess and journaling on how each of their energies are currently playing out in my being and my wider life. I am focusing on the Maiden, Lover, Mother/Queen, Wise Women/Priestess and Crone Energies at the waxing crescent, waxing gibbous, full, waning crescent and dark moon respectively, with the goddess Bast, Hathor, Isis, Nepthys and Sekhmet.
I had felt the need to reconnect with the moon cycle because I had been struggling to maintain balance in my own life, upended by difficult changes, struggling with depression and realising that I had become stuck and stagnant in my energy and focus. Recognising how much I was resisting change, I thought that working with the mutable cycles of the moon would be both helpful in breaking the dam and going with the flow.
Ma’at came into the equation because I was reminded by my own experience that the ever-moving cycle of birth, expansion, fullness, harvest, release and death is governed by a harmonising principle; this constant adjusting to maintain the balance is what keeps creation functioning; every part of the cycle is vital to the harmony of the whole.
To the ancient Egyptians, Ma’at was Divine Universal Balance that functioned both at the Macrocosm of the Cosmos and Nature and the Microcosm of Society and the human individual. To them, it was crucial to the well-being of the whole – be it nature, community or person – to seek balance and harmony between all the constituent parts. Without Ma’at, there is chaos, discord and imbalance, the interconnected flow of the cycle is broken and trouble ensues.
The Egyptians recognised that maintaining the balance of Ma’at was active and ongoing; building a relationship with Ma’at was a job for life. We see how destructive ignoring the function of Ma’at is when we look at the environmental problems we face, where the harmony and interconnectedness of life has been disregarded and is causing a terrible imbalance with dreadful consequences. At the Micro level, my lunar journey has helped me to see the painful results of ignoring Ma’at in my own life; getting stuck in the intense shedding and shadow work of the waning and dark moon, whilst forgetting the renewal, joy and expansion of the waxing phases, has led to complete burn out for me, both physically and emotionally. Working with and fully engaging with every phase has widened my focus and I feel much lighter and brighter for it.
What working with Ma’at has taught me is that we are each active participants in our own well-being; that we have choices in our responses to life and that we are constantly guided back to that place of equilibrium if we listen to our intuition and act for our own highest good and the highest good of others. It is heartening to think that being out of balance contains its own lessons for growth and in itself holds the key to regaining our footing.
Ma’at demands that we honour and engage with all the parts of ourselves and our lives; that we embrace and stay present in each phase of the cycle, always mindful of its relationship to the whole. In this season of the Equinox, take time to reflect on your own balancing act; honour all that you are, every experience; take heed of any discomfort you might feel and let it speak to you about how you can come back into alignment with yourself. In truth, balance is not total stillness, it’s a dance.