March Equinox: Recommit to Changing your Thoughts by Carrie Parker-Gastelu
There are two equinoxes every year, in March and September, when the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of night and day are nearly equal. This year’s March Equinox is on Thursday, March 19, 2020, at 11:49 pm. Rituals have been a part of human culture for thousands of years and the Spring Equinox has long been celebrated as a time of renewal. Ritualizing your yoga practice around the equinox endows it with purpose and intention. This is the time of year that I recommit to my practice.
Spring can be experienced as a celebration of light or as we say in yoga, enLIGHTened. The word enlightened can seem outright unattainable and perhaps it is in the traditional sense. However, it can be reframed for the modern world as feeling lighter, more relaxed and present. This idea is everywhere! Pick up any magazine at the grocery check out and there is an article on being more mindful in all aspects of our lives. But what these mainstream magazines don’t tell you is how radical an act this really is. To be present is to give up the way you think and our thoughts are the very thing that makes us feel in control of our lives. This doesn’t sound very peaceful! This is the dark side of the light.
While changing our thinking is difficult, what is the alternative? According to science, we have around 60,000 thoughts a day, 95% of them are the same ones day after day and 80% of our habituated thoughts are negative. That’s not very peaceful either! Our thoughts become a self-fulfilling prison. Yoga means union, but it also means “method” for moving beyond the thinking mind. Rather than being mainstream, it is a radical act of defiance against our cultural conditioning.
We obviously have to think. The greatest achievements in history have come from great thinkers in science, history, and art. Creativity seems to be the thing that great thinkers have in common. To be innovative, think outside the box, see what others cannot see. Albert Einstein was rebellious to conventional wisdom, normal ways of thinking. It was his ability to observe everyday phenomena in the moment that led to his genius.
The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking. If we want to change the world we have to change our thinking…no problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew. – Albert Einstein
While thinking is necessary, the problem is when there is no interruption or awareness that our thoughts are a simulation of the mind. Yoga practices including asana, pranayama, meditation, and yoga Nidra are meant to interrupt the habituated, often obsessive, thinking mind. The distinction between our higher mind, the observer, and the thoughts themselves, the lower mind, creates Kaivalia, or space and non-attachment. It is in this space where we are unmoored from our conditioning and become creative and rooted in reality itself. It takes time to love reality because we are untethered by cultural norms that make us feel safe, but there is also freedom.
I have been practicing these methods now for more than 25 years and it is not a linear path filled with peacefulness. There are periods of upheaval and disorientation, often right before a breakthrough. There is a constant forgetting of great insights, backtracking, plateaus only to be followed with re-remembering with greater awareness again and again. There is commitment followed by laziness. There is a disruption to relationships and old patterns that while dysfunctional are comfortable. Yet, I know that it works, from direct experience. We do in fact become more present and there is peace when we stop avoiding reality.
Because the path is hard, it requires dedication. Aligning with what is happening in our environment is helpful. As we see nature literally re-committing to life, we often feel more motivated. The longer days, the ritualizing of the light, draws us to it like a lighthouse way out in the distance, working as a torch to illuminate the difficult path of yoga.