The recent full moon and snow cover have been casting a lot of light upon the otherwise hidden shadows of my neighbourhood at night. That which is usually hidden and occluded has been more apparent, not just in the garden but also in my own self. I find myself dreaming more and with greater detail and meditating upon the dark rooms within myself which I seldom visit.
It got me thinking about Hatha Yoga – not surprisingly, I think about this a lot, as a Hatha Yoga teacher. Amongst other things, Hatha means sun-moon (ha-tha) and it reminds us that yoga, like life is a balance of opposing forces – complementary energies which come in pairs. Each of the pair is really one end of a spectrum of possibility. Consider Light-Dark: this is not really just 2 options but a sliding scale from one to the other, with every possible shade in between. At any one time we find ourselves somewhere on that spectrum. We might also have a preference for one end of the spectrum – perhaps we prefer Light – for its visibility, clarity and energy, but to only spend time at one end of the spectrum would create a life of imbalance and discord – as anyone who has stayed up partying all night and not honouring the sleep cycle will attest.
So within us we have solar energy and lunar energy, just as these exist all around us in ever-changing degrees, shades and expressions.
The solar energy is bright, quick, active and masculine. It’s related to the left brain – the realm of logic, anaylsis, clarity – when the sun shines brightly nothing is hidden, all is exposed. I like to think of this as the energy of work: generally we wake up with the sun, go about our tasks, fulfilling our many roles and responsibilities to others – employers, family, community and our own basic needs.
Those of us who are driven, passionate, workaholics and night owls might recognise this energy – it’s the energy that gets things done, navigates a successful and logical pathway through the demands of life.
But at the end of the day, the sun drops and darkness falls, lit only by the soft reflective energy of the moon, which doesn’t shine by its own light. This lunar energy is soft, quiet, reflective, contemplative and feminine. If the solar energy is fire, lunar energy is water – the moon governs the tides of the oceans and the deep watery tides within us – the pull of yearning, longing, dreaming. It’s more right brain – creative, intuitive and visionary.
At night we are free to dream – anything becomes possible – last week I dreamt I was on a bus with Nelson Mandela! And this lunar energy isn’t only available at night – can we periodically tap into our creative and intuitive nature, even in the depths of work? Evening is a time for play, creativity – even if it’s simply creating dinner for loved ones – and for contemplating our day. When we reflect back on past actions we can bring greater wisdom and insight into the next act, the next day. We can refine who we are and how we behave, rather than the treadmill approach of simply repeating yesterday on a kind of autopilot.
In our every action can we start to notice which energy is dominating – solar or lunar? Are we pushing and striving like a wildfire or yielding and flowing as our circumstances change, ebbing and flowing like the mighty tides? This very act of becoming aware of ourselves as we act in the world is lunar energy and a great complement to fiery drive. Do you push yourself too hard on the yoga mat? In your career? Can you balance that with a little ease and a good dose of permission – allow yourself to be just as you are, even you recognise and reach for something more. When you cook dinner for your family is it work (another thing on the to-do list) or play (the pleasure of creating)?
Once a month the full moon lights up the sky and shines a bright light on what is usually hidden and reminds us to look into those dark recesses of ourselves – what did you want to be when you were 6? Where has that gone? What would you like to do if only you had time? Can you spend some of your evening doing a little of that which gives you joy and turn off the computer, TV or other distraction?
I am not advocating you stop wok and become entirely lunar – lying around staring at the ceiling all day, daydreaming – your house will get repossessed and your family will get really sick of it pretty quickly – but can you daydream sometimes? Daily?
Either extreme is just that – extreme! Can we try instead to weave a little of one into the other – allow ourselves to find ease and joy even as we work hard, and to bring the solar discipline to making time for relaxation – its important.