My thoughts are like fish –
big ones, little ones,
lone fish and shoals,
friendly and threatening:
I am the ocean.
Down in the depths of the unconscious
swim the lurksome ones –
those that know not humankind.
Some are blind –
but they see what I do not.
They too have no need of me to be.
Occasionally an electric eel –
beautiful, unexpected, startling – it wakes me up,
and then the great whales in their pods,
intelligent, wise, purposeful thoughts.
They too have no need of me.
As we make the transition from February to March, we enter the astrological sign of Pisces, the twelfth sign of the zodiac. In a natal chart, Pisces is associated with the twelfth house of the chart, the area of life that relates to ideas and insights emerging from the unconscious.
Most spiritual traditions teach that in order to evolve spiritually we must know who and what we are. Much of this is hidden from us below the surface of the waters of the unconscious. We find hints and intimations in our dreams and in moments of meditation or reverie. Sometimes this just happens – we gain sudden insights through dream, or through art or creative writing, and we discover things that we knew but did not know we knew. But often we have to consciously stop and list and wait. To do this we need to set aside times when we deliberately take a rest from the busy, frenetic world of doing, and stop to simply be.
Finding Time To’ Be’
This isn’t easy. We humans are complex creatures with many needs that pull us in different directions and society encourages to go in certain directions and not others. In recent centuries in Western culture, the idea of taking time out to just ‘be’ was not valued. Even in predominantly Catholic countries, the Protestant Work Ethic has been embraced to such an extent that we are encouraged to spend all our waking hours working and earning money in order to consume, and then to work to earn more money to consume more. This crazy unsustainable spiral is pushing societies to the edge and we who are trapped in the cycle are pushed closer to the edge too.
This doesn’t mean that we want to pretend we are 1960s Hippies about to tune in and drop out. The world needs us to engage rather than disengage, to address problems rather than opting out. But we can function much better and make much saner choices from much saner places if we take time to stop, to digest our experience, to reflect and to remind ourselves of what really matters to us and what brings us joy. This means taking time to focus on the spiritual as well as the material, on ‘being’ as much as doing.
Paradoxically, taking time out to ‘be’ doesn’t waste time, or use up time that we would otherwise be using productively. It gives us more time. Replenished, having drunk at the well of being, we can do much more than when we are stressed, exhausted, and burned out. Taking a few minutes each day to be mindfully aware of where we are, what is around us, what is important to us, gives us a new perspective. These moment of pure focused attention expand our horizons and open us up to new possibilities.
Often if we are involved in intense ritual activity, it seems as though hours have passed, but in reality we have been in that sacred space for less than an hour. It is just that for once we have applied our full focused attention to what is happening around us in the here and now. In these focused states, our consciousness is not constantly switching from one thing to another, focusing now on what is going around us, then on something worrying us from yesterday, then on what we have to do tomorrow, then wondering what other people are doing right now.
We can achieve so much more when our brains are not doing what we usually call ‘multi-tasking’, but which really isn’t. What happens when we think we are multi-tasking is that our attention is constantly switching between different activities. This makes it very hard to develop a creative train of thought. We are constantly interrupting the flow and letting go of ideas before we can fully develop them.
Have you ever tried to write creatively, while Facebook, Instagram, or email is constantly pinging away in the background? It’s fine if we are doing a very mundane task, but as soon as we try to think really deeply about something we need focused attention.
Floating In the Mind Sea
Often the imagery around the concept of ‘mind’ is that of the sky or the airy realms. We have ‘blue sky’ thinking and ‘blowing away the cobwebs’. But mind can also be like the element of water – pure crystal mountain streams, fresh wells in the desert, a great sea that connects all things.
So before the energy of the Equinox is upon us, let us use the period of the water sign of Pisces to enter waters, to swim in the sea of our minds, and to take time to experience what is there. This does not have to involve sitting indoors in meditation. It can be in ritual or in mindful walking – whatever works us in order to reconnect with what is important; that which is beyond our immediate everyday concerns, anxieties, hopes and joys.
When we come to points of stillness beneath the ever-changing mantle of the seasons, then we can focus on who and what we are and on experiencing and appreciating each moment, each breath, and each precious drop of the Grail of the Wine of Life.