In my last entry, I was marveling at the good fortune of our garden to host a small band of white-crowned sparrows. Alas, all good things eventually change to the next good thing in the natural ebb and flow of life, in the filling and the emptying. A slightly larger but closely related sparrow—the golden-crowned sparrow—has displaced and replaced the white-crowned group.
These two types of sparrows generally co-exist comfortably during winter months, but once the sizable contingent of golden-crowns arrived in our garden, the white-crowns disappeared, the transition occurring as though in a blink. One moment here, the next sadly gone. The lovely song of the white-crowns became the distinctive three-note whistle of the golden-crowned (Zonotrichia atricapilla), often described as “oh-dear-me” as each note descends in pitch.1 This new song is its own unique gift.
There are numerous and endless cycles that govern the nature of our lives, from the daily predictability of the Sun’s diurnal march across the sky to the developmental rhythms that mark our birth, growth, flowering, and decline. These major, planetary cycles, like the annual solar movement of the Sun through the zodiac, can be thought of as the circular patterns that form not only the cross of life on the physical plane but also its joy.
Even the equal-sided cross, a significant symbol on the spiritual Path, shows two axis blending in the center and encompassing the four key elements and initiations of physical life—the earth, air, fire, and water. This cross provides a life-affirming framework for balancing the left and the right, the sowing and the reaping, the highs and the lows that are inherently part of the Universal expression and experience—the eventual, perfect balance of opposing polarities. Duality gives way to unity.
In this sense, cycles are also the mechanisms that allow us to trust the timely, orderly progression of life, as well as acknowledge its mysteries, failures, tragedies, messiness, oscillations, and uneven terrain. Cycles can help us to make peace with and welcome life’s predictabilities, unknowns, uncertainties, and seasons.
Since we have control over our daily response to the fluctuating patterns and circumstances, we can chose to accept and respect the timetable of the day and of our life, even when it is dull and routine, seemingly chaotic, or hurts deeply, always knowing that within the continuous flow of experiences that both smooth and rough waters shall pass. The challenges and lessons put before us at any particular time are always useful, given the right frame of mind.
Take, for instance, our natal birth chart created at the moment of our first breath. Even though our individual birth chart always remains the same, like a photograph captured that instant, there are certain, predictable, developmental stages programmed within the natal blueprint. These are called the “progressions” of our chart. They can be likened to an encoded script that gets activated in a current progressed theme(s), one that we are inwardly ripe to embrace.
Progressions occur within the context and timetable of our life plan, and they reflect the rhythm and promise for personal and soul development during the period they activate and beyond. Both the progressions and the shorter-term, current transits of the chart help to illuminate our gradual Path of Unfoldment during our lifetime. In this universal, (relatively) predictable manner, we can—if we so chose consciously—work towards becoming a more fully integrated and self-actualized person.
As the white-crowned sparrows arrived and enjoyed the garden for a week, the golden-crowns have now also passed on to new territory, paying heed to their instinctual timetable to nest and caretake the next generation. Our remaining residents are a nesting pair of scrub jays, a few juncos, and the swallows who are intermittent visitors (at this point) to their nesting boxes.
The garden is mostly quiet and empty of our winter visitors, save for the variety of birds that come for a brief drink and bath. The next stage takes precedence. This moment, in its integrity, is one of beauty, fullness, and contentment, if I chose it to be so, rather than to allow sadness to fill my heart at the temporary absence of bird companions. The key to life is as simple and straightforward as the positive thought and feeling of this instant.
Each thought, each action, in the sunlight of awareness,
Thich Nhat Hanh
Text © by Zane Maser, 2011. Photos from WikiMedia Commons. All rights reserved worldwide.
My editorial guru and technological wizard is Chris Maser, my delightful husband.
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