A new year. Fresh beginnings.
For many of us, the nascent year also includes a new calendar, whether a digital display on our mobile device or a paper one posted somewhere around the house or office.
It all looks so neat and orderly and linear, those monthly arrangements of boxes representing days; seven in a row, four stacked on top of each other, as if time itself was tidy little units placed upon end like building blocks or Legos. We’re so accustomed to this linear approach to time that most of us probably don’t even think twice about it. And while we may understand and accept that the months aren’t all the same, that the lunar cycles are actually different and yearly seasons are cyclical, time doesn’t repeat itself; it seems like an invisible line progressing straight towards infinity.
The Gregorian calendar, the Western format in use for the past several centuries, is a refinement to the previous Julian calendar (the initial division of the year into 365 days by the Catholic Church based upon arithmetic and a solar calendar rather than a lunar one). Adopted gradually throughout most of the world, it has become our standard notion of time’s progression.
It’s handy enough, but does it really reflect time? Or the reality of nature? It certainly appeals to the rational, logic-dominated part of the brain and psyche (often referred to as “left-brain thinking,” though recent research reveals that this popular distinction is less and less accurate). Towards the end of The Bones and Breath, in a chapter called “Wild Soul, Wise Heart” I briefly explore our collective, imbalanced, linear thinking (as part of a larger topic):
Though it began much earlier, perhaps with mathematics, for the past two hundred years, with the rise of what we call science, our societal way of thinking has shifted significantly. We find ourselves now in a world totally dominated by linear, analytical thinking: a mode of cognition that underscores — and perpetuates — our pathological disconnection from the rest of nature. Men have firmly embraced this form of thinking for it embodies a purely cognitive/rational approach to life and notions of advancement; it feels safe from emotions, deep feeling, and intuition — the way of the feminine. Collectively, our seat of consciousness has become the brain, not the heart, and this has underscored our cultural disconnection from the body.”
Whereas everything else in nature allows its intelligence and organic blueprint to emerge and evolve in an organic, non-linear fashion, humans singularly have become entrenched in a linear, disconnected mindset at odds with everything in the natural world. Straight lines do not exist in nature (or the Cosmos), only spirals and arcs.
Even falling objects, which seem to obey a linear descent, do not. Our planet spins on its axis while orbiting the sun, cruising at 18.5 miles per second. The solar system itself is hurtling on a spiral (not truly elliptical) trajectory through the galaxy at 155 miles per second. The seemingly straight path of the falling object, if it falls for one second, has actually traced a spiral at least a hundred and fifty-five miles long. Exclusively, nature is made up of and uses spiraling geometries. Nowhere do we encounter a straight line. Nowhere.”
Whirling round the sun in our starry little patch of the solar system, as I’ve mused and pondered the spiraling proclivities of Nature and what that means for our true, authentic nature, it has become ever more apparent to me that time itself cannot be linear.
While I was still living on Maui, I discovered a new calendar in a roundabout and serendipitous fashion. The Sacred Garden of Maliko is an outdoor spiral labyrinth, based upon the classic labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France, laid out with stones beneath a grove of kukui nut trees. I would sometimes go there to walk the labyrinth barefoot, meditating on a question as I traversed to the center, and occasionally taking our guests who I thought might enjoy the site. The garden, nursery and gift shop is owned by a woman named Eve Hogan, a spiritual author of several books including Way of the Winding Path: A Map for the Labyrinth of Life. She is a regular contributor to Spirituality & Health magazine.
A couple of years ago, Eve envisioned and developed a spiral labyrinth model for the yearly calendar. She had it printed and now sells them in the gift shop and via her website. When I saw the Spiral Labyrinth Calendar at the Sacred Garden on one of my visits, it immediately appealed to me. The notion of envisioning time as a spiral rather than a linear format (or square blocks) felt very right in my bodymind, in alignment with how I consider life, continuance, and chronology.
Hogan suggests that when we view time as rectangular units, as months and years on pages that we tear off thinking that we then begin again, we have no connection to past or future. However, when we see these seemingly disconnected units called months as a spiral, we begin to sense their connection to each other. Furthermore, we may detect patterns.
The calendar is printed on a single sheet of heavy paper, and is sold with a set of colored pens so that the user can color code days for different meanings: health; emotions; business; finances; personal interests; relationships, etc. As the days are colored in, patterns begin to emerge—ones that we might not detect when viewing time as a linear trajectory. The year begins in the center of the spiral and then progresses in a cochlear fashion. The first day of each month is in bold type. To find a particular day of the week, you trace through the spiral until you locate the month’s number date, then you move your finger out to the edge of the wheel where you will note the corresponding day of the week.
At the end of last year, when the new version became available, I ordered a spiral labyrinth calendar for 2014 (it actually comes with two printed sheets, so that you can track a variety of different things should you wish to). At first, I was unsure what elements of my life I wanted to color code, follow and observe (I’m still a bit undecided), but I certainly appreciate the calendar simply for its visual representation of the year. Looking at it each day in my writing room, I’m immediately reminded of the non-linear quality of life.
Now, if someone could convert Eve’s calendar into a visually appealing app for smartphone and tablets, I’d be really thrilled. Any creative, non-linear techie web/app developers out there?
Soul Artists understand and embrace that life is seasonal and cyclical, that the microcosm mirrors the macrocosm (and vice versa). For ages, spirals and labyrinths have been associated with the personal journey or spiritual quest. As the Native Americans and other wisdom-based cultures have long understood, in our own way, each of us travels the Sacred Hoop through life, progressing through life’s stages until returning to the earth.
If we open our senses, begin to pay attention to nature, we observe that everything is a spiral or arc; it cannot be otherwise on a planet that spins on its own axis on a spiraling journey through the cosmos. And although our life journey is not circular, returning us to an exact point, repeatedly we will notice that we have passed this way before—whether in a season now past, or perhaps in a passage or lesson now reappearing for us.
Gentle reader, though nearly everything in our culture embraces a linear mode of cognition, time, accounting and progress, may you realize that reality is actually very fluid and non-linear. Time, included. Sometimes in life it may seem that we are actually traveling backwards or regressing, yet if we visualize our journey as a spiral, we can see that we are simply traversing the curve as it arcs back while still advancing.
The open heart is a compass that always guides us forward on the spiraling path.
My dear, departed, Aunt Celeste used to say (generally at birthdays), “Here’s to another trip around the sun!” As we spin forward into another Gregorian new year, here’s hoping that your life feels richly blessed with just the right amount of challenge and reward, and abundance of good things, and a wealth of little treasures for the soul.
May you dwell in possibility, expansion, and the presence of mysterious grace. Always grace.
PS. If you’re interested in the Spiral Labyrinth Calendar, you can purchase it on Eve Hogan’s website (click here to be redirected; opens in a new window).