I’m not generally one for New Year’s parties or ringing in another calendar year in a boisterous, social way. No, I would prefer to be peacefully at home (or pleasantly on holiday) and tucked into bed by the time midnight rolls around.
With my partner gone to a soirée that I predictably bowed out of, I sat quietly in our little cottage, a favorite pen and little black journal in hand, reflecting upon the year. Pleasantly soft music played in the background, candles flickered on the hearth and in the windows, a flute of nice bubbly sparkled beside me, and I considered both the good and not-so-good of the past twelve months.
Personally, I’m not sorry to close the door on 2015. This latest trip round the sun was a difficult one on many levels, and I’m looking forward to a more nurturing year ahead as we spiral on. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway. Certainly there were gifts and grace that manifested in this first year of having a book in the world, of stepping into a new identity as author, but frankly much of the passage felt like a struggle.
There is a normal tendency at the close and opening of a year, I think, to look back and forward, along with a desire to bid adieu to the past cycle and begin anew. As if we can just wipe the slate clean. After all, don’t we simply open a new calendar and/or change the last digit(s) of the year when we write it out? Perhaps.
It looks so neat and orderly, those monthly arrangements of boxes representing days; seven in a row, four stacked atop 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 mental, linear approach to time that most of us probably don’t even think twice about it, but the typical notion of chronology is mostly a constructed one: a sun-based calendar from a couple hundred years ago that doesn’t accurately represent how we move through space and time.
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 three hundred and sixty-five days by the Catholic Church based upon arithmetic and a solar calendar rather than the ancient lunar one. Adopted gradually throughout much of the world, it has become our standard notion of time’s progression.
Yet our dated, heliocentric model of the solar system has overlooked a hugely important fact: the sun is not stationary it is traveling at roughly 45,000 miles (72,420 km) an hour. This means that planets don’t simply rotate around it but rather spiral—dragged by the sun’s gravity as it barrels onward—creating a helix-like vortex in space.
We are spiraling and moving. Always. It feels that we’re standing still but Earth spins at 18.5 miles per second, even as we hurtle forward on our spiral (not truly elliptical) trajectory through the galaxy at 155 miles per second. (The seemingly straight path of a falling object, if it falls for one second, has actually traced a spiral at least a hundred and fifty-five miles long.)
Why is this important? Because life happens in a vortex. Everything. From our cellular DNA-helix to the way plants unfurl and grow, life is a spiral—never a linear progression. Sometimes it may seem that we are actually traveling backwards or regressing, yet if we visualize our journey (and/or time) as helical, we see that we are simply traversing the curve as it arcs round while still advancing.
Two years ago, I wrote a SAJ post (“Spiraling Through Time: A New Kind of Calendar”) inspired by a spiral labyrinth wall calendar I discovered while living on Maui. The serendipity of the find was perfect, because in writing the final chapter of The Bones and Breath, I had just expounded on non-linear thinking, the spiral as blueprint for life, and Earth’s spinning trajectory through space—all to underscore that straight lines do not exist in nature or the cosmos, that everything is spiral and arc. Everything.
So it was with no small delight that I discovered the Spiral Labyrinth Calendar: the first visual representation of how I actually perceive time—not as a linear construct of twelve months divided into rows of seven days and ending with an odd number, but as an ongoing, endless spiral—mirroring our own progress through the universe. And when we view time as cochlear, we can begin to detect patterns.
Spiraling forward is how I think of any new year. Yes, it offers an opportune moment to mentally/emotionally relinquish the past twelve months that we compartmentalize and conceptualize as a unit. And yet, as with all personal growth and healing, change is never so easy as merely saying goodbye and good riddance—whether it is a pesky behavior, an addiction, or habitual response that no longer serves our highest good. There is a truth in therapy and soul-based transformational work that we seldom shift our limiting behaviors or truly move on from challenging situations until we also understand how they have aided us in some way.
There is no magic wand. Not even at New Year. (Consider how often we actually keep those resolutions.)
So as I sat quietly on New Year’s Eve, reflecting and writing, thinking back over the events, gifts, challenges, and heartaches of 2015, I considered the strange grace of all those difficulties, shadows, and turbulent stretches of my year’s passage. And though I engage it as an ongoing practice, I mused once again how each difficulty taught me something, benefitted me in a curious fashion, or helped to propel me further along the journey. Even in the dark, looking for something to hold onto or believe in.
Life is a conversation waiting for us to show up and engage, to contribute and participate in a meaningful way, to offer something authentic from the soul in return. Each of us has a unique gift to bring. How do we say yes to that creative energy seeking to emerge through us? Can we welcome it knowing that we are changed in the process of its emergence, either in the actual choice to dilate past our habitual patterns of restriction, or in the revelation and new understanding that comes through its expression? Or even when its birth feels difficult.
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, progressing through life’s stages until returning to the earth. Soul Artists recognize and embrace that life is seasonal and cyclical, that the microcosm mirrors the macrocosm (and vice versa). Life, and time, is not really linear.
Friend, if we open our senses and begin to pay attention to nature, we observe that everything is a spiral or arc; it cannot be otherwise on a planet that revolves on its axis while following a rotating, elliptical 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 again reappearing for us.
Blessings abound, even amid our difficulties and shadows. As we spin forward into another Gregorian new year, consider apprenticing to wonder and beauty, for they are the magic of everyday life. Too, may each of us dwell in possibility, expansion, and the presence of mysterious grace.
Yes, always grace, I say, spiraling back to meet us again and again.