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“What is to give light must endure burning.”

Viktor Frankl

The winter solstice signals the yearly extreme of the darkness of night as well as the minimum of day. From this point in the calendar, the light of day will now grow with each revolution of the Earth, incrementally shortening the night, gradually increasing the length of solar illumination each day. This occurs because the spin of the earth is not perpendicular to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. This makes the whole Earth wobble, and it takes a whole year to wobble north to south and back to north.

The celebration of the end of one year and the beginning of another, offers us a moment to consider the rhythms of our own life. Circles within circles. Circles have neither beginning nor end, but we do. The rhythms of our lives begin in the womb and end with our last expiring breath. The cycle of our life is a truncation (shortened version) of the endless cycles around us. For instance, there is a cycle of atoms and molecules that continuously move into and out of us, exchanging themselves with other atoms and molecules in our planet’s air, water and earth. Where we begin and end may be more fluid than we usually consider. The Moon pulls on the liquids within our blood just as it tugs on the water in the oceans producing the tides. We have relationships with others that we see and talk with as we go through our weeks and months and years.

The gravity that binds us to this Earth causes us to wobble too. We always move in rhythmic fashion in little micro-orbits around the line of gravity formed by our mass. The center of our wobbling (our center of gravity), generally resides in our pelvis. When we stand up on our two legs, our center of gravity is several feet off the ground. Our incredible nervous systems continually adapt and compensate in order to optimize our positions to best match up with whatever we are doing at any moment in time. Equipoise, we call it.

While our bodies dance with gravity, we are usually busy finding balance in other ways. We don’t want to be too hungry or too full. We try to get the right amount of sleep so we can be alert in the other parts of the day. We want to be sensitive to others and yet maintain the boundaries necessary for our own emotional and mental health. We must be active enough to be healthy but not work so hard we begin to break down. There is no magic action or thought or feeling that always works in every situation. It is in the balance of all the aspects that life happens. The relationship between the ‘pieces’ turns out to be more important than the pieces themselves.

This idea is called a systems approach and is increasingly being seen in science as the next step after many decades of reductionism. In any structure, it is the way the ‘pieces’ are arranged that produces the utility. Until recently in biology, when we wanted to study cells we would take them and blend them up. We would then put them into a centrifuge and spin the contents around until distinct layers revealed themselves. Each layer was then analyzed chemically and in a microscope and we thought we understood a lot about cells. It turns out that the structure inside cells is essential to their function. Destroying their structure destroyed our ability to understand them. It took several decades to figure this out. It is in the relationship of all the parts that creates the functionality of life. We are more like verbs than we think. Even molecules act from their edges. The push and pull of charge and repulsion, tension and compression, light and dark, playing out over time creates the circles of cycles that comprise our lives and all of Life.

What meaning is there in a circle? In our society we spend a lot of time trying to get somewhere. A circle always ends up where it started. This question is one that each of us must answer for ourselves, but the stories of our lives play out in the rhythm of the cycles we encounter. We can be carried away by the extremes. We can be bored by the moderate times. We can suffer through lack. Our perception, the way we assign value to what comes through our senses, creates the meaning. Perception is a choice. We think it is hard wired, we have even been taught that it is hard wired. It is not. Disciplined intent changes our perceptions all the time. (Oh, and so does undisciplined intent!) Our minds are meant to be our servants not our oppressors.

In this moment of moving from darkness to light, we can acknowledge our own cycles of light and dark. We are not narrowly defined by either our darkness or our light, but rather by how we navigate the between the two in the living of our lives. One doesn’t exist without the other and neither do we. As we understand the polarities within ourselves, so we also heal the rifts between us all. If we can make space in our hearts for our own extremes, perhaps we can find the room to better understand the extremes of others.

Don’t believe all the naysayers. Don’t let the news steal your peace. Changing yourself does change the world. It’s the only way it will change. You are the balanced center of many forces. Acknowledge your center and be that balance in your own life and in your actions out in the world. Make it a happy new year for us all.

Michael Thomas, D.C.