This year, the Lunar New Year falls on Friday, February 16. Contrary to the conventional solar New Year’s Day, which falls yearly on January 1, the Lunar New Year date will always be different from that of the year preceding it. Traditional New Year has naught to do with the beginning of winter or the beginning of spring. It shadows the cycles of solstice and equinox, solstice specifically. Lunar New Year, conversely, has everything to do with the seasons. It is the herald of spring. In a way, this makes more sense, as the cycles of human activity are also seasonal.
The seasons are cyclical; each is in balance with the other. The seeds of the spring lie in winter, waiting their awakening. The fullness of summer is contained within the promise of spring. The activity, abundance and color of autumn are presaged in the nurturing growth of summer. The stillness and rest of winter are begun in fall, when the harvest is gathered in and the energy of preparation is complete. Winter and summer balance each other. Spring and fall are complementary. Everything is a whole.
The Asian symbol of the yin and yang give a visual picture of this unity and balance. Curled around each other, the light and the dark embrace to form a circle; in the center of the light is a dot of dark; in the center of the dark is a dot of light. So is it with Creation. Because we are happy, we can know sadness; because we are sad, we can experience joy. We may not like the experience of sadness; it is uncomfortable. It is a mistake to perceive sadness as wrong. It is there to generate joy. It is cyclical, like the seasons. Problems arise when the cycle stops, when we get stuck in sadness or demand only joy. The two are part and parcel of each other.
So is it with the shadow self, the parts of ourselves which we do not like, are ashamed of and bury deep within. Traits such as anger, envy, incompetence, helplessness, need for nurture, desire for attention, or the greed of always wanting “more”. These each have their balancing positive trait, such as calm, appreciation, skill, productivity, nurturing and giving, generosity. Like light and dark, these traits live linked to one another. How can we give generously if we have not gathered in that which we can give? Envy can tell us what it is we need to produce. Anger can alert us to what we need to deal with to enter calm. The shadow, too, must be given appropriate expression. Submerged, it will eventually surface, but in an uncontrolled and often destructive manner. Acknowledged, it can be channeled to an effective path. It is all part of the whole.
There is an adage that history (especially unexamined history) repeats itself in an endless cycle of events. Humans tend to look at time, hence historical events, as linear – past causes present which creates future, inevitably. Another way to perceive time is as a circle – past, present, future exist simultaneously within it, each influencing the other. Some people call this Eternity; quantum physics is discovering how malleable is the linear concept of time. In a sense, everything is happening at once, our personal shadow and illuminated sides as well as those of humanity as a whole.
Things, then, are not hopeless, though they may certainly at times seem so. We, like the seasons, are cycling; with us, each cycle lifts us a bit higher in understanding than we were before. It is not necessary to embrace chaos, violence and inhumanity; it is necessary, though, to acknowledge and experience them so that they may be released, transmuted to their joyful sides, in order that we may grow thereby.
Now, as spring proceeds out of winter, from Lunar New Year to Spring Equinox, let us remember that winter does not last forever. Let us acknowledge our personal shadows as well as the shadows through which the world is passing, with the intent that an even more beautiful world is waiting to emerge, and with confidence that the beauties of the past will not be forgotten in the emerging present.