The “lay of the land” is a common phrase we use to refer to the general state or condition of something we have under consideration, basically the facts of the situation. It seems though we are now living in a world where “alternative facts” and “fake news” are the new norm … which begs the question, how can we consciously assess the lay of our own landscape - both physical and spiritual - during times when the greater land is in upheaval?
New technologies are primarily to blame for the rapid propagation of those pesky alternative facts, but the truth is, this type of thing actually isn’t new. Consider, for example, how during Roman times disinformation was rife when conspirators used fake news about Julius Caesar appointing himself emperor to gain support for his assassination. Hmmm ... now I’m not suggesting anything by that, of course, but for poor Caesar it was an alternative truth that became a fact.
It is in times like Caesar’s, as well as our current ones, where we see the chaos factor at play. Chaos theory was summarized by its pioneer Edward Lorenz as: “when the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”
Chaos theory is a delicious contradiction, the science of predicting the behavior of inherently unpredictable systems. It is the fascinating concept that order and chaos are not always diametrically opposed but instead an intimate mix of the two … and we would do well to consider that last part right about now.
Chaotic behavior exists throughout Nature, especially in temperamental things like weather and climate. But as we approach the Spring Equinox - which factually is when the solar terminator or the "edge" between night and day is perpendicular to the equator and illuminates the northern and southern hemispheres equally – we are also entering a time of balance, a time when there is equal light and equal darkness on our entire planet. This then, seems the perfect moment for us to take a clear assessment of the lay of our own
land, to spring clean our minds by separating fact from fiction and fear from fear-mongering.
Having discernment is the ability to judge well. In a Christian context, the art of discernment is “perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and greater understanding”. It is the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between and recognize the moral implications of different situations and courses of action; to “weigh up” and assess the moral and spiritual status of whatever “land” we are surveying, whether it be an individual situation, a group ideal, or a global movement. This ability to discern, and discern well, is a skill we should all be aspiring to and developing in these troubling chaotic times.
Of course, this is not to say we should make things as simple as “black and white” or merely distinguish right from the wrong; it means taking our discernment to the next level of perception by distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient.
Discernment demands of us to perceive that fine line of balance between the good
and the better
, or between the better
and the best
. At this higher, more spiritual level, it is about being able to grasp and comprehend that which is most obscure. It is the power to see what is not evident, as in the ability to see the truth – what could be deemed the "Almighty’s" truth or "Spirit’s" truth. This is a basic tenet of what it means to have wisdom and spiritual maturity.
All growth and evolution requires change, but in order for things to change, a little chaos is often what is necessary to start the ball rolling. Of course, as anyone on the healing or spiritual path eventually realizes, we ourselves have to change first if we want any sort of significant change to occur around us. Typically too, when we are caught in the moment or maelstrom of a chaotic situation, we often view any big changes being asked of us with fear and discomfort … and yet we must not forget the hidden mysteries that go hand in hand with any change.
The month of March is a perfect metaphor for this growth potential inherent amidst chaos. Consider how cold howling winds can spring up out of nowhere and send the temperature plummeting on the heels of a lovely teasing warm spell. Tulips that have just started peeking out of the ground and birds returning from their winter sojourn down south are immediately caught off guard and stopped in their tracks. But wonderfully - magically - Nature demonstrates how this temporary discomfort or fear at the beginning of her annual re-birthing process does not prevent the growth and beauty we know will burst forth in a few short weeks.
So during this in-between time, this “shoulder time” of waiting and balance that is the time before the light fully returns, we must breathe deeply of the cold winds and the dampness of the hushed expectant land as we allow our own mixed feelings to rise to the surface. Like the tulips and the birds, we must continue to seek the truth and the light. All transformation begins in silence and deep within the soil of our own being. But it also begins in the willingness to be simply present to how we are thinking and feeling in times when the chaos factor is making its move.
Our fear, sorrow or rage need to be welcomed and borne witness to. And our feelings of helplessness and confusion should not be sent flailing into the streets or onto social media to run amok like small frightened children. It is our responsibility, and ours alone, to first restore our own selves to empowerment, to be an adult, ready to handle what lies ahead with wisdom and grace. By tending to our own soil, tending to our own healing and giving attention and care there first, we will be better able to discern how we feel about the greater picture, to discern between the good and the better, between the better and the best.
As we stand at the edge of another balance point in the solar year, about to witness Nature’s great equalizing spring-time energies of strong winds and stirring life force, we have the perfect storm of opportunity for welcoming the chaos factor, a storm that will demand all her children to discern, without judgement, the lay of their personal landscape during this larger time of uncertainty and potential transformation.
To brighten these last few days of winter, there are still spots available for my Awakening the Dragon zentangling workshop this coming Saturday afternoon, a fun and magical way to connect with the dragon energy now stirring deep beneath the earth. There is also Colour Me Orange, a mandala workshop on the Saturday of the Easter weekend and as the first flowers start peeking up outside, I have some new watercolour sessions to celebrate all that fresh beauty. And lastly, my annual special Art in the Round mandala session is coming up on May 13 for Mother's Day and all those ready to birth their creativity!