Churning the Ocean of Milk

Life is full of contradictions. Like a good photograph, contrast brings out the drama of an experience. Light and dark, emptiness and form, joy and sorrow, success and failure – dance partners in progress on the path– three steps forward, two steps back. Just like the planets, sometimes we need to go retrograde for a while before we can get things right.

There is nothing like loss to make you appreciate what you have. This past week, I had the delight of teaching with Anusara instructor BJ Galvan in Thailand (at a retreat whose Thai name literally means Paradise) and dancing blissfully up the spine with an exciting group of international students from 10 countries. As the workshop started however, I got the message that a dear friend was in critical condition and might not be around by the time I got home. Two days later he passed to the other side, leaving friends and family bereft. And there I was, my heart strung between the poles of grief and joy, hung out to dry 10,000 miles away in the tropical Thailand sun. Only my practice kept me at my core, and allowed me to embrace both sides.

Our world today is full of contrasts that are getting ever more extreme, including the weather. Storyteller Michael Meade says that the times between endings and beginnings are always marked by extremes. Floods and Droughts, Conservatives and Progressives, Rich and Poor, the Pollyanas and the Doomers, magnifying every value that’s important. The recent tragedy in Arizona is one of many examples of how this not-so-civil war is playing out in America.

The state of life on our planet is both better and worse than it ever has been. The average person lives better than many kings and queens of old. We have the privilege of connecting to anyone anywhere, to fly across the globe or access the entire database of human knowledge at our fingertips. We can order anything we want at the click of a mouse and have it delivered two days later (whether or not we can pay for it).

Yet we don’t seem to be able to do much about the fact that our ice caps are melting, aquifers are drying up, forests are dying, oil production is peaking, and the bees who fertilize 90% of our food are disappearing at alarming rates.

We are on the verge of the most profound and complete evolutionary shift that has ever happened, networking all of humanity in a planetary group mind for the first time in four billion years of evolution. Yet most of us don’t even know the first names of our neighbors next door.

Contradictions fixate consciousness – mainly because we don’t like them. They draw our attention and hold it there until we find resolution. Media knows this and heightens conflict wherever it can. As our world becomes more and more extreme, it is drawing more consciousness into the issues.

In Hindu mythology the Devas (gods) and the Asuras (demons) line up on either side of the Ocean of Milk and churn it into a froth, out of which comes amrita, the nectar of immortality.

Carl Jung said that maturity requires the psyche’s ability to hold the tension of opposites. Insisting that things are all good or all bad – or even worse expecting them to be so –is bound to leave us confused and disillusioned. The polarities of the second chakra generate power in the third chakra when they are harnessed in balance.

We can think of the 11 of 2011 as the two pillars of polarity that we must integrate to find our power. Like the High Priestess card shows us in the Tarot, walking between these pillars takes us into the mystery of initiation.

The pillar between Heaven and Earth unites above and below and goes right up the sacred center within each of us, balancing, yet embracing polarities. This is the middle way that will steady us on the journey and take us through to the other side. The chakras are the stepping stones along the core that provide the formula for wholeness.

Anodea Judith 1/15/11