One day last summer I watched a little stream of filthy water trickle down the gutter. Toxic green in color, it was hideous and rank. But as I continued to gaze at it and watch the patterns and ripples as they moved down the street, I realized these were the eternal patterns of water. Even toxic water will meander in ways that are essential to its pure nature. And eventually, if unimpeded by our heavy handed ways, this water would find its purity once more. It would be taken up by the body of the earth and healed by the forces of nature, its toxins transmuted by soils and micro-organisms, its purity reestablished as it was embraced back into the global water cycle. This is a natural process of purification that will happen spontaneously.
Purification is a word that has a lot of morality associated with it. To be impure, polluted or unclean connotes a kind of soul sickness as well as physical sickness. But purification primarily means to restore to a place of purity, a state of soundness, wholeness, innate essence. Isn’t that what we really want after all, a sense of being fully ourselves?
This time of year, just after the holidays, it is popular to make resolutions for cleansing, rejuvenating, losing weight, giving up bad habits etc. There is plenty of advice in the media about being proactive about it: “Burn 300 Calories in 15 Minutes! Detoxify Overnight! 20 Fat-Burning Superfoods! 10 Steps to a New You!” It is all so positive and encouraging – but relatively few people actually follow any of this good advice.
The problem is that the fast pace is not the pace that heals. We must operate quickly in crisis situations but not for longterm healing. In order to make room for the self-organizing principle of nature to reveal itself, we must become slower, more quiet and still – embracing the feminine yin qualities of being receptive and waiting.
The pace of the seasons cannot be changed. The growing of plants, the flow of water, the movement of the planets have been running at the same pace for millions of years. We have speeded up and are very much out of synch with the natural world. We measure our time not by cycles of the sun or the moon but by our job or school schedules, TV shows, appointments, and daily routines that have nothing to do with the earth at all. The pace of everything is faster, more complex. There is a sense of urgency about everything – the state of the world, financial situations, the environment, health issues. All of these are real and affect people profoundly, but by perpetuating the rapid pace of things we are ultimately contributing to the situation we are trying to change.
Like that rivulet of dirty water, we need to surrender into the rhythms of the natural world, the cycle of day and night, the turn of the seasons, the eternal things. Nature makes transmutation possible. It is redemptive, restorative. Water will find its way home and the earth will purify it once more. There is an intelligence that does not need our guidance, but rather our respect. We need to learn how to step away and allow the organizing capacity in nature and in our own bodies to find its way to wholeness. This is the process of purification.