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Tea #6, Moving Balance: Practices for the Inconceivable / Spring Equinox
03.19.2020, 3:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Even after the most exhaustive and accurate scientific or philosophical account, the most compelling  mythology, or the most concise and penetrating poem, the ten thousand things remain, in and of themselves, a mystery beyond us… For those artists and monks and writers, the sage lives most authentically on the edge where language and identity weave into the ontological tissue of change as a whole. Aren’t we each another fleeting forms in that tissue’s process of perpetual transformation? they might ask. Isn’t our fullest identity that issue itself? Isn’t it all and none of earth’s fleeting forms simultaneously? … to return to the origin place where heaven and earth interact in that all-encompassing generative present, to our own primal origins, our place at the wellspring of change. It is, in fact, to become dragon again.” – from Introduction, I Ching, The Book of Change, David Hinton

A ring of twilight moving slowly across the planet’s surface. Earth is half light, half dark. Today, and again in six months, a magnificent occurrence: the sun will deliver equal lengths of day and night to everywhere on Earth for an immeasurable instant. At 11:49pm ET tonight days will lengthen into spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and shorten into winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

 

To the wind, trees, insects, and birds, this day brings incremental differences compared to yesterday, as another spin of Earth continues their evolutions. But human systems are in a state of rapid transformation today as the circle of twilight between day and night passes over emptied streets. The sped up “now” of human life is, ironically, manifesting as an unprecedented slowing—a turning, literally, to the inside.

Two weeks ago, when our long-held plans to gather with family in Los Angeles were cancelled, now feels like two years ago. At the time, it was hard to accept that cancelling was actually necessary. Yet, each moment since has proven that it had been. This personal disruption is has now rescaled and compounded into a much larger, planetary sea-change of uncertainty. Its bitingly existential force has been humbling. The need to cancel more and more of what we once thought of as “life” and “our” plans is just beginning. Daily life, work, and routines that used to constitute the “everyday” are upended. We all will be, and already are, gaining previously unimagined new skills.

Signs of spring in New York City appeared over this past week. Their gentleness feels entirely out of sync with the uncharted territories that millions of humans are entering. We can learn much from the non-human world during this time. What species doesn’t face existential threats? The appearance of COVID-19 is linked to the material realities of the Anthropocene (travel, population densities, habits of consumption). The crisis will not be over soon and its impact will be felt and lived for years, as presumed in a MIT Technology Review article. Elizabeth Kolbert has long shared great wisdom on the realities of the Sixth Extinction. Roy Scranton shared a prescient and important wake-up call more than five years ago. Recently, trend forecaster Li Edelkoort speculated that our experience of the pandemic could, “eventually allow humanity to reset its values.”

In reality, no one knows what’s going to happen next—or how. The vast and complex intermingling of forces now ramifying will continue to accelerate changes that are inconceivable from here, though not entirely unexpected. (How some of us have been so lucky for so long?)

As artist|humans, we continue to sense that along with more responsive health care systems and priorities, philosophical and spiritual practices of change could be incredibly useful in our efforts to navigate the coming days with as much grace as possible.

When describing Zen Buddhism, Joan Halifax has spoken of cultivating “the capacity for the inconceivable.” Just a few weeks ago, our Qigong teacher in Brooklyn was kind enough to share a breathing practice with us. She framed it with the words, “it’s always good to practice the impossible on a regular basis.” Her words resonate more deeply today as we realize how little we can know about what is happening. And yet, in our state of unknowing, it’s essential to also realize that we each still have influence.

As we spin into a future that is changing unpredictably, the fact of our vibrant interconnectedness offers deep (if sometimes disturbing) meaning and vital purpose. Rather than attempting to resume life as it was (and it was never “normal”) as quickly as possible, we can pay attention to the change’s call to change with it. 

The presence of unexpected and immediate existential risk can make personal actions and choices highly charged and memorable. Loosening our grips on habits of expecting stability seems to be a matter of great urgency now. It’s something we will be “working” on, from home, from within. Having the fortitude to find ways to still ourselves and observe, as in the Zen practice of sesshin, might be one of the most “healthy” things we can do for ourselves and each other in the weeks to come. Not carrying on as normal, needing less. Not filling every moment with the now alarmingly myriad opportunities to join Zoom groups around the world, every hour of the day.

Our collective actions in the weeks ahead will not only alter the course of the crucial next decade on Earth and shape the long-term future for all humans to come—they will also shape how the change is lived and experienced by every one of us, and those who come after us.

What is the moving balance we will each aim for in our lives? What solace might limits provide?

This morning at 11:30am ET, in the absence of the ability to be together physically, we gathered with family virtually, and co-created Tea in the Dark, Tea #6, Moving Balance: Practices for the Inconceivable (Spring Equinox). We staged Tea #6 of the Tea in the Dark project in preparation for the equinox that is arriving today and to create an opportunity to pause and observe. The moment of 11:49 am marked twelve hours before equinox, when light and dark will come into a fleeting equivalence across the entire planet. Separated by over 1000 miles, together we drank from Tilt of the Earth 23.5º Teacups.

Matcha tea from Kettl Brooklyn was drunk in Provincetown, MA, and Irish Breakfast tea in Urbana, Illinois. Poems and readings were shared, see our digital Chakaiki for full transcripts.

Tonight, all humans, even those separated by thousands of miles, entirely different perspectives, and highly unequal circumstances, will pass through a shared moment of moving “balance” that is integral to our species’ physical embodiment and evolution on Earth.

Drinking Tea #6, we were not aiming to sustain equilibrium, but to create an event of living within a moving situation. Despite our geographic distance from one another, at the scale of the planet, we share the material fact of the equinox equally. This moving moment, the hinge of seasonal change, “lasts” for zero seconds and for infinity. Because of this, this illusive event of “balance” cannot be inhabited. But it can be appreciated, noticed, and creatively responded to together. This spring’s equinox, we pause with the ongoing change that is the fabric of our very existence.

Additional details of Tea #6 can be found on our digital Chakaiki

 


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