Spiritual Growth


by Gary Zukav

When I lived in the city, I never knew what an equinox was. It is an astronomical term for the time when the sun crosses the equator, making night and day of equal length in all parts of the world. In December, the sun is lowest in the sky and the nights are longest. This is the winter solstice. In June, the opposite happens, the sun is highest in the sky and the days are longest. This is the summer solstice. All of this has to do with the equinoxes, but I didn't learn any of it by studying astronomy.

I was forty-five when I moved onto a remote ranch in the pine and fir of northern California. I lived alone. The nearest town was fifteen miles away. I had no electricity or phone. When I returned from infrequent trips, I would get out of my car and stand still for several minutes, listening to the sounds of the evening, and of the stream behind the house. When I walked toward the house, the noise of my boots on the cinder seemed so loud that it startled me.

Winter came, then spring, summer, and fall again. I lived a complete cycle with nature, for the first time. I saw how the sun moved from north to south and back again, and from low in the sky to high, and then down again. I saw the grass in the meadows turn from green to brown, and then disappear under the snow. I saw the stream freeze, thaw, and run freely again with butterflies playing over it.

More important, I felt the seasons come and go inside me. That is how I learned about the equinoxes. They are midway between the times when the sun is highest (in the summer) and
when it is lowest (in the winter). The days are not overly long or overly short. We call the equinoxes spring and fall.

In the United States, the spring equinox, also called the vernal equinox, comes in the month of March. Farmers and gardeners plant crops and all of us relax into the warming weather. Everywhere south of the equator, it is the fall equinox. Farmers and gardeners are harvesting and everyone is preparing for winter.

Do you see the perfect balance? Day and night, spring and fall, hot and cold, planting and harvesting everything is balanced at the equinoxes. This balance could not exist without the extremes. Midway between the heat of summer and the ice of winter, between sowing and reaping, between darkness and light, life goes on. That is now.

When you strive for balance, be gentle with yourself. How can you recognize balance without recognizing imbalance? When you rejoice at the good that you discover in yourself, or despair at the evil, do you move past the balance point between them without noticing it? If you strive only to avoid the darkness or to cling to the light, you cannot live in balance. Instead, try striving to be conscious of all that you are, and to choose responsibly at each

That is balance


In the northern hemisphere, where I live, it is spring. Blossoms are blooming on the fruit trees and leaves are budding. Everyone is relieved that the winter is over at last. Why speak of trust when everything is becoming fresh anew, vibrant, and wondrous?

It is not only things going wrong that frighten us. It is also our lives going profoundly right. It is clarity piercing the armor of encrusted prejudices about others and ourselves. It is new vitality sweeping away the stagnation of lethargy. It is deep roots, long buried beneath the surface, sending up sprouts to at last burst uncontrolled into sunlight.

That sunlight is your consciousness. The birth of new life is as challenging as it is exhilarating, as frightening as it is liberating. Are you prepared to leave old fears, angers, and judgments behind? Are you willing to see yourself as endlessly creative, and responsible
for what you create?

Spiritual growth is not an easy escape from the painful circumstances of your life. It begins with an eyes-open exploration of them and their cause. You are the cause. Every insight that brings you to this realization is a springtime's a new beginning. Every impulse to follow your heart is a springtime, too. As you move away from the familiar orientation of being a victim of circumstance to the new, accurate understanding of yourself as a powerful creator, you leave behind the familiar props upon which you once depended. These are your righteous judgments, unchallenged beliefs, and feelings of superiority or inferiority. You are in new territory. The old is gone and everything that is emerging is new.

That is what is happening now, in the spring. No one doubts that new grass growing in the spring is a miracle. Everyone can see that flowers blooming in the spring are miracles. Can you see yourself that way when new insights cause you to question old values? Can you see yourself as blooming when old goals fall away and new, surprising aspirations require you to change your life?

You cannot grow spiritually and remain the same. Understanding that is knowledge. Seeing it is wisdom.

Knowing it is trust.


One special day in June the sun is higher in the sky than it is at any other time of the year. That day is also the longest day of the year. It is the summer solstice. Maximal potential and maximal growth are happening together. The spring gives way to the full force of summer, but the harvest is still months away.

When I lived on my ranch I felt most at ease during the summer. I had no fires to build, no pipes to thaw, no snow to shovel, and I knew that I had months until the fall to lay away the firewood that would keep me warm in the winter. A friend down the road had a black Arabian stallion named Darshan. Each summer I let him graze in my meadow. The split cedar fence, laid into place decades before my arrival and enclosing three acres of grass and
wildflowers, seemed to me the perfect place for this magnificent animal, and apparently he felt that way, too. As the summer stretched before me, I lost track of the winter behind me and the winter ahead. I walked the stream in the hot afternoons and jogged old logging roads in the cool of the morning. I repaired the generator, cleaned the wooden water tank in the old barn, and wrote my book. Surrounded by thousands of acres of timberland, I soaked in the heat and the vitality of the summer and immersed myself in them undisturbed

The fall approached almost imperceptibly. The heat of September days gave way to the coolness of September nights and I began to appreciate again the warm clothing I had put away and forgotten so long ago, at the beginning of the summer. Perhaps because I gave myself to the summer I was ready for the fall, and because I gave myself to the fall, I was ready for the winter when it arrived again, too. As the year completed itself and another began, the summer became more to me than the beautiful season of warmth and light that I love so much. It became part of a larger picture that I began to love even more than its many parts. I didn't realize it at the time, but my awareness was expanding beyond my limited perception of the summer to a larger perspective of the cycle that contains and produces summers, and beyond my limited perception of my life to the larger perspective of the soul that generates and utilizes lifetimes.

Honor the insights that appear in you the same way. As the seasons of your life come and go, acknowledge the shifts that happen in you and allow them to mature in their own time. Don't think of yourself as hypocritical because you aren't living the fullness of your vision immediately. The limitations of your perception are already giving way to a larger perspective in which your struggles are a part of the goal you are striving for and inseparable from it. The fullness of your most noble and healthy aspirations will come, just like the fall harvest always comes. The harvest and the sprouts do not occur together. First come the sprouts, then growth and maturation, and then the harvest.

Let wisdom and love sprout and grow in you the same way.

And enjoy the solstice.


In the hemisphere where I live, the deepest moment of the winter comes not in January or February, but in December, when the night is longest and the day is shortest. This day and night is, as we have said, called the winter solstice. It is the mirror image of the summer solstice in June when the day is longest and the night is shortest.

The winter solstice is a very powerful time in the cycle of life and death, death and rebirth, disintegration and renewal that controls all Life on the Earth, including you. It is the time when motion ceases and at the same moment, Life begins to stir again. Animals in hibernation and seeds in sleep beneath the snow will not move until the spring, but deep within them a process has completed itself. The contraction of energy that the long nights and cold days reflect reaches its limit and a cycle reverses itself. From that moment forward, even though the winter remains to unfold as it must, the spring has been born, and the summer, and the harvests of the summer will follow with it.

This dark and trying season is repeated in your life again and again. Each tragedy, loss, failure, and humiliation reaches its inmost movement, spends its energy, and from that long journey another begins a journey to warmth, light, and expansion. The season of celebration, of growth, of Life, and of movement is repeated again in the same way. One season follows the other. The arrival of one signals the coming of the other. They do not exist apart.

These seasons of the year, and seasons of your life, come and go, complete themselves, and give way to each other whether you are aware of the dynamic that controls them or not. If you are not, the seasons appear to have lives of their own and you forget they are each part of a cycle that you have encountered many times before and will encounter many times again Your life is built on this cycle of seasons on the continual repetition of them. The arrival of winter, the coming of darkness and death, initiates the coming of light and life. This cycle controls the unfolding of your life and all within it.

When you are aware of this cycle, you can participate with it. You cannot stop the death that comes in the winter nor the life that comes with the summer, but you can determine in the winter what will be born in the summer. You can contribute your intelligence and will to the intelligence and movement of a dynamic larger than you. You can plant the seed that will sprout in the spring. You can lay the foundation for a different winter to come after the summer that has yet to arrive. You can only do this for yourself.

When you are in deep winter, the nights are long and the days are short. The Earth grows cold and life retreats. Now is the time for you to awaken to your place in this cycle, and to use it consciously. What is darkest in your life? What loss or disappointment, fear or terror moves through you? What powerlessness haunts you? These are given to you for your benefit. They are brought to your awareness so that you can change them. They are your avenues to the clarity and love that you are waiting for. You cannot become fearless at your command, but you can determine how you will respond to your fear. You cannot become kind with one intention, but you can determine how you will respond to your own brutality, righteousness, and fear.

This is the power of the deep winter. It challenges you, confronts you, and shows you what you must change in yourself. It is a holy and precious season. It illuminates your holy and precious life. It is your potential beckoning to you, disguised as an adversary, a tragedy, or a disaster. Will the adversary, tragedy, or disaster shape your experience, or will you shape your experience of it? Will your fears overwhelm you, or will they show you new and different ways to respond to them?

What new life is stirring in you this Deep Winter?


Excerpted from Soul to Soul by Gary Zukav Copyright © 2007 by Gary Zukav.
Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Soul to Soul is profoundly simple, wise, and poetic, a book to treasure and return to again and again for guidance and inspiration. It is now available for pre-purchase by simply going to www.seatofthesoul.com





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