(This reflection by Mac was originally posted on www.amongthewhitelilies.com, an online journal of meditations, reflections and guided prayer for spiritual ragamuffins, on December 16, 2012.)
Winter has come to the northern hemisphere once again, and with it — the shorter days, the colder temperatures, the sun lower on the horizon, the snow and blowing snow and the fierce, feral winds from the north — also comes the familiar sight of thousands of flocks of migratory geese; instinctively, fearlessly setting their course for warmer climes — For home.
Geese are amazing creatures. They travel thousands of kilometres every year with the aid of instinctual internal compasses that allow them to accurately locate their migratory homes. Along with inherent, natural abilities to chart their routes using natural geographic features and sky maps — the sun during the day and the stars by night — special chemicals and compounds in their brains, also allow geese to sense the Earth’s magnetic field, which orients them on their long, arduous journeys.
During rest stops, geese re-orient their position and recalibrate their internal compasses, using sky maps, to adjust for the difference between true north and magnetic north. If these rest stops are not long enough, the birds can become disoriented.
God has created us, in a way, like geese. He has placed within us, an instinctual internal compass that is aligned to His magnetic field. This internal compass allows us to find our way in this life, with the ultimate goal of guiding us ‘home’ — to friendship, peace and union with God. But, like geese, if we do not set aside daily time to re-calibrate our compass and re-align ourselves to God through spiritual practices that hone our natural navigational abilities, we can become disoriented and eventually lose our way.
Winter, ‘the dark months’ (as we say in Gaelic) — the season of darkness and cold — is a natural season of rest. A season of hibernation. A time for reflection and introspection. A time for silence. A time for re-connection, re-calibration and re-alignment.
But, unfortunately, the hustle and bustle of daily modern life works counter-intuitively against this. This is especially true at this time of year, with the holidays just around the corner. Instead of slowing down, we actually tend to speed up; to fill our lives with more and more — more work, more parties, more shopping — until, inevitably, we are exhausted and disoriented. For, like geese, we can only fly; only work, for so long.
So, it takes awareness, desire, intention and discipline to align ourselves to the natural order of things, in the face of the biting winds of obligation, expectation and responsibility. It takes courage to choose to live counter-culture — to slow down and rest, when all around us, things are speeding up. It takes humility to admit that we have become disoriented and to actually do something about it. It takes an innate, instinctual wisdom to recognize that we need daily sacred space in our lives so that we may re-calibrate; re-align ourselves with Magnetic North.
For only then, will we begin to find our way; the Way, that will eventually lead us to the warmth, safety and security of…
‘Migration’ by Robert (Mac) MacKenzie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Photo credit: Respect and gratitude to Flickr user Bithead for licensing his work, “Geese at Moonrise’ with a Creative Commons license so that I can share it with you. You can view more of his work here.