As it is the new year, I am reminded of Mircea Eliade’s The Myth of the Eternal Return. In this book, the author explains that in ancient cultures, time was thought of as circular rather than linear, rotating on a yearly basis back to a primal, original moment, just as space was thought of as radiating out from a central, sacred, point. In this way, we are each born again on a yearly basis, our sins are wiped clean, and we get to begin anew.
I love this viewpoint. In our linear view, we are trapped by the experiences of our past. We believe that simply because we have always done something in a certain way, we are destined to always do it in the same way. We define and limit ourselves through who we have been and what we have already done. But when time begins again with each new year, the past does not determine who we will be.
Perhaps if we understood time and space in these ways we could more readily transcend our resentments and our fears. We would be less crippled by the scars of our woundedness. We could release the pain we hold in our bodies through our muscle tensions. We could see that the stories we tell ourselves again and again, of injustices suffered or committed, that we perceive as some absolute, final, truth of our lives, are actually finished chapters, as things that happened that we can learn and grow from, but that do not represent impediments that keep us stuck.
On Christmas day, my family and I visited Chichen Itza in Mexico, the greatest city of the noble Mayan civilization that flourished while the West was mired in the Dark Ages.
We hired a guide to show us around and we were randomly assigned a man named Guillermo Gonzalez. This turned out to be amazingly fortuitous. This humble man turned out to be a philosopher, psychologist, and wholistic healer who was profoundly knowledgeable about the Mayan spiritual system and cosmology as well as how the Mayan view parallels other ancient spiritual and philosophical traditions.
Guillermo explained how the Mayan view is very much like the systems that Eliade described. He told us that the Mayans believed there was a universal heart at the center of the universe that is the energetic source for every individual heart. We emerge from that universal heart when we come into manifestation as our living body and when we die we shed this skin and return to the source, the universal heart.
Not only, then, can we begin anew with the return of the new year, shedding our skin to grow a new one, giving us the hope, faith, and promise of rebirth, but that we also emerge from, and will return to, a central point, giving us the hope, faith, and promise that we are part of a universal whole.
As we are made of the original material that was present at the birth of the universe, we are inextricably woven into this sacred tapestry of the All. If we live in harmony with the laws of this universal whole, we gain access to the universal heart, the central energy of the cosmos, which can provide us with everything we need to realize our potential and become our true selves.
Rather than being stuck in a past we are doomed to repeat, mired in self-hatred, as we find our way to the original moment of creation and the heart at the center of the Great All, we move towards becoming that which we are meant to be, which is love.
Happy New Year!
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