Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ve tasked myself with throwing open the cabinet of curiosities and wondrous things I call my brain and leading you on a tour of what actually resides in there – all through the lens of unusual, obscure, or simply charming-to-me words.
J is for…
janiform – resembling the god Janus, having two faces facing opposite directions
Janus was the Roman god associated with beginngs, doorways, gates, passages, portals, transitions, time, and endings. He is usually depicted with a face looking forward and one looking backward, as he looks both to the future and to the past.
I often think about Janus is times of transition, certainly at those threshold moments where I find it important to pause for a moment to acknowledge what is behind and open to what is ahead. For me this is an important practice, and one I think we should all engage.
For me it’s important to make room to do this consciously and mindfully for a number of reasons that I find a bit hard to explain, but let me try. I have long believed that what is important for me, and I daresay I believe for everyone, is to live in the “now” moment. Which in my mind means with my energy firmly in the current moment. If I’m too focused on the future my energy is pulled forward from the present, and if I’m focused on the past my energy is pulled backwards, and in either case I’m not here now. And I actually think that is a huge problem for many many people. I bet we all have spectacular examples of people in our lives who absolutely refuse to let go of what is past and manage to bring it into every aspect of the present. It’s literally like they’re stuck facing another direction. Or there are other folks so focused on some event/desired change in the future, that they simply aren’t living in the present – it’s as though they are literally absent from current life. Those are extremes on the continuum of course, and we all dance somewhere in between at any given time with regard to any given issue.
Still, I like to think living in the present, at a balance point between yanked backward and shoved forward is where we belong, and the place we should be striving to be. In fact this is what I consider to be the all-important state of being as opposed to doing.
On the other hand, I want to be clear I think it’s important to both understand the past, both the things we consider gifts and those that we might more likely term harsh lessons we hope not to have to repeat. We, both individually and collectively, are indeed the sum of our past experiences and to deny their existence is ridiculous at the very least, and dangerous at the worst.
I also think we always need to be leaning into where we want to be headed into the future. It’s true I think of this as more fluid and nuanced than most people because I truly believe my heart is my true compass and I am comfortable listening to it guide me in small increments, not needing to have a thousand-mile journey mapped out in advance. But still, we always want to be evolving and expanding and not remaining static, so it is important to pay heed to the call forward that the future sounds. I just think it needs to be listened to from the grounded present.
I like this little janiform I created years ago and use often. I think it has a bit of a jester look about it and that in turn reminds me of the tarot’s fool. That always sems like the perfect place and energy to embark upon a new journey, inviting in the beginner’s mind and calling in the fun, and yet remembering the skills and talents we carry from all our past experiences which make for perfect traveling companions stored firmly in our hearts.
When I was thinking about Janus and the symbolism of the janiform, I also thought about wisdom of the Sankofa bird symbol as well.
Sankofa is a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates to “go back and get it.” It is associated with the Adrinka symbol of a bird facing forward, with it’s head turned backwards, carrying a precious egg in its mouth. The message of this symbol is “it is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”
I think that’s an important lesson too.
When I think of Janus, I’m reminded of William Blake whose brilliant wisdom is ever-unfolding for me. He said:
“In the universe there are things that are known, and there are things that are unknown, and in between there are doors.”
May we always take a reminder from janiform and pause to a moment to consider the known that lies behind, and the unknown that lies ahead as we open the doors on our life’s journey.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Do you feel grounded in the present? Do you think about thresholds? Have symbols that are important to you? Do tell – you know I’d love to hear.