Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ll be using manicules (those pointing finger symbols) to direct your attention to something I’m pondering that delights or interests me. Each entry is somehow related to an unusual, obscure, or simply charming to me word.
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 in 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 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.
You’ve perfectly described the juxtaposition of the present with the past and future. Light touches and learning/reaching toward both without being enveloped in it. When I am in a down moment it’s often because my focus between the present, past and future is out of balance.
You’ve expressed it perfectly Margaret.
I guess I’m just being a contrarian, but I am reminded of a documentary we watched about a man who lived with wild turkeys and kept saying how wonderful they were because they lived in the present… and I kept thinking, “But I don’t WANT to be a turkey! I want to be a HUMAN, because we are actually capable of remembering the past and looking toward the future!” You are absolutely right that living in the past and living in the future can be taken to unhealthy extremes, but I think living in the present can be taken to unhealthy extremes, too, like the people who don’t give any thought to the consequences of their actions.
I like your little janiform faces. What about faces facing in all four directions? Or six? That might be interesting to think about!
Thanks for giving me lots to consider, as always! =)
J is for Jewelled
Oh good for you Anne – a little contrarian pushback is always welcome. Expanding everyone’s paradigms is always a good thing in my mind. And i like your idea about many-faced forms. In fact, I was discussing with my friends last week that I’m beginning to see images of a sphere with spikes projecting out of it all around. Now I’m imagining eyeballs on all of them – seeing all around.
My thoughts are similar — I try not to look back too much, not because the things that happened before don’t matter but because if I make those things my focus, I can’t see what’s in front of me. And walking with your neck craned, trying to look behind you instead of watching (out for) what’s in front of you is a sure way to bang into something. The same is true whether you’re traversing a sidewalk or travelling through life.
I think of my past a bit like the wind at my back. The future is everything between myself and the horizon. The now is where I feel my feet under me.
I love your description of your perspective. Wind at your back, and the horizon ahead. And my wish for you is to always have your feet on the joy trail.
Wonderful post. Thank you!
Unless there’s a specific day in time marking change, like move to a new place or start a new job, I find it hard to realize I’m experiencing a “threshold moment” as you call it. Often it isn’t until later that it becomes clear.
Here’s the thing about the past: Everything we have experienced is real and clear. The future? fuzzy and uncertain. So in times like the past two years we’re just now moving on from, good memories frankly helped getting through days of lockdown with not much to do.
I expect to live on the past even more as I grow old, and I mean old like my Grandma who made it till 99. Literally all of her family and friends had passed away a long time ago. The days in the nursing home were long and uneventful. Fortunately her mind and her memory were bright, which helped her to reminisce and tell old stories. Yes, we may have heard them before, but we could tell by her lighting up that it made her happy.
PS: Your posts make me keep brining up my Grandma, did you notice.
I definitely see your point Tamara. I suspect I pay more attention to thresholds because I work so consciously with nature’s cycles – the moon cycles and the seasons, for example. I certainly understand what you’re saying about how important memories were to you in feeling connected and able to get through the last couple of years with a bit more ease and grace.
How wonderful you had your grandmother for so long and knew her happiness as she told her stories. That touches my heart very deeply.
I feel being focussed on avtions to be done keeps us rooted to the moment. Its when we decide to ponder that we look to the past or the future. I know the month January is named after Janus . I guess he would always win in a Hide and Seek game wouldnt he ? Ha ha
Visiting from A to Z
LOL. Indeed you’re right – Janus would win every time.
I believe that the month January is from the word Janus. The two faces in opposite directions represents saying goodbye to a past year and hello to the future year.
Yes, that’s true. I find it a very lovely and powerful thing to pay attention to when crossing all thresholds, not just the one into a new year.
Thank you for sharing the wisdom of William Blake.
And for this : “my heart is my true compass” I imagine a bee pendant with these words engraved on it as the perfect present for you:) I imagine it’ll suit you perfectly.
Oh I love the engraved bee pendant – how perfect!
It is very hard for me to stay in the present. Does it count when I’m telling stories? Story space is a different kind of present that I’m very focused on… 😀
The Multicolored Diary
LOL. Story speak in story space is entirely magical and totally not part of the time-space continuum we’re otherwise bound to. How’s that for dispensation?