Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
Earth is a living, breathing biosphere of energy, supporting us as we grow and evolve. We are creatures of magnetism and gravity, inextricably linked to our mother, the earth. We live in extraordinary times where we can actually see the earth from the perspective of outer space, fulfilling what the ancient prophets saw only in dreams. In Black Elk’s great vision, he looked down upon “the whole hoop of the earth.”
“Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all,
and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world.
And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw;
for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit,
and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.
And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops
that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight,
and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter
all the children of one mother and one father.
And I saw that it was holy.” Black Elk, 1931
Try meditating on the earth from the perspective of Black Elk, high above the earth and outside of time. This film was created by expedition 28 and 29’s crew onboard the International Space Station using a time lapse sequence of photographs taken with a special low-light 4K-camera from August to October, 2011.
The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, made it extremely challenging to avoid feeling helpless. As the news bombarded us with the suffering and plight of the Japanese people, it was difficult to stomach the tragedy, both physically and emotionally. I found myself wanting to adhere to the well-worn quote “ignorance is bliss.” However, as much as I tried to curtail my T.V. diet and refrain from opening my e-mail filled with yet another devastating picture or video; as much as I avoided discussing the matter with friends and family, the feelings of helplessness haunted me. I felt hopeless and unable to do anything proactive to relieve the situation in Japan.
I was discussing my feelings with a yoga colleague and she suggested I practice Tonglen Meditation to help me process my feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Rather than dwell on painful emotions, I could send positive thoughts on an energy level to reduce the suffering in Japan. According to the ancient practice of Tonglen, dwelling on negative emotions creates more pain. I was leery since meditation is a personal challenge for me. Sitting quietly in my own mind and body while creating space in my heart is like learning to speak another language. However, I was willing to try anything to reduce the frustration and painful emotions. After doing some research, I found American Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, who proved helpful in introducing me to this ancient meditative practice. [Read more…]
There are different seasons in life. A harmonious acceptance of the season we occupy is crucial to our contentment. Life’s experiences— good or bad, full of joy or sorrow— are necessary for our spiritual growth. Even when lessons are painful or seemingly unfair, it is our own consciousness expressing itself in manifestation. Pain is another way of waking up, of growing spiritually.
When we move in accord with the seasons of life, we flow with the current. When we long for the past or future, we abdicate the present, where our true power resides. Each human being is extraordinary. We have the power to create or destroy in every moment. So cultivating our highest nature is critically important for our own well being and the happiness of others. Consider the season you occupy. Are you in Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter?
Spring is the season of quickening life. All possibility arises in spring, we learn and are fertile, explore the world and make new associations. In the spring of our lives, we are innocent, open to the encounters that lead to joy or pain. Spring is a time of growth and expansion, like seedlings, we are all pure potential, pushing out into the world. Our openness is the very thing that allows us to experience life. Our guileless nature allows us to play and make mistakes, which are always important lessons in disguise. In spring we are an empty cup waiting to be filled with love, knowledge and awakenings, here reside the hard-won truths of life lived fearlessly.
Summer is the season of production and ripening when crops are planted, days are long and we are at the height of our powers. What we put into life, we eventually reap— the things we say or do, our inventions and ideas, are the seeds of a future harvest. We can make the mistake of thinking that hard work at any cost will bring us success, but it isn’t true. Work must be balanced, ethical and fair. The crop we plant must be beneficial to others, otherwise the harvest will not be true abundance. Self-serving greed is a poisoned seed that creates blighted fruit. Whether we tend the field of our own family or the community as a whole, Summer is a time of generosity, where we are able to contribute to the highest expression of human potential.
Autumn is the season of harvest. Whatever crop we planted now yields its fruit. Sometimes we reap an unexpected harvest, a word or thought planted long ago blossoms into happiness or regret. The harvest is a time of gathering, feasting and repose. As the life force withdraws into the deeper levels of our being, our own energy connects back to the source. In hibernation, we gather strength, it’s a time of inward turning and refining our soul. A lifetime of experiences creates a harvest of wisdom. We know ourselves and see others more clearly. Our accumulated wisdom allows us to shepherd our time more effectively and to decide how best to channel our energies into the world. If we have gathered enough strength, we act against injustice, cultivate compassion and create beauty.
Winter is the season of meditation. The life force retreats even deeper into the earth. There is stillness in winter, a rationing of our resources as we reconnect to our true self. Life is stripped down to the bare bones of existence. Although the obvious signs of outward growth are hidden; our very essence is being refined, distilled in the purest alchemy of inner fire. We release the ego and embrace transformation. Winter is a time of simplicity, we are on an inward journey, coming back to the source. Freed from earlier distractions; the fertility of spring, the production of summer, the gathering of autumn, winter is the truest expression of our spirits as we open our consciousness and cross the barriers that separate us from our divine heritage.
The ancient Celts divided the world into two seasons, the light half took place at the April/May lunation, Beltane, and the dark half began at the October/November lunation, Samhain. The seasons of light and darkness have been celebrated in a thousand forms throughout history. As winter loomed, the survival of each individual was bound to the group and villagers extinguished their fires to feed the central bonfire, then took the fire back to their hearths. Sometimes a ritual of purification took place, walking between bonfires to prepare for the meditative time of winter.
We celebrate Samhain as Halloween.
Samhain was the beginning of hibernation, time to take stock of food and supplies, to cast the bones of slaughtered cattle upon the fire and seek portents of the future. As the sun retreated, the earth was plunged into darkness, days grew short, nights long— tree sap receded, leaves brightened and fell and wildlife burrowed into the earth to sleep. As stillness spread across the land, the veil separating life and death thinned, the dead were remembered and evil spirits placated through masks and disguises.
In our modern world, with its new traditions, packaged candy and costumes, it’s important to feel the history of Halloween, to mind the gap between the living and the dead and honor the connection between ourselves and the community that sustains us.
Generosity to others insures our own abundance.
Although Samhain marks the receding of the light, it is in hibernation that we often make break-throughs. Just as silence returns us to the source, darkness often cocoons the spark of our creative transformation. Respecting the seasons physically is a way of reminding ourselves about the seasons of our lives, sometimes we are in a season of growth and sometimes withdrawal. If summer is a time of action, winter is a time of meditation.
Disguises make us consider our identity, our fears and our hopes. Has your current identity crystallized? Does it still serve you or is it time to release the old and cultivate a rebirth?
Who will emerge in spring?