You think this is just another year in your life? This year has been given to you – it’s the gift you have been living all year. It has given you a unique opportunity to cultivate peace in your relationships and in your world. What did you do with this gift? … I have been asking myself these questions as I’ve been pondering the closing of 2018 and opening to the seeds of 2019.
This past fall, I have supported others in their grief and losses and have also experienced my own. Facing the death of loved ones is a certainty, a reality of life from which we cannot be spared. In fact, every fall and winter season, we are given the opportunity to prepare ourselves for this experience of death and letting go. The leaves fall off the trees. Plants go dormant or die. Wildlife patterns shift with migrations. Temperatures drop and people move indoors, a form of preparing for the darkening and wintry days.
Nature teaches us to let go. To surrender. To let ourselves die in some manner. We often convince ourselves we are outside of Nature – that we don’t need to follow its laws, its flow, the changes it ceaselessly undergoes. But we do.
Each year, we enter this season of dying and death whether we understand this principle and activity or not. We try to skip over it and go to the birth, to Christmas and its pageantry, to the holidays, to spring without ever opening to and surrendering to the death that calls us. However, the order is clear. Birth and life and death cannot be separated from each other.
Now what is the grace in this? Where is the grace in death? How can death be sacred, holy even, when it requires that we let go of those we love and dreams we cherish? I’ve lived with this question since I’ve been 10 when my father was killed, over 40 years ago.
The grace I have experienced has gifted me with the deep inner knowing that as Father Thomas Keating says, ‘in the death is the resurrection’. And Leonard Cohen sang ‘there is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in’. In the grace of the Universe, death is the birth to new life. It is the path of transformation. The water, the fire, the air/breath, all return to the Source to be utilized in all of creation’s pure spirit.
As I have mentioned above, this fall has presented numerous deaths around me. I am also have dying conversations with others. I have also realized there is a dying happening within me. There are moments when fear comes knocking. Yet, when I deeply enter into my heart and open to the love between the heart-spirit, I realize that love transcends all death, and I am pulled into a sublime joy and peace words cannot convey.
When fear knocks, I remind myself to go deep within where the light is. As Richard Rohr writes: “What’s dying is not the deepest self, but our dependence and over-identification with the mental ego and its projects, and our cultural conditioning and over-identification with it, including our roles in life.”
The gift of grace in this dying is that already I can glimpse the joy of becoming fully alive. Some might say that I cannot prove that life exists beyond death. And they are right. What I do know from my own heart’s experience is the joy of resurrection/new life through the purity of love, spirit to spirit, a profound mystery to experience through the doorway of death. Whether it be my father’s spirit, my animal companions, my friends, my ancestors, Usui Sensei, their love and kindness, their compassion and guiding presence calms my spirit, restores hope and purpose along my journey, and grounds me in the life I have here and now, fully and completely. And so, love and hope become a healing balm to grief.
As Father Keating says, one aspect of creation is that, once you have been born into this world, you never die because, as the Hindu religions teach, each of us possesses deep within us an inalienable spark of divine love. [The Song of Songs says that love is stronger than death (8:6).] That spark is the same energy that created the Big Bang.
Shortly, Winter Solstice, the longest day of the year will be upon us. This day is a ceremony of letting go and surrendering to the death of what is now done and a time of going within to connect with the divine light deep within. It is a ceremony of the death of a mental ego projection and conditioning if we surrender to it. And it is a ceremony of planting a new seed, having trust and confidence that new life, a fresh and vital life will be resurrected as the days of light grow longer.
I believe we desire and yearn for ceremony, for the seasonal rituals, observances, and sacraments that bless us with vitality, with meaning for our humanity, with deep mystical moments that unite us with the cosmic presence and beingness of love and peace beyond our capacity to fully grasp it all. It is simply something we open to, surrender to and say ‘yes’ to. I am saying ‘yes’ to this death (yes, it has had its challenges!) and I will plant a new seed of peace for 2019.
I have been shown again this fall, several times, that the freedom and joy in death is not to be feared but to be celebrated, inspired by the love and compassion so profound that it powerfully can hold us in our grief, in the journey of acceptance of what is now forever transformed to new life.
This year of my life I have lived in community with all of you. You each connect me to my truest self, the place where I can drink from my holy peace. And so I invite you to this year’s Peace Circle: Planting a New Seed of Peace on December 19th. More details are available on my website.
For those of you who wish to join me in gratitude, in hope, in confidence that we can let die what is done in us, and then let the seed of new peace be born in us, flow out into our world, do so in your own good way.
May this Winter Solstice offer you something magical, fresh and new in the death of what is already done. Nature is showing us the way. We are not lost if we follow Her deep into our own inner light of peace. May the deep inner light in you be experienced, intimately known, as though you are discovering it for the first and wondrous time. May it be cause for joy and celebration!
I close with this poem as a blessing!
Settle in the here and now.
Reach down into the centre
where the world is not spinning
and drink this holy peace.
Feel relief flood into every
cell. Nothing to do. Nothing
to be but what you are already.
Nothing to receive but what
flows effortlessly from the
mystery into form.
Nothing to run from or run
toward. Just this breath,
Awareness knowing itself as
embodiment. Just this breath,
awareness waking up to truth.
~ Danna Faulds