“Look for a little light anywhere in the field of darkness and ask that it may increase.” –Joan Halifax Roshi
When I look to nature, deep winter feels like a sacred time. Grandfather Sun is completing his journey across the sky. He is old now and his light is fading. Nights are long and the time of rest is upon us.
In October, the children in our weekly mindfulness classes honored their departed ones with an ancestor’s ritual. We noticed that giving attention to impermanence gave rise to a deep sense of appreciation for our own short lives. In November, we turned towards gratitude with the coming of Thanksgiving. Now, with the winter solstice approaching, we’re turning inwards. One student, an eight year old girl, has given us a new phrase for this deep place: direct darkness.
Earth-based traditions tell us that it is from this darkest place that the light is born. On winter solstice, the longest night of the year, Grandfather Sun completes his journey. The Baby Sun is born at dawn. These mythologies speak to a wisdom in each of us.
In the Zen tradition, the awakening of the Buddha is celebrated in December. It is said that after sitting through the night, upon seeing the morning star, the Buddha realized awakening and exclaimed, “That’s it! That’s it! That’s me that’s shining so brightly. How wondrous, how wondrous! All beings share this indwelling light. What an astonishing thing has been realized!”
This winter, we’ll celebrate this indwelling light with a candlelight spiral walk. We’ll meet inside for quiet songs and storytelling before walking the spiral together. In quiet walking meditation, each child first walks the spiral turning inward, gathering light at the center, and then walks the spiral turning outward, bringing her light back into the world.
We are excited to join together with Stone Creek Zen Center to offer this celebration for all ages to the general community. We ask that families please register in advance or contact Chelsea for more information.
Please bring your own candle in a wind-proof jar or apple votive. Suggested donation: sliding scale $3-$10/per person. Your generosity helps ensure that programs like these will continue to be available in our community for a long time.
Please register in advance here. Thank you!
Returning to Halloween’s ancient roots this week at, we honored our ancestors with a special ceremony…
We invited in all of the beings who have left this world — grandparents, beloved pets, and even spiders… then offered gifts of food, sang songs, an created a memory table with photos, names, and items that belonged to our beloved, departed ones.
This was the last week in October’s lesson block on impermanence. Next week, we’ll begin November’s practice of cultivating gratitude.
We’ve noticed that our emotions come and go like clouds in the sky, felt the energy in our bodies moving with Qigong, and observed changes on the farm as apples fall from trees and plants are harvested. We’ve discovered that our bodies are changing, that sounds come and go from our experience, and even built a new compost pile — a very living lesson in how the passing of one thing is the birth of another. It seems that nothing at all is permanent. Everything is constantly becoming.
This week we’ll conclude our look at impermanence with an ancestor’s ritual…
We’ll use elements from a traditional Japanese Zen Buddhist ceremony for the spirits of departed ones — called sejiki. All Om School families are invited to attend this deepening of Halloween and return to its ancient roots.
Dear Om School families: Please remember to bring photos and items that belonged to a loved one who has passed away — friend, family, or animal. We’ll even honor the the bugs and spiders who have departed this world by drawing pictures of them to add to our memory table. Whimsical and non-scary costumes are welcome. If you believe this will be a sensitive subject for your child, please let me know in advance.