Tag Archive | death

Passing It On

 

Today is All Saints Day, when all my beloved departeds dance and swirl at the back of my mind, emerging whole from memories.

They remind me to cherish each moment and live fully engaged. A friend who is a cancer survivor once embraced me with an awareness like that. Many times he had been within striking distance of death, but none so close as his battle with colon cancer. I had not seen him for over a decade, but when he saw me, he hugged me tightly and said that he cherished me. His words were not romantic or trite. They felt pressed down into an essence wrung from illness and the certainty of death—an awareness that allowed him to freely express affection and gratitude every remaining day of his life.

This message is similar to the one my longtime mentor and pastor, Reverend Gustav Schulz, gave me the night before his funeral. I dreamt that I was in his church and he urged me to join in singing the song, “Pass it on.” During his adult life, Gus had participated in the civil rights movement, the Sanctuary movement, anti-war movements, homeless advocacy, and the movement to reunite North and South Korea. His was a hard act to follow. But here in my dream, Gus was encouraging me to take up the torch and to pass it on.

So I sang “Pass it On,” for Gus in my dream, and in my waking life, I renewed my commitment to struggle for social and environmental justice. On days like today, I feel the presence of Gus and many other peace makers, and I remember to pass on their legacy of struggle and hope.

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June Solstice

We gathered before sunrise at the Puerta del Sol, an ancient Incan Sun Gate located a short walk from the Sacred Valley Retreat Center. For the ancient Incas, all life stemmed from the sun. They crafted their temples and other buildings with precise attention to the angle of the sun’s rays and the play of shadows. During the solstices, Inca initiates would place themselves at designated points where the first rays of the rising sun would illuminate their foreheads.

We followed this ritual at the Sun Gate in Yucay. I sat between rows of nubby stalks in a recently harvested cornfield. Before closing my eyes, I glimpsed the tomb-cliffs I had hiked to the day before. From there, my gaze traced Incan stone terraces and stone-lined irrigation channels all the way down to the stone steps of the Sun Gate. I closed my eyes to meditate. As the sun rose above the mountain, the first rays warmed my crown and then my forehead, and I felt tremendous power and gratitude welling up within me and swirling like the intense red patterns that played on my inner eye.

What a gift to allow myself to be here, I realized. What a gift to allow myself to live fully aware, dedicated to letting myself bloom. Here in this mountain valley, I could hear more clearly. Insights arose spontaneously, including:

  1. Honor the body and harbor the tender soul.

    Woman at the Inti Raymi celebration of the June Solstice

  2. Breathe into strength, the power deep within.
  3. Love openheartedly.
  4. Live in gratitude—great, great gratitude.
  5. Realize that death is a calm passing over, a sweetness not to be feared.

Back at the retreat center, I meditated for the remainder of the solstice day. By mid-afternoon, the garden and surrounding fields appeared to be both resting and abuzz with some hidden vigor and translucent sap. The poinsettia blazed red in the late afternoon sun. Off in the distance, a donkey brayed, a dog barked, and a chorus ensued. Beside me, the ewe tucked her legs beneath her woolly belly and chewed her cud.

All around me, shadows skirted the mountains, and I admired their bastion strength. Out loud I wondered how best to live my life.

The response:

  1. Live upturned like a daisy, heart open to the sun or the kiss of a child.
  2. Walk, every day, in the pulse of life. Walk with gratitude and awe, seeing the alive-ness and connectedness of everything.
  3. Meditate daily. Cultivate the inner richness.
  4. Every day, push the envelope of your courage. See what more emerges.
  5. Most of all, remember that you are part of this beauty. Remember your birthright to peace, abundance, and love.

Magnificence of the Andes