It is finally beginning to feel like fall is in the air here in Southern California. I once heard and often joke that living here we can only tell when the seasons are changing by the seasonal Starbucks drink menu - “pumpkin spice lattes are here, it must be autumn,” “peppermint mochas mean it's winter time!” But here the days are cooling and there is a crispness in the air as some trees begin to reveal a different color on their leaves.
Fall brings with it a lessening of light as it shortens each day and I sense a call inward toward more interior work and contemplative practice. I too sense the pull outward toward time with people I love as the holidays near.
This time of year, of slowing in some ways and busying in others, can be both welcomed and also carry a level of loneliness and pain as we navigate the circumstances of our lives and the losses we may have experienced that are tenderly with us. As the seasons unfold we can bring our surrendering hearts more intentionally to this transition.
To that aim, All Saints’ Eve (Halloween) next Sunday marks the start of what can be considered a Fall Triduum including All Saints’ Day (All Hallows) and All Souls’ Day. If we lean in, these three days can be a sacred threshold and usher us into the winter and holiday season rooted in Divine strength, courage, humility, clarity and mystical hope.
Perhaps our stewarded and regulated presence may be a palpable gift to those with whom we find ourselves spending time with in the coming months. Instead of looking to get something out of these next few months, we may consider what is needed and what we can bring or allow to move through us. This internal and external posture can be our offering to God and all living and non living beings. Our stewarded Presence may reverberate throughout the whole web of cosmic life.
This week we can prepare our hearts for such a passageway.
Here are most of the Readings from this week's pauses:
“Wonder is our birthright. It comes easily in childhood—the feeling of watching dust motes dancing in sunlight, or climbing a tree to touch the sky, or falling asleep thinking about where the universe ends. If we are safe and nurtured enough to develop our capacity to wonder, we start to wonder about the people in our lives, too—their thoughts and experiences, their pain and joy, their wants and needs. We begin to sense that they are to themselves as vast and complex as we are to ourselves, their inner world as infinite as our own. In other words, we are seeing them as our equal. We are gaining information about how to love them. Wonder is the wellspring for love.
It is easy to wonder about the internal life of the people closest to us. It is harder to wonder about people who seem like strangers or outsiders. But when we choose to wonder about people we don’t know, when we imagine their lives and listen for their stories, we begin to expand the circle of those we see as part of us. We prepare ourselves to love beyond what evolution requires.
The call to love beyond our own flesh and blood is ancient. It echoes down to us on the lips of indigenous leaders, spiritual teachers, and social reformers through the centuries. Guru Nanuk called us to see no stranger, Buddha to practice an ending compassion, Abraham to open our tent to all, Jesus to love our neighbors, Muhammad to take in the orphan, Mirabai to live without limit. They all expanded the circle of who counts as one of us, and therefore who is worthy of our care and concern. These teachings were rooted in the linguistic, cultural, and spiritual contexts of their time, but they spoke of a common vision of our interconnectedness and interdependence. It is the ancient Sanskrit truth that we can look up on anyone or anything and say: Tat tvam asi, “I am that.” It is the African philosophy: Ubuntu, “I am because you are.” It is the Mayan precept: In La’ Keck, “You are my other me.”
What has been an ancient spiritual truth is now increasingly verified by science: We are all indivisible a part of one another. We share a common ancestry with everyone and everything alive on earth. The air we breathe contains atoms that have passed through the lungs of ancestors long dead. Our bodies are composed of the same elements created deep inside the furnaces of the long-dead stars. We can look up on the face of anyone or anything around us and say—as a moral declaration and a spiritual, cosmological, and biological fact: You are a part of me I do not yet know.”
— Valarie Kaur,"See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love"
“At the centre there is a stillness which even you are not able to break. There, the rhythm of your duration is one with the rhythm of the Universal Life. There, your essential self exists: the permanent being which persists through and behind the flow and change of your conscious states.
Turn your consciousness inward to it deliberately. Retreat to that point whence all the various lines of your activities flow, and to which at last they must return.”
— Evelyn Underhill, "Practical Mysticism"
“The sacred is a doing, a moving. A verb, not a noun. Not a property. One does not "arrive" at the sacred. You can only approach the sacred. Better yet the approach is the sacred. When we then say that everything is sacred, we mean to say that everything moves, everything gushes out, spills through, surrendering their integrity. We mean to say each moment is engorged with what it might yet be, and that the ordinary is what the extraordinary yearns to be. The way to heaven is where heaven is.”
— Bayo Akomolafe
“Life, and Offering to God” MANY, many years ago, a Hindu poet wrote: Love not the world nor yet forsake Its gifts in fear and hate. Thy life to God and offering make, And to [God] dedicate. … Whatever may be the uniqueness of a [human’s] experience, [they] must remember that nothing that is happening to [them] is separated from that which is common to [humans]. The answer to all of this reaction of deep anxiety and anguish is, says the poet: “Thy life to God an offering make, and to [God] dedicate.” And the meaning of this? If I make of my life an offering and a dedication to God, then this dedication will include all of my entanglements and involvements. There follows, then, a radical change over my entire landscape and miraculously I am free at my center. It is for this reason that it is well, again and again, to re-establish my dedication, to make repeatedly an offering of my life. I must keep my dedication up to date with my experiencing.”
— Howard Thurman, "Meditations on the Heart"