Considering, mourning & celebrating death this Cross-Quarter
The end of October and beginning of November are mid-autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The autumn cross-quarter is celebrated in different ways in diverse traditions. It is connected with Samhain, Halloween and the Day of the Dead – traditions that allow us to consider our responses to death and remember those who have died. It is also the time of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.
A way to consider death: a break in the pattern
From the systems perspective, we are patterns in the flow of energy and matter that maintain our integrity. Yet we recognize our selves as individuals, so we tell ourselves that we are the same, persistent being from one day to the next, but this is a lie.
Your cells are constantly exchanging matter and energy that has come in from outside and will leave again. These cells frequently die and are replaced by new cells. And yet, you appear to remain you.
But like a whirlpool or a flame, you are recognizable as a unique entity only because of the pattern you hold. For a short time.
The question really is what happens when that pattern finally breaks down. We are not just matter, not even just energy in the limited sense. We are also information, we are a way of being that is unique.
The truth is, no one has certainty about what happens when that pattern, that way of being, breaks down. We can choose to let this be the source of our comfort in the face of death: uncertainty leaves us open to any and all possibilities. We do not know, and therefore we can choose to imagine, choose to believe what feels right. Until we have specific evidence, there is no reason to dismiss virtually any possibility.
We can also take great comfort in our community, in the love that surrounds us. We know that our love does not stop for those who have passed before us. We can know that love for us will not stop, and will be carried by those who live on after us. Ideally, we know that we have shared those crucial bits of information that have given our lives meaning, and that part of our unique pattern continues on after us.
“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life…and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.”
— John Muir
Honoring the transition
All human cultures (and even, apparently, some non-human ones) have funeral practices to acknowledge and deal with the time of death and the loss of loved ones. These practices vary widely, and most involve rituals and other choices for tending to the body of the deceased.
We may choose, to the best of our ability, to continue abiding in agaya even after our passing. All things die, and the bodies of almost everything that has ever lived has somehow been returned to nature, their constituents eventually cycling through countless other living beings.
Care must be taken to ensure the well-being of our community (in respect to ubuntu, things that risk spreading illness to others must be discouraged), but there are options that maintain health for the living while allowing the dead to return to the embrace of agaya, doing as little harm as possible through that process. New options for “green burials” are available for some.
These can be difficult conversations to have when death is immanent or has already occurred. Now, in these ‘days of the dead,’ may be a good time to talk with your beloved community about those choices.
Celebrating Beloved Ancestors
Many cultures have times of the year when they pause to remember and celebrate those who have died. Those celebrated may include not only close kin and friends, but also those who have inspired us, who have shared their patterns and influenced ours in some way.
What are some of the ways you might celebrate or honor beloved ‘ancestors’ (whether said ‘ancestors’ have influenced your way of being through biological kinship or inspiration), that are in keeping with agaya and ubuntu?
November 7th Cross-Quarter
The midpoint between the September equinox and the December solstice is Thursday November 7th, 2019 at 17:14 UTC (9:14am Pacific time; learn more at archaeoastronomy.com ). Novasutras will celebrate this Cross-Quarter moment with a guided meditation and discussion via Zoom on Nov 7th at 17:00UTC / 9am Pacific https://zoom.us/j/423396886. Please join in this online global gathering to celebrate our homeworld and loving-kindness for all beings.
Please participate in the global Novasutras meditation during the exact moment of the cross-quarter, if feasible. If you are interested in celebrating this global event, but cannot join via Zoom, you can join by meditating for peace and loving-kindness on your own, or watch the recording later if needed.
At 17:14 UTC on the 7th of November 2019, the sun will be directly overhead at Latitude: 16° 20′ South, Longitude: 82° 35′ West. This is in the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of South America (near the border of Peru and Chile). At that time, you are invited to face toward the sun, and meditate on agaya and ubuntu, so that people all around the world will focus their attention and wishes for global loving-kindness at the same time.