Friday, June 20, 2014

Why a Solstice Celebration?

Tomorrow at the Ananda Community in Lynnwood we will conduct our own version of the worldwide celebration of the Solstice. I'm not sure how far back in history the solstices (summer & winter) and equinoxes (spring and fall) have been recognized as points of special interest and celebration by humans but I'd be willing to bet it goes back much farther than can be documented. The great megaliths of ancient times (Stonehenge, England or Newgrange, Ireland) all had some relationship to one or more of these annual celestial demarcation points, and these are but youngsters in the history of humanity.

We moderns hardly notice these points; even a full moon is but casually remarked upon. Are these phenomenon but remnants of ancient superstitions? I don't think so, but I'm not writing to explore the history of these celebrations nor yet their astrological or astronomical significance.

Rather, I simply say that throughout the world and since time immemorial people take note of the change of seasons. In this we also take note of changes in our lives, life cycles, or when something inside ourselves shift and we know it is time for an important decision or change.

The solstice and equinoxes are certainly reminders of our connection to the seasons and how they affect us, nurture, sustain, or challenge us. We are reminded that we are part of a great life cycle that repeats itself generation after generation. As we celebrate tomorrow so will millions of others on our planet and so have untold generations of our forebears. These are not insignificant reminders that we are part of the great wheel and cycle of life.

Summer solstice is, as I suppose everyone knows, the longest day (of sunshine) of the year for the northern hemisphere. I could wax eloquent about our relationship (of dependency) to the sun and its metaphysical symbolism (of wisdom and enlightenment) but, gee whiz, you already know these things.

As all things grow, blossom and become fruitful during the summer, the summer represents the fullness of life and we naturally celebrate the gift of life, vitality, energy, creativity, success, fertility and the innate and complex web of relationships which make life today and, indeed, life for the last many millions of years possible.

In celebrating life and vitality we celebrate the Giver of Life, in whatever form and by whatever name, or no name, we feel inclined to use. I think of a beautiful and celestial song my spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda, wrote: Life Mantra. The few words used in the song (a prayer, really) include simple phrases like "God is life, life is God."

In the lineage of my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, would celebrate the solstices and equinoxes, too: in Serampore (near Calcutta) or at his seaside hermitage in Puri (Orissa State). He would organize a parade, a sankirtan (chanting sessions), and he would feed any and all in the neighborhood.

Tomorrow, we, at Ananda Community in Lynnwood, have had, for the past five or so years, the annual tradition of an Open House. We give tours of the Community, its gardens, a sampling of apartment-homes, and walking the grounds. Ananda enterprises and businesses have displays of products and services to share. There's an art display and live music. We invite leaders and residents of local intentional communities to celebrate with us. At 5 p.m. we will conduct a one hour celebratory service that will include guest speakers, a ceremony of celebration, and music. After that we feed one and all with a free spaghetti dinner!

Celebrate, then, with us, or in your own way, this gift of life, the sunshine of true friendship, wisdom, the gift of talents and creativity, the opportunity to be of service to others, of health and vitality, and, above all, because omnipresent in the "rain or shine" of life, the Infinite Power who has manifested Himself as our very Self.

Blessings and joy to you,

Nayaswami Hriman