Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why Celebrate the Fall Equinox?

Every year on or around the Fall Equinox (September 21, more or less) are celebrations or activities related to the "fall of the leaves" and the moment when the waning hours of summer sunlight equal the increasing hours of darkness. This time of year (ok, for the northern hemisphere) the daytime summer high temperatures have subsided; the nights are cooling down, the leaves (of deciduous trees) begin to turn browns, yellows, reds and golds; crops come into their final stages of harvest (grapes, apples, and the like) and even the sunlight has a sparkle, a twinkle, a reflective glow as the sun lowers in the sky on its journey to the south.

In former times the need to harvest and store in preparation for the cold winds, snows and earth's coming sterility would certainly weigh upon the minds of the citizenry. But in all times, sensitive souls are reminded that "life is short and uncertain." You never know when the winter time of lack, of ill health, of death or Fate's disfavor will be-fall you.

It is time not only to harvest but to assess, account for, weigh, sell, trade, or share the harvest. As Krishna says in the first stanza or so of the Bhagavad Gita, "How did we this day upon the field....of battle..." Reflective souls are invited to assess the fruits of our labors, our actions, our good, or not so good, karma and ask how we might improve. A farmer, too, takes note of how his decisions of what to plant, where to plant, to irrigate, fertilize and when to harvest did on the field of his labor. If our "harvest" (whether material fruits or spiritual fruits) is bountiful, we give thanks to the great Provider of Life, to "Providence."

We gather, therefore, on this occasion to celebrate the harvest of the "summer" of our self-efforts to live by truth, by compassion, creativity, service, and devotion. We give thanks for the gift of life, health, vitality, love and friendship.

For thousands of years humanity has been drawn to the pairs of equinoctial and solstice points of each solar year: where light and dark are equal (March and September), and, where light reigns (summer) and dark prevails (winter). Objectively one can only say these are simply astronomical facts. Subjectively (in terms of human response), some would say that our notice of these events are related to humanity's dependence upon agriculture. But spiritually, we say that these four points, while natural moments of pause in the astronomical relationships of earth to sun, give our souls' pause for reflection. Autumn being literally a reflective time, while Winter solstice we celebrate the sun's intention to return (north) (and the light that shines within us eternally), Spring, the joy and promise of rebirth, and Summer, the vitality and abundance of life itself.

Many feel, though fewer express, in outer, communal celebration the change of seasons and their significance. When we gather, this Saturday, September 20, at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell, we do so with millions around the globe. This momentary still-point in nature brings to us an expanded sympathy and greater, sensitive awareness of our life and our connections with all life.

Pause, then, at this time to reflect upon the summer of your life's energies, activities, and commitments. Are they yielding to you the fruits of inner peace, wisdom, calmness, vitality and true happiness? Prepare yourself for the winter of self-discipline. Renew your commitment to self-improvement (going back to "school"). Withdrawing from the exuberance of summer's intensity and play, settle into even-mindedness and calm cheerfulness for whatever life may bring you in contrast to summer's fun and creative engagement. Attempt to transcend your bundle of self-definitions: you are not a man or woman, young or old, vital or unwell, successful or sluggish. Time to ask, "Who am I?" If my "luck" turns south, will I be the same?

Be, then, grateful, too: whether sun has shined upon you or rain has drenched your hopes with sorrows. Life is a great Teacher and it is time to ask: "What have I learned?" "How can I find true happiness (which lives within you)?"

Life is short and happiness comes by the victorious affirmation of the truth that you are not merely an ego bottled up in a human form. Life is God. Life is Joy. Life simply IS. Be the Light of Joy that shines within your Life! Revel in the light of the Fall colors as rainbows of the many facets and stages of life through which we travel but from which we live untouched by the fleeting play of shadow and light. Don't "Fall" for the illusion of their permanence.

Take a retreat, a day of silence, of prayer and meditation. Before the snow comes, hike to the top of any mountain and see the panorama of many lives from the One Life above.

Reflecting your Self,

Swami Hrimananda