Monday, November 1, 2010

Death, Decay, and Impermanence

While my spirituality has been changing recently (see my post Evolving My Spirituality, 3/5/10, for more on this), I still have a pagan soul. Each year I have written a post on Samhain (see Darkness, 11/1/08, and Out of Darkness, 11/1/09), which is one of them most important of the pagan and witch feasts.

Samhain (it's a Celtic word and actually pronounced sow-wen) is about darkness, death, and decay. Many believe that it is a time when 'the veil between the worlds is thinnest'. This is the time of the year when the leaves fall and the trees are bare, when the plants die and the earth becomes dormant.

For me this relates strongly to the Buddhist concept of 'impermanence'. (I wrote on Impermanence on 7/9/10.) Nothing is static, everything changes. We are born and we die. We suffer loss. The book that I've been reading by Pema Chödrön is entitled, When Things Fall Apart. And they do.

All this has been brought home to me lately by events in my life. I joined a group looking at how we are traumatized by this society and the group dissolved in conflict. (This brought back painful memories of how the intentional community that I enjoyed the most slowly came apart through constant conflict. See my last post on Post-Mortems.) I tried to bring some healing in the aftermath of the group dissolving and my efforts brought more anger and pain. I went to work on a community garden in a neighborhood in Boston and found everyone in mourning because a young man had been shot dead the night before, two houses away from the garden.

A couple of nights ago I attended a Samhain ritual where the leader reminded us that at anytime we are only seconds away from death and given that, what do we need to do in our little time left.

Death and impermanence are reminders that we need to treat each other well, that we need to value and cherish those around us. They may not be here that long. And we may not be here that long.

Quote of the Day: "When impermanence presents itself in our lives, we can recognize it as impermanence. We don't have to look for opportunities to do this. When your pen runs out of ink in the middle of writing an important letter, recognize it as impermanence, part of the whole cycle of life. When someone's born, recognize it as impermanence. When someone dies, recognize it as impermanence. When your car gets stolen, recognize it as impermanence. When you fall in love, recognize it as impermanence, and let that intensify the preciousness. When a relationship ends, recognize it as impermanence. There are countless examples of impermanence in our lives everyday, from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep and even while we're dreaming, all the time. This is a twenty-four-hour-a-day practice." - Pema Chödrön

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