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Where All Of Me Is Ancestor
On the thinning of the veil and its cyclical teachings.
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Deep autumn. Breath takes shape again on the air. Walking with the ghosts of this warring world as day tips toward evening on the cross-quarter between Equinox and Solstice.
Within each of us exists an encoded instinct to burrow. The farmers (who are among the remaining few of us with seasonal sensibility), have gathered their harvest and readied their stores for Winter, and now they’re moving toward home and hearth.
A society that has forgotten its own circadian rhythms senses the signs but struggles to recognize the shift. In the Tantric system of swara yoga, this phase of the year is perceived in the emptying half of the exhale. We’re invited to reflect on the extent to which we have readied ourselves to let go. I’ve noticed through decades of embodiment practice that we tend not to fully actualize the exhale; and, thus, the air left stagnant in the basin of the lungs tends to interfere with the clean initiation of a new cycle. Within the tradition, it’s a teaching on preparing for death.
In the Celtic tradition, the death of the old year is preceded by a thinning of the veil between the spirit and physical worlds. Samhain, like Dia de los Muertos and similar traditions around the world, honors how sacred the field around the living and dying can become — how spiritually vital.
…Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil
that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor…
- Annie Finch, “Samhain”
A different quality of light presents. This is not the light of the noontime sun; not the brash and exposing light of the mid-summer. And it’s also not a dimming. The light slants along the horizon. In a sense, it becomes more direct - inviting to us level our gaze on the place “where all of me is ancestor.”
If we are paying attention, we’re summoned to reconcile the busyness (the business) of our lives with the passage of time and its inevitable implications — not only the vibrancy of our life force, but also the darkness that frames it. We’re tasked to find perspective.
D.H. Lawrence wrote of death as “the last wonder.” A new study revealed heightened brain activity and connectivity in a surge of gamma waves at the final transition toward death. Rather than conceptualizing consciousness as diminishing or fading as death approaches, this revelatory research points to the opposite. Human beings can become more wakeful as the veil thins.
Adornments are set on the ofrenda. The warmth of marigolds and candlelight abounds. As we ritualize this night, we step into an interstitial place — a place of looking forward and back, of reflecting on what’s passed and incubating what’s to come. We are composting. We are grieving. We are rinsing. We are releasing what we can of our wins and losses. We are apprentices spiraling around what it means to be human.
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