Editor’s note: Over the course of 2023, at the eight stations in the Wheel of the Year, Bart Everson will share with the Gaian community a guided, breath-based meditation. It is our hope that these meditations will help you to observe and to celebrate Gaia’s journey around the Sun, and to explore possible meanings embedded in various parts of the cycle. The particular meditation featured here is appropriate for the fall cross, which comes in early November in the Northern Hemisphere and early May in the Southern Hemisphere. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, you may wish to listen instead to the spring cross meditation.
This meditation is dedicated to Mother Earth, Gaia, mother of us all, and to the seasonal moment of the fall cross, halfway between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. It falls on early November in the Northern Hemisphere, early May in the Southern Hemisphere.
So I invite you to sit comfortably, with an erect spine, and to bring your attention to lie lightly on the breath. Just breathing normally, notice what it’s like, the characteristics of your breathing. Notice how it’s like a cycle: breathing in and breathing out, inhalation and exhalation. Notice the similarity between this cycle of the breath and the cycle of the seasons. As you draw breath in, imagine the light rising, as the days get longer and the Earth grows warmer. As you exhale, imagine the light receding, as the days grow shorter and the Earth grows cooler. Continue with this cycle, visualizing the waxing of light, of heat, of life, and the waning of the same: the waning of the light, the waning of the heat, the waning of life.
Now bring your attention to focus on the particular seasonal moment of the fall cross. This is where the exhalation ceases, where the last bits of air exit your lungs, where the breath seems to die.
What’s going on in that moment? What can we learn from the dying of the breath?
If you like, you can visualize death, in any way that makes sense to you: a skull perhaps. Hold the image lightly, as you continue to observe the dying of the breath. Notice the necessity of death, how each breath must die in order for a new one to begin. New beginnings require old endings. Don’t rush away to the rest of the cycle. Dwell for a while with the reality of death, dying, and darkness.
Notice also how your cycle of breath has continued more or less constantly throughout every moment of your life and will continue until the moment of your own death. Consider that the cycle of your breath continues the cycle of your immediate forebears, and their ancestors, and their ancestors, an unbroken chain of breath and life that leads directly to you. Visualize your family tree going back uncountable generations, going back in time before the advent of written records, to our matrilineal common ancestor, the Lucky Mother from whom all living humans are descended. Visualize this continuous cycle of breath, even further back in time, millions of years, carried by our ancient ancestors who were not exactly human, and further back to the great apes, and further back to the small tree-dwelling mammals who were the ancestors of all primates. Continue even further back to the first four-limbed vertebrates, which were probably aquatic, and further back, half a billion years to leaf-shaped creatures swimming in the waters of the Precambrian period. Further still to acorn worms, to flatworms, to sponges, back to one single-celled organism that lived four billion years ago — a single simple cell from which all life on Earth is descended. Visualize the unbroken chain of life which leads to you, recognizing that most of these ancestors are dead, the material of their bodies recycled through the processes of Gaia to form the being that is you.
With the dying of each breath, we honor the vitality of life that flows through this chain of eons to us, knowing that our lives too will end, that the material of our bodies will be recycled.
We can remember also our beloved dead, those who have passed away. We mourn their loss with the dying of each breath.
Finally, we end with gratitude, for the love of our departed fellows, for the vitality of our ancestors, and for the immense creativity of Gaia. We receive this breath, this moment, this day, this season, this life, as a gift. May we honor her with our actions.