Winter Cross: Feeding the Flickering Flame

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 winter cross-quarter, which falls in early February in the northern hemisphere and early August in the southern hemisphere. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s February, you may wish to listen instead to the summer cross meditation

Listen to Bart’s Meditation here or on Insight Timer or read the transcript below.
What is the sound of snow landing on pine straw? (Image from Piotr Zakrzewski via Pixabay)

Transcript of the Winter Cross Meditation

This meditation is dedicated to Mother Earth, the mother of us all, and this is a meditation on a seasonal moment about halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. It’s usually celebrated around the beginning of February as Imbolc or Brid or Candlemas or Oimelc or Groundhog Day. It’s even been called the winter thermistice. And of course in the southern hemisphere this seasonal moment falls at the beginning of August.

And in case you’re curious, the sound you’re hearing in the background is an ice storm in the deep woods of North Carolina. It was recorded in late January 2014 by Christopher Courter. You can hear the small particles of ice and sleep falling between the pine trees as they land on a bed of pine straw on the ground below.

So, take a moment just to get comfortable, to sit comfortably, and bring your attention gently to lie upon your breath, on your breathing, just to observe how it is. Notice the particular qualities of your breath, and not just the particular qualities but also the universal qualities. You might notice your breath is like a cycle, like a circle that keeps repeating, and in fact you’ve been repeating this cycle for your entire life. And not only that, but all of your ancestors for time out of mind have repeated the same cycle of breath for generations untold.

So, you might notice the in-breath, the out-breath. See if you can catch that little turning, where the out-breath turns around and becomes the in-breath, that little pivot where exhalation becomes inhalation.

And perhaps we can zoom in even more on that moment. Perhaps you can notice that desire to breathe in, the birth of each new breath.

If it’s helpful, you can reach into the cycle and intervene a little bit, just kind of dragging out that pause after the exhalation, maybe just for a heartbeat, so that you can really feel the desire to draw in breath. See how each new inhalation is born. See how the desire to breathe springs out of the abyss. This is what we might call the Imbolc moment, the Candlemas moment: the desire to breathe, the desire to come into being.

And if it’s helpful, you can visualize this as a tiny flickering candle flame, a tiny flame that just springs into being. We can nurture this flame. We can feed it with our attention. We can protect it from the wind. If we pay attention, we can find the essence of this flame in ourselves — in our beloved others, who surround us, family and community — those we encounter in the world. We might even behold this flame, springing into being, in everything, in every object. We can imagine that all things have a desire to be. Is it true? Is there a cosmic association? Can we find this flame, this desire to be, in everything?

How do you nurture your inner flame? (Image by Tama66 via Pixabay)

This can be a subject for our investigation, as we nurture the flame within ourselves. We can dedicate ourselves to identifying and nurturing this flame of desire that springs from the abyss. We can dedicate ourselves to nurturing all the good, moral, ethical desires that we hold as individuals and in community.

Of course we do this always with a profound gratitude for all our ancestors, material and spiritual. I want to give my own thanks always to Glenys Livingstone, a woman I’ve never met, but whose writings have inspired me deeply. She writes that this seasonal moment of Imbolc is quintessentially the celebration of the new, the celebration of movement into form, into individuation, into differentiation, yet with integrity and wholeness, especially invoking She-who-is-unto-Herself. This is a moment when we reflect and celebrate the differentiation, the diversity and multiform beauty of Gaia, Mother Earth, recognizing that we shine forth as individual multiforms of Her.

So thank you to Glenys Livingstone, for inspiration. Thank you for your attention in this meditation, and I wish you a happy blessed Imbolc, Candlemas, Groundhog Day, whatever you wish to call it. Thank you.

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3 Responses

  1. Catherine Folio

    What a beautiful reflection, Bart. All the parts of it are wonderful. The sound of the ice storm in the background of your voice and words is especially beautiful and soothing..
    I would also like to thank you for mentioning Candelmas. Feb 2, 1953 is my birthday and I have always hated being wished Happy Groundhog Day. I then talk about Candlemas and people haven’t got a clue. Now I can also refer to it as a station in the Wheel of the Year, thanks to you, and also the winter thermistice.
    I was taught in Catholic HS that the Church overlayed many “pagan” celebrations with its own holydays. So the Winter Solstice became Christmas and Imbolc became Candlemas. The Catholic celebration of Candlemas was the blessing of the church candles for the entire year that day. The next day was the Feast of St Blaise, when we went to church to have our throats blessed by the laying on of the new candles to guard against respiratory illnesses during late winter and spring. It was the nest best thing to taking cod liver oil (yuck!) especially because one felt that someone – the priests and Yahweh – was personally watching over our health in those days.
    Thank you again for this reflection. Blessings to you on Candlemas.

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