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 summer cross-quarter, which falls in early August in the Northern Hemisphere and early February in the Southern Hemisphere. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, you may wish to listen instead to the winter cross meditation.
This meditation is dedicated to the Great Mother, Gaia, mother of us all, and to the summer cross, the seasonal moment after the summer solstice, before the autumnal equinox, sometimes known in different cultures as Lammas or Lughnasadh or various other names. It falls around the beginning of August in the Northern Hemisphere, the beginning of February in the Southern Hemisphere. And in the background, you’re hearing a recording of crickets serenading each other in the deep, swampy woods, recorded by a guy named hopperphil. I’m not sure where he recorded this, but it sounds a lot like deep summer to me. I’m in the deep swampy woods of New Orleans. And wherever you are, I’m inviting you to take a moment to get comfortable. Make sure you’re seated comfortably. You can be sitting upright with an erect spine if that feels good. Just as long as you’re supported and comfortable.
Please just take a moment to notice what it’s like, wherever you are, to feel the particular experience of this moment of your being, the physical sensations, the support beneath you, the air on your skin, inside your body. If you’re aware of any tension, just let it go.
And bring your attention just to lie lightly on the cycle of the breath. Start just by noticing the breath, what it’s like breathing in, breathing out, and how it has a circular quality, a cyclical quality, like so many of the other cycles within us and all around us: cycles of the natural world. The cycle of the day. The cycle of the year.
We can enhance this by just making sure that we’re breathing, more or less normally, but maybe a little more deeply, a little more full. Gentle, regular breathing, for a rounded sensation. And notice how the breathing in is like the rising of the light. For half of the year, the days just get longer and longer. And the exhalation is like how the light subsides. In the other half of the year, days get shorter. And the cycle just keeps happening. Breathing in, increasing light and life and warmth and heat. Breathing out, it all recedes into a little more darkness, a little less heat.
And continuing this cycle, you can feel with each breath in a rising tide of life energy that comes along with that energy from the sun. It peaks, one might think, at the top of the breath, which is analogous to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and then we begin to exhale. But there’s another peak, because of the phenomenon known as seasonal lag. After the solstice, in most parts of the world it continues to get warmer and the life processes engendered by the Sun continue to become even more energetic.
We can simulate this in our breathing. We can find the summer cross moment in the cycle the breath. It might be helpful, as you breathe in a wonderful lung-full of life-giving air, to hold that breath, just briefly. Once you have the fullness of your breath, and feel that fullness, and then feel the inevitable urge to let go and exhale.
So for this meditation, we’re going to try breathing in, holding briefly, and then breathing out, when you feel that subtle urge to let go. [pause] That is the summer cross moment, the Lammas moment if you will, the moment in the cycle of our breath that corresponds to the seasonal moment in the Wheel of the Year.
And I’m curious about what we can learn from this moment, what we can learn from that urge to let go. You breathe in with a desire to live, to bring in that life-giving oxygen. Then you feel that desire to let go, that urge to release, and there’s a transformation there. It’s necessary. No matter how great that breath was, you have to let it go in order to make way for the next breath.
And, if it’s helpful — as you continue breathing, holding briefly, and letting go — if it’s helpful, you can visualize this cycle with an image of the grain. A stalk of wheat, perhaps, or maybe some other plant, a fruit. As you breathe in, this grain ripens, it reaches its point of maximum ripeness as you’re holding that breath, and then as you let go it can be harvested. Perhaps it’s ground up into flour and made into a loaf of bread. With each breath, the plant sprouts, grows, it matures, ripens, and then it’s transformed into something different.
This seasonal moment is traditionally associated with the beginning of the harvest, and the grain harvest in particular. We can say this is about gathering it, but it’s also about letting go, recognizing that we will all be transformed at some point, that we dissolve into the greater being of Gaia. Just as our breath has to be let go to make room for the next breath, just as the wheat harvest is transformed into something nourishing for us, so we too recognize that we dissolve into the larger being of Gaia.
Glenys Livingstone writes that “we dissolve into the ‘night’ of the Larger Organism that we are part of – Gaia. It is She who is immortal, from whom we arise, and into whom we dissolve.” The way Livingstone puts it, “We are the process itself – we are Gaia’s Process. […] We borrow the breath, for a while. It is like a relay: we pick the breath up, create what we do during our time with it, and pass it on.” So, we might at this moment dedicate ourselves, or rededicate ourselves, to this greater good, this greater being in whom we participate.
So it’s always appropriate to end with a note of gratitude to our ancestors, to our teachers, and to Gaia, without whom we would not be here, as we are. We receive this moment as a gift. May we honor her with our actions.