I’ve always put up a Christmas tree. Despite the halfhearted participation (and groaning) of my boyfriends, I’ve faithfully, right after Thanksgiving, headed out and bought (or here on Vashon, cut down) a tree to lug home. It’s a ritual I rarely miss.
After visiting India some years ago I returned home in the winter and the notion of putting a bauble-laden tree on display felt absurd. This is a rite of passage for anyone who ventures to India: Your brain cells are rearranged and you never view your world, or its customs, the same. I know that was true for me as a Westerner. Christmas in America, after the dust and squalor of India, felt gluttonous. So I skipped the holidays that year — though I missed having a tree in the house.
I enjoy the act of arranging the colors, textures and lights on a tree. It’s similar to making a painting, the alchemy of conjuring art. Simpler, but no less magical. I especially love the ricochetting of light amidst the ornaments, as it envelops the tree at nighttime. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand that the ritual of displaying a tree is a sacred act — although I’ve never fully understood why.
Most of us are familiar with the historical origins of the Christmas tree. Its association with the pagan rite of celebrating the solstice. When the light of the Sun ‘returns’ in the Northern hemisphere and begins its increase and ascent, the radiance grows stronger and longer through the ensuing months. Trees would be displayed to honor the burgeoning of light and life. And the fruits and trinkets that would decorate the tree honored the bounty, the wish of a successful harvest in the year to come.
And yet the historical perspective never impressed me much. I mean, none of those facts would drift through my mind as I’d lounge on the couch in the evening — no matter my age — and stare at the tree until I fell asleep. Nope, another set of mysterious associations would encircle me and send me into a reverie. And it wasn’t until I came to the conclusion of one of my favorite books this year that I began to make sense of my devotion.
Martha Heyneman‘s book The Breathing Cathedral is a fantastic interweaving of the cosmologies of Gurdjieff, Dante, Aquinas, Stephen Hawking and others, into a new model, a new interpretation of the universe we inhabit. I was drawn to the book because, as a longtime student of Gurdjieff’s teachings, I was intrigued to see how Heyneman, a zoology student turned poet, was bringing Gurdjieff’s teachings forward and marrying them to the world of science.
The last chapter of her book is titled O Christmas Tree, and at first the subject — the family Christmas tree — seemed an odd way to summarize all that she’d explored in the previous chapters. But in the end I understood completely. Read more
My mom turns 85 this year. And she is still a raucous, vibrant, glinting gem. It’s interesting to me that when I hear her voice on the phone she sounds like she is in her 40s.
I’m grateful that both of us lived this long to move into a phase of our relationship that is so relaxed and friendly. (I think 30 plus years of counseling, therapy and spiritual practice — on my end –might have helped with that).
Too, it’s peculiar how as I age I seem to be catching up to my mom. Like the time gap is closing, the parent child matrix falling apart.
Gurdjieff once noted that we don’t really understand or can know what it feels like to be truly alone in life until our mother has passed; and more and more I sense the truth in this sentiment. Which fuels more of my gratitude.
To all the moms out there. Thank you!
To simply consider the Full Moon invites Luna directly into your head.
The evolutionary process has burrowed her image deep into our cerebral cortex. We can’t escape her colossal, fat roundness — pushing out the boundaries of our inner vision.
The Sun radiates and sustains whereas the Moon reflects and craves, as Martha Heyneman writes, always the Moon “…is tugging at everything on her side of the surface of the earth. She sucks on the very rocks. As she passes overhead the earth’s crust rises a few inches beneath her and is elsewhere compressed, kneaded as a cat kneads your stomach.”
Astrologically we associate the Moon with Mother, but is that correspondence correct? According to the Russian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff the Earth and the Moon are in a kind of symbiotic relationship with one another. As he explained to P.D. Ouspensky, as recounted in the book In Search of the Miraculous: “The moon is a huge living being feeding upon all that lives and grows on earth. The moon could not not exist without organic life on earth, any more than organic life on earth could exist without the moon.” Gurdjieff describes the Moon as a planet-in-the-making that depends on vital forces generated by life on Earth to continue her process of ‘warming’. The Moon’s evolution. This is a very different understanding from what Western astrology teaches us.
Why do we often feel anxious during the Full Moon? And why is the Full Moon phase considered one of heightened spiritual activity? Consider the phases in life when you’ve changed homes, ended a longterm relationship, lost your job, or experienced the death of a loved one. Psychologists consider those four ‘life events’ as some of the toughest emotional adjustments we ever make. Within the realm of planetary and luminary aspects, the moment of the Full Moon corresponds to a similar set of shocks. Read more
To stall is to procrastinate. That’s the usual association we make with the word. And procrastination implies a conscious kind of non-action on the part of the procrastinator.
But there is another definition taken from the world of aviation. A mechanical stall is a malfunction in the flight of an aircraft in which there is a sudden loss of lift that results in a downward plunge. “The plane went into a stall and I couldn’t control it.”
Can you relate?
With both Saturn (the prime timekeeper) and Mars (momentum itself) in retrograde motion, our direction, our sense of time, our desire (Mars) for a forward direction (Saturn) — all of our leaning toward and lunging for is, well, suspended — left dangling. So when someone asks you, “What are you up to?” You can say, in all honesty, “Just hanging around.” Or if you’re a more melodramatic type: “Man, I’m going down.”
So, while you’re falling why not pick a card — any card.
Of all the various versions of the Tarot’s Hanged Man (Pamela Colman Smith’s glowing, haloed figure or Aleister Crowley‘s eerie ankh-hung Spiderman) I like the simplicity of Robert Place‘s rendering — taken from his Alchemical Tarot deck. I also think Place’s Hanged Man is more true to the initial stages of frustration one experiences when she first notices that her airplane has gone into a stall.
Place animates his Hanged Man with a thrashing motion of the body and an angry, perplexed countenance. The man is definitely rebelling. And all that he has acquired within the normal, forward motion of time, is falling from his hands. Read more
A woman novelist said to Gurdjieff at one meeting:
“I sometimes feel that I am more conscious when I am writing. Is this so or do I imagine it?”
“You live in dreams and you write about your dreams. Much better for you if you were to scrub one floor consciously then to write a hundred books as you do now.”
– C.S. Nott from Teachings of Gurdjieff: A Pupils Journal