Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons.
May 5th, 2012
When I was a little girl my grandmother would take me and my sister to the Peaceful Valley Community Center on May Day to make flower crowns and dance around the maypole. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories!
I’ve come to learn that another name for May Day is Beltane, which is the Celtic festival of fertility and union celebrated in mid-spring. I’ve been celebrating the changing seasons for a long time now, but I’m just beginning to deepen my study of the Celtic Wheel of the Year and its mid-season festivals.
This week—which marks the moment spring starts shifting into summer—I’ve got a sermon to inspire your connection with earth and nature and fertility and relationship.
The 2nd half of the sermon is a guided meditation designed to take you on a journey through the elemental nature (space, air, fire, water, and earth) of your beautiful body.
If you can, you might want to take your computer outside for this sermon!
Beltane: A Celebration of Fertility & Union!
Wednesday was May 1st. May Day. Which means that in the rhythm of season keeping, we’ve just moved through Beltane, which is the mid point of spring where we begin to see the signs of summer. Beltane is the Celtic festival of fertility and union, marking the moment when new life is bursting forth all around us. Doesn’t it makes sense that Easter, a story of rising from the dead, is celebrated around the time of Beltane when new life is rising up from the earth? Everywhere I look I see bright green shoots and leaves and plants coming alive again after the long sleep of winter. This time of year reminds us that death allows for new life—that spring always follows winter.
This time of year is potent. The energetic force of life is everywhere. From the pollen in the air, to the baby bunnies all over my property, to the gardeners carefully sprouting their seeds. Beltane is a celebration of the fertility that is ripe in the northern hemisphere right now.
British teacher Glennie Kindred writes that:
In the pagan past, [Beltane] was the night of the ‘greenwood marriage’ where the union between the horned god and the fertile goddess was re-enacted by the men and the women to ensure the fertility of the land. It was a night to spend in the woods, to make love outside, stay up all night, watch the sunrise, and bathe in the early morning dew. On [beltane], people walked the mazes and labyrinths and sat all night by sacred wells and healing springs whose waters were said to be especially potent at this time. This was the ‘merry month’ when people dressed in green in honor of the Earth’s new spring colors and the faerie folk, elementals and nature spirits, who are easier to meet [this time of year].
This quote describes a particular understanding of the connection between people and earth. The tradition of Beltane offers us an invitation into celebration and relationship. It reminds us of the fertile possibilities of life and creation.
In our era we have forgotten, or we choose to ignore or deny, the part we have to play in supporting the earth’s fertility. We don’t always feel the connection between our bodies and the changing nature of the seasons. But whether we feel it or not, we are more than connected. We are nature. And we live at the whim of the natural world. And while many of us are actively seeking to renew and deepen our connection with nature, we are sorely lacking in wide spread traditions of season keeping. Eating chocolate eggs just doesn’t have the same spiritual impact as deciding to sleep outside for a night with the sole purpose of connecting with and supporting the fertility of mother earth.
This season offers us an opportunity to tap into our own fertility. To explore our own sexuality and creativity. And to think deeply about how we support or hinder the health and fertility of the earth that is the source of our life.
The ancient Celts described a thinning between worlds at this time of year. They felt an easier connection between our obvious human world and the world of Spirit. I can’t know what the ancients experienced, but in my modern day life I know that the warming springtime sun and the budding trees call me outside and allow me to connect more easily with the elemental nature of all things—with the energy and miracle of the earth that allows for my existence. And from this grounded and grateful place I’m able to more easily connect with the animating Spirit of all things—with the energy and mystery of Divinity that enlivens my existence.
All of creation—including our planet and our bodies—are made of space, air, fire, water, and earth. This moment of Beltane, as we begin moving from spring to summer, invites us to reconnect with the potent and elemental energies within and around us.
So let’s end with a moment of inward noticing…
- I invite you to bring your body into a comfortable position and close your eyes or let your gaze soften on a fixed point.
- Take a moment to become aware of the space just around your body.
- Then begin to search out the element of space within your body. Can you feel into the open space within your mouth? Can you imagine the sometimes empty space of your stomach? Or the empty space of your lungs after your next exhale?
- With your next inhale become aware of the element of air filling the empty space of your lungs.
- Can you feel the sense of touch at your nostrils as the air enters and leaves your body?
- Take a moment to feel the element of air moving in and out of empty space as your body is breathed.
- And then let your attention drop down to the belly. And feel into the fiery nature of your stomach acid. Able to transform food into digestible nutrients.
- Let your attention rise to the heart and feel into the ever present action of rivers of blood being pumped and circulated through your body.
- Let your spine begin to move and undulate for a moment as you remember that over half your body is made of the element water. Feel into your fluidity.
- Begin to find your way back to stillness and feel into the solidness of your body—of the earthy minerals that make up your bones.
- Take a moment to contemplate the reality that just like our planet, you are earth, water, fire, air, and space.
I invite you to finish this meditation outside. Take your beautiful, elemental body out into nature and feel into the connection and likeness. Feel the earth and your bones. Feel the water and the rivers within you. Feel the sun and the fire of your belly. Feel the wind and your breath. Feel the space within and without.
Touch, taste, smell, look, and listen. You and Nature are one.
I invite you to sit or lay in the grass or in the dirt or on the beach or in the forest and contemplate what actions you can take to support the vibrant fertility of your body and world.
I wish you Beltane blessings of fertility and union!
- How do you understand your relationship with nature?
- Do you take seriously the role you have to play in keeping the earth fertile and healthy?
- Is nature part of your spiritual practice? What do you think about the beltane celebrations that Glennie Kindred describes?
- What’s happening in the season where you live? Does the beltane celebration of fertility and union feel relevant to you?
We all benefit from the wisdom of spiritual community. And community means more than one voice, so please add yours to the conversation. What did this week’s sermon and reflection questions spark in you?