We are coming to the high point of the agricultural year, when corn-gilded fields ripple in golden streams of sunlight soaking the land – it is a time of gain, and sacrifice.
As the harvest of our past endeavours – agricultural or personal – is gathered in, so it is worth remembering the sacrifices we have made, in time and effort, to reach this point in our lives.
We all make sacrifices to achieve what we want, and it is good from time to time to look at what these have been and how our actions have affected others. Have they reduced suffering and increased happiness in the world? Have the sacrifices been ours, or have we sacrificed the happiness of others? If the latter, though our outer harvest may seem bountiful now, the seeds of resentment we have sown will blight our future crops – inner and outer – unless we learn to till life’s fields with a little more tender loving care. (Consider the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa which have sprung from seeds of resentment sown years ago by oppressive regimes).
In mythological terms, now is the time the corn god sacrifices himself for the good of others. As I mentioned last week, we are approaching Lammas (“Loaf Mass”) when the cutting of the first corn and the baking of the first bread is celebrated and thanks are given.
This is a time of transformation, when we turn the wheat of our everyday lives into nourishment for the soul to see us through the psychological winters which come and go, as do the seasons. If our inner lives are well fed, it is much easier to keep our hearts warm when life’s frosts bite.
In the harvest is also the seed of future growth. This reminds us that, on the path of awakening and spiritual/psychological growth, no experience – welcome, unwelcome or barely noticed – is wasted. Every experience has the potential to contribute positively to our understanding of ourselves and the world we share.
Ultimately, it is our mind – how we view our experiences – which charts our future course: whether, for example, we cling to feelings of anger towards people who have caused us to suffer or we let go of them and step into the next moment with open arms. It’s easier said than done, I know, and takes practice, and the loving patience to pick ourselves up each time we fall back into old, harmful habits of negative thinking. But it’s worth the effort.
Now is also the time to appreciate the sacrifices made by others on our behalf, and to recognise that each of us is a corn god (or goddess), giving ourselves back to life through how we live. At our best, we all make sacrifices for others, whether as parents caring for children, or children caring for parents, or friends lending a hand or a listening ear. Aid workers sacrifice their own safety and comfort to help those facing famine in Africa. I find it encouraging to consider that sacrifice means “to make sacred” (NB: not “to kill”), so through self-sacrifice (the only kind of sacrifice we have any right to make) we give our endeavours deeper meaning.
Through the example of the corn god we learn about the power of giving. We learn that the true value of our achievements is only realised when we learn to let go, especially of our egos which, if grasped too tightly, can keep us in the grip of suffering.
Letting go for a greater good is part of our life’s purpose which, ultimately, is to learn how to love unconditionally – ourselves as well as others.
This is how our sacrifices can transform us for good, turning the outer harvests of our day-to-day lives into inner, spiritual gold.