Even here in “lotus land” as the rest of the country sometimes calls the west coast, you can feel the darkness of the season, the shortness of the days. I have been told that the rituals of light that are done are a small gesture against the coming of the darkest day, and within them the hope and gratitude that the light will return. It’s a leap of faith to sit in the dark and wait for the glimmer in the east. For some people this season is harder than for others. Some associate this time of year with loss and with fear – for instance my friend who had a biopsy yesterday. It will more than likely be fine, but she waits, even as she prepares the holiday meals and visits with the family from out-of-town. I have touched on the offering of merit before, and have been humbled and grateful to be on the receiving end. It is compassion and it is the antidote to helplessness and to fear. Everyone does it, regardless of what we call it.
So, in our house what happens is a lamp is lit and a stick of incense is offered. Its offered to one waiting for the angiogram, who feels the pull in her chest. Its offered to the young woman who struggles with her body and its betrayal with its baffling symptoms, for the loved father who has his surgery Friday, and for the loved man who lives with daily pain, who waits. And because we are all in this together, the offering of merit is broader than that of course, it is offered to all beings who suffer. So it seems, on the days before the darkest one, the smell of incense is permeating our house.