Activity time: 20 minutes
Welcome participants. Share these words from Amy Tan in her novel Saving Fish from Drowning:
Here the lessons of Buddhism seemed true, Vera thought. Life was merely an illusion you must release. As she grew older, she was aware of her changing position on mortality. In her youth, the topic of death was philosophical, in her thirties it was unbearable, and in her forties unavoidable. In her fifties, she had dealt with it in more rational terms, arranging out the organ donation, detailing the exact words for her living will. Now, in her sixties, she was back to being philosophical. Death was not a loss of life, but the culmination of a series of releases. It was devolving into less and less. You had to release yourself from vanity, desire, ambition, suffering, and frustration—all the accouterments of the I, the ego. And if you did, you would disappear, leave no trace, like the mist at dawn over the lake, evaporating into nothingness, into nibbana. (p. 229)
Gather all around the chalice table. Call attention to the prompts you have posted on newsprint and read them aloud. Say your name and respond briefly to the posted questions. Then, pick one or two cups of sand and gently spill some sand on top of the black cloth, creating a design. Invite participants to each do the same in turn. When all have spoken and poured their sand, ask participants to pick up the edges of the cloth and shake the sand toward the center. Then, pour the sand into the chalice. Put candle in the sand, and light it. Say, “All of our fears, hopes, and expectations for our time together are now held within the chalice. As we join in this symbolic circle, I share these chalice lighting words by Kate Walker”:
This circle reminds us of the journey from birth to death.
This circle compels us forward with curiosity.
This circle holds our fear.
This circle is filled with our compassion.
This circle has questions, answers, and truth rarely known.
We long to be connected, to be heard and seen, and to fully live.
Yet we fear the day when we will each leave this life.
But we know that the circle of life will go on, beginning and ending, again and again.