Full Circle of Living and Dying: Symbolism of the logo
Many cultures and faith traditions embrace the science of the four earth elements. The earth elements represent the basic properties of nature and the life force energies in our world. All matter is made up of a combination of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air including our human bodies. These four elements support the life force energy of our bodies, and when the body moves into the dying process, these energies begin to dissolve in a common pattern. The dissolution of elements has been studied and documented by traditions such as Buddhism, and our logo is patterned after these teachings. Many people who are death workers, end-of-life doulas and those who sit vigil with the dying, have witnessed the dissolution of elements in some form when caring for the dying. While FCLD is not a Buddhist based organization, we borrow from the Buddhist perspective which describes the dissolution process at the end of life.
The Full Circle of Living and Dying (FCLD) logo depicts four colored symbols, each representing the four earth elements (plus a spiral in the center). The spiral is found in archaeological sites around the world and is believed to represent life force energy and transition. According to Buddhist teachings: “At the time of death, the winds associated with the four elements deteriorate, until those elements can no longer act as a basis for consciousness.”
Dissolution of elements in the dying process and symbolism of our logo
- Looking at the logo, the green leaf points north and symbolizes the earth element which corresponds to the physical body. This is the first of the body’s elements to begin dissolution in the dying process. Many caregivers who have cared for the dying notice changes in the physical body. For example, the “luster” of the physical body becomes diminished, lacking vitality. The body becomes thin and loose. This is a natural process that looks different in each body.
- The second dissolution (moving counterclockwise to the east on the FCLD logo is the blue water symbol). This symbolizes the dissolution of the water element. End-of-life workers may notice this as drying up of the body fluids; sweat, urine, tears, and saliva.
- The third dissolution is the red fire element to the south. As the fire element gradually diminishes the body may first get very warm and then begin to lose its warmth. The inhalation may become weak and the exhalation stronger. Sometimes the rhythm of the breath quickens, like panting.
- The fourth dissolution is the air element to the west. Air is the breath of the body. As this element gradually diminishes, physical actions cease and the life-sustaining winds or energies of the body cease. Breathing slows dramatically and eventually the last breath leaves the body. No pulse is detectable. Physical death has arrived. “The four physical elements have dissolved and are no longer able to function as a foundation for gross consciousness.” Geshe Tashi Tsering
҉ Unending gratitude to Roshi Joan Halifax, Terri Nash and all the world’s traditions that have provided deep end-of-life teachings and inspirational death practices.
Many thanks to: Buddhist Perspective on the Emotional and Spiritual Stages of the Process of Dying https://www.hayagriva.org.au/wheel-of-life/death-process/