From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Throughout December darkness grows as the days get shorter until we are upon the winter solstice, December 21, 2009-- which is the longest and darkest night of the year.
This darkness gets reflected in the experiences of many people throughout the holiday season. Many of us experience a lot of chaos and stress. I hear friends, colleagues, and clients talk about a general sense of disconnection this time of year than any other. My experience tells me that this results from the rawness of unresolved family issues that seems more accessible this time of year.
The holidays can be particularly challenging during crisis like the current state of our economy and lingering double digit unemployment. In addition, while wonderful events like Barack Obama's receipt of the Nobel Prize are going on he is deploying more troops to Afghanistan.
Why am I sharing all this doom and gloom? I am sharing all of this to let you know that dwelling on adversity is a choice. Pervasive throughout this darkness are bright lights that shine inwardly and outwardly. The holidays themselves, especially Chanukah, are celebrations of light and joy over triumph and adversity.
The Chanukah ritual grew out of the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after a period of religious oppression in which it was thoroughly destroyed. The temple lamps were lit with great faith, for there was very little oil. Nonetheless, according to belief, a miracle occurred and the temple lamps stayed lit for 8 consecutive days; which created enough time to generate fresh oil to keep them burning. Chanukah also joyously acknowledges freedom from oppression and the great blessings of spirit.
I was raised in the Jewish religion, although I never had much spiritual connection to it. My days in Hebrew School were essentially to teach me enough to get through my Bar Mitzvah successfully. I didn't experience a lot of heart in the process. Even as an adult, after my mom died I felt a call to go back to synagogue. I did for a few Shabat services, and still, I observed a lot of "going through the motions" with no real spiritual connection. That didn't work for me and I haven't been to synagogue since.
Nonetheless, through my own spirituality I have identified key elements of the Jewish religion and ritual that hold great spiritual meaning for me. Chanukah is one of those rituals. In my perspective the Chanukah ritual is a glorious metaphor of the essence of love and light that dwells deep within each of us, and through which we are all connected. Even in what might be the darkest night of our souls, the Chanukah ritual shows us that even if all we can find is a tiny spark of light, when we put our attention on that spark, the love and light that helps generate the courage to move through adversity expands. We begin to realize that through this darkness the miracle of our inward love and light is always shining. We just can't always experience it when we choose to focus on adversity.
As we each shine our love and light through the holidays and beyond we contribute to heeding the dire need for more peace, love, and joy on the planet. This Chanukah I encourage you, whether or not you are experiencing adversity, to put your attention on the love that resides within you and let it light your way through the holiday and increase your connection and compassion for others.
Here are some tips:
1. Before saying your prayers and lighting your first Chanukah candle this evening, take some time to circle with your loved ones holding hands. In this circle guide the people you are with to gently place their attention on their breath and to acknowledge the miracle of the life force that dwells within you. The life force that is always present whether you are thinking about it or not. In this space guide your group to see inwardly the bright light that shines in every one of our hearts. From this place say your prayers and light your candles.
2. As you light your Chanukah candles bring into your awareness how the light of the candle is a reflection of the love and light that dwells within you and that connects you to a greater life force and divine intelligence.
3. After lighting your candles and before exchanging your gifts circle up again and go through the ritual: "The gift I see in you ________." One at a time each person turns to the person to their right in the circle and says, for example, "The gift I see in you is joy and laughter," until you have gone through the whole circle.
4. During any gift exchanging this Chanukah be conscious of how the gifts and abundance you experience are simply reflection of the vast blessings, light, and abundance that dwell within you.
5. Take time this Chanukah and through the remainder of the holiday season to release any judgments you may have placed against yourself or others in the past year. Remind yourself that the lives of those with whom you have differences are just as important to them as yours is to you. As you release your judgments notice how you return to the light, love and compassion that dwell within you.
Have a glorious Chanukah filled with light and love!