When I was growing up on Long Island, the shorter and colder fall days leading to the depths of winter invoked a sense of loss. I loved the heat, the beach, and the seemingly endless days of summer. Once the fall chill hit the air, hope and possibility were diminished in my young mind. I eagerly awaited winter solstice, knowing it heralded a steady increase in the length of daylight and the return of those long summer days I cherished.
In those years, a beacon of light during the dark days of winter was Hanukkah. The holiday started out with the lighting of one candle. For seven more nights, the light grew brighter as an additional candle was added to the menorah, the ritual candleholder used for the holiday. (Full disclosure: what I eagerly awaited too were the gifts given each night.)
Over the years, I have come to value each season. Also, the lighting of the menorah has taken on a more poignant aspect. It has become a reminder, layered with meaning, that in the darkest of times a light can be lit that can grow to dispel more and more darkness.
The lighting of the menorah honors the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, a place where the spirit of the Divine dwelt. Since a spark of the Divine dwells in each of us, we can see ourselves as temples, here to be bearers of light in our own unique ways. In clearing away what hides or diminishes our light, we access energy that has boundless potential to enhance and illuminate our thoughts and actions. Inspired by the divine qualities of Kabbalah's Tree of Life, and in honor of the eight days of Hanukkah, here are eight qualities we can develop to help bring more light into our lives and the world.
Commitment. To be effective in increasing our light, we need strong will. In aligning our will with divine will, we activate these words attributed to Goethe: "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred."
Increase acts of loving-kindness. Love is more than a good feeling; it is a call to action. When facing a challenge, our love can be an active force to help propel us forward. Sometimes, the only way to break free of what is holding us back is to take strong action. When we do it out of deep love for someone or something we believe in, that love will shine through and temper what could be perceived as harsh and uncaring on the road to increasing light.
Healthy boundaries. When we commit to restore boundaries that have been violated, we are strengthening our containers to be able to hold more light. When we frame restoring or setting boundaries as acts of tough love, we can be strengthened in doing what needs to be done to increase our sense of well-being and balance.
Restore balance and harmony. Taking some time to examine where our lives are out of balance and committing to restore it, even to some small extent, is a beautiful way to bring more light into our lives.
Perseverance. The commitment to bring more light into our lives goes hand in hand with perseverance. As we work through difficult issues, we need endurance to hold the space for more light to manifest. When we give up easily or are easily distracted, it is difficult to do what it takes to be free of dark forces.
Proper worship. Honestly examining what we worship, whether it is money, sex, a person, or anything else, is another gateway to realigning ourselves with greater light. False idols inevitably lead us astray from living from the deepest part of ourselves, the part that recognizes what is proper and worthy of our worship.
Live from a strong foundation. Many things ground us in life. Because the nature of life is change, it is vital to include an anchor in our foundation that transcends daily life. The unconditional love the Divine offers us transcends our thoughts, feelings, and circumstances. Returning to this core relationship is a timeless source of strength and power.
Walking your talk. When we align our speech and actions with our highest intentions, we live with dignity and integrity. When we take a moment to remember this, rather than reacting out of habit or impulse, we can use our speech and deeds to illuminate, build up, and share more love.
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah or not, I invite you to take the eight days of the holiday to explore each of the qualities to increase the light in your life. On day one, begin with commitment; make the commitment to increase your light. On day two, explore how you can expand acts of loving-kindness. On day three, look at your boundaries. On day four, consider balance and harmony. On day five, commit to perseverance. On day six, examine what you worship. On day seven, explore your foundation. When you arrive at the eighth day, enjoy walking your talk with more freedom, joy, and lightness.
A modified version of this post appears in the December/January issue of Common Ground Magazine.