Saturday, 27 December 2014

Sacred Celebration

Sacred Celebration: Making the Most of the Holidays

By Jack Adam Weber L.Ac., Dipl. C.H.

Most holidays in first world countries are about having fun, and most involve explosives. Maybe this is the extreme stimulation we need to feel excited. Our holidays largely lack spiritual context and meaning, save for expressing our love to one another and sharing good times. Religious holidays that literalize religious myths don’t fare much better in terms of helping us deal with reality.
We are missing the sacred in our celebrations, which would honor the things and experiences for which we are truly grateful, that truly fulfill us and give us life, as if we were truly grateful... which collectively we may really not be. Our Earth-honoring rituals have all but disappeared in the modern world and visits to the natural world for many are akin to going to Disneyland. How might we make a shift?
Sacred celebration leaves us feeling more whole while doing little to no damage to the natural world. We feel better after sacred celebration, even if “better” is simply to acknowledge what is true — true about ourselves and about the world today, the next year, and hopefully longer.
To this end, grief and despair, decline and decay, are also worthy of celebration, as central to the cycle of fertility in both soma and psyche. These emotions were more prevalent in pervious eras, before we lost the deeper meaning of holidays, which holy days originally marked the turning of the seasons and the qualities we needed to cultivate at certain times of the year in order to honor and live and in harmony with natural cycles . . . to increase fertility both inwardly and outwardly.
When we celebrate and genuinely feel gratitude for what is sublimely beautiful and enchanting, gross expression is less needed. In fact, such appreciation requires a good dose of quiet so as to be consolidated in us, sacredly and quietly abided by, not dispersed in gross outward expression. In fact, I notice a correlation between outward exclamation and inner poverty; in other words the less at home we feel in our bodies, the more we yell and scream and make noise. I am not saying we have to be monks, but we would do well to find more genuine awe and inner richness for our celebrations, which would cut down on the immense amounts of holiday pollution we make. Remembering the natural cycles of the year and their significance for our inner and outer lives would help.
Celebrations that cause damage not only to ourselves but to the world around us, that have little heart, and merely serve as more diversion and drama, are emblematic of our footprint on Earth. Ironically, it is on the holidays (at least American ones) that we collectively increase pollution on the planet. A return of the sacred to our days, especially to our celebrations, would be a small gesture of the gratitude for being here and for the gifts of the Earth.
Our short-term celebrations bear the same signature as our short-term pleasures, short-term consumption habits, short-term environmental policies, and short-mindedness. Just as we need new consumer models that ensure durability, we need celebrations that profoundly shift our focus, habits, and our effects on everything non-human.
Christmas and New Year’s
Christmas and Chanukah roughly correspond with the winter solstice, when the sun is the lowest on the horizon, and makes its way back to the heavens. Christmas and Chanukah both celebrate the return of this light. But this light is not just in the sky above our heads; it is in our very chest. So, during these December holidays we can take stock of the past year, reflect on our challenges, and give thanks for however we have made it through. We can be grateful for the resilience of our hearts and the skills we marshaled to get through. And we can use New Year’s to make resolutions to enact what we learned: how to stay out of trouble, how to make better use of our time, ways to better our wellness and that of what we love. In. honor of the Earth, we might commit to helping it out some too, to participate in the renewal of growth as marked by the increasing daylight and the corresponding outward and upward growth of plants.
The noise of holidays gets in the way of meaningful reflection. Rather than try to get away from it, sometimes I embrace the affliction and let my creativity find healing. Last year on New Year’s Eve, amid the noise, I imagined the body of Nature cringing in disgust, as if saying, “Ugh, there go those humans again hurting my ears and polluting my veins, as if every non-holiday were not enough!” This is a poem that I wrote on that New Year’s Eve after a walk through the orchard on my farm. It will appear in my new book Rebearth, alongside my other collections of poems.
The most dazzling explosion
Was the wings of a moth
On a papaya tree in the orchard
Whose spread was a tapestry
Of bronze, ochre, purple, indigo, crimson, and taupe.
It lay there easy amid the noise, its iridescent eyes
Glowing as no fireworks can.
I thought to take a picture
But declined, to celebrate such quiet ecstasy.
We need so little when we are already bursting inside,
Destroy so much trying to ignite what already smolders.
 “Happy New Year” I wished the moth,
As it flew away
Leaving no smoke, no echo, no trash,
Just color, preserved in flight.
Read the full article here: