As a person who feels comfortable living under a set of rules (I just finished reading The Giver by Lois Lowry – in honor of Banned Books Week – and ached to live in a society where all decisions – including the choice of career – were made for you … at least until I really thought about it – more in other post!), I find it odd that some of my favorite traditions are when I haven’t strictly followed the rules, but rather their spirit.
This past weekend was Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. It is a time when forgiveness is sought, and one looks to the year ahead with a fresh start. This is what I have drawn from it. For me, it is about becoming a better person in the year ahead, learning from past mistakes … and successes. Essentially, I view it as an opportunity to be a better me.
Traditionally this is day is spent fasting in synagogue. I desperately wish this met my spiritual needs. This is the holiest of all holidays, and yet I was left with an unfinished feeling. I’m sure part of that is my inability to read and comprehend the services in Hebrew; to me I needed to be a more active participant. Rather than not honoring this holy day, I have chosen an alternative that is not at all what is prescribed in the texts, yet to me it fully embodies the intent of the day.
I spend my Yom Kippur completely alone, unplugged, diligently planning the steps I will take to be a better person in the next year. I use a modified Stephen Covey model, in that I look at the various aspects of my life (relationships, financial, work, friends, spiritual, etc) and create a master plan for each. Basically, it is creating very well-thought-out New Year’s resolutions. But I jumped ahead. I start by reviewing all the past years in which I have done this, which is now up to eight. I don’t rush the process. I revel in it. Through these pages I see the progress I’ve made – some of my previous areas of focus don’t resonate at all with me any more – and the areas where I’m stuck. I spend a great deal of time simply reflecting at the end of each year, remembering the person I was, respecting her, and comparing that to where I am now and where I want to be in the future.
I spend a whole day doing this. The quiet at the beginning is deafening. It is then filled by the endless mental chatter and attempts to draw me away. Gradually that seeps away, and I am able to focus on the important things.
This year’s hermitage came at a good time in my life. I was feeling uncertain about my future, and it gave me the perfect opportunity to think things through. It is so nice to have this built in opportunity each year, and I received some excellent insight that makes me feel less “fussy”.
As always, I reemerged emotionally exhausted, yet spiritually restored and hopeful for the future. I don’t share my writings from Yom Kippur with anyone – that is how I am able to reduce the numbers of filters I put on myself during the process – yet the overriding themes come out over time.
With holiday season coming up, it seems fitting to ask, what traditions have you modified (or created from scratch) to give personal meaning to the holidays? or Do you plan a time each year for reflection?