This is the season of light. Spiritual traditions worldwide celebrate light at this time of year in various ways. Hindus recently celebrated Diwali, which symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Today marks the beginning of Advent, in the Christian calendar, and Hanukkah, in the Jewish calendar. Having been raised in a Christian home and served as a lay-assistant minister in the United Church, and being married to a beautiful Jewish man, both of these holiday seasons are close to my heart.
Tonight I light the menorah with my husband for the first of eight days of Hanukkah, a festival also known as The Festival of Lights. Thanks to my Sunday school early days, I knew that Hanukkah was a celebration of the miracle of light, when temple lamps stayed lit all night, despite not having enough oil.
But now that I have married into the tribe, and being a lover of history, I did some research on Hanukkah’s history. I discovered that Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean Revolt and reclaiming of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which under the rule of Roman Emperor Antiochus IV (2nd century BCE), Jews were forbidden to attend. When the victorious Maccabees found a small jug of uncontaminated oil in the temple, only enough to light the Menorah for one day, the oil miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time more oil could be made. From a mystical perspective, Hanukkah reminds us that light comes when we turn our hearts towards the Divine and enter the world of the sacred, the temple of worship.
The beautiful Christian season of Advent also lights candles, one every week leading up to Christmas Eve. When I was a girl, my family was asked to light the four Advent candles at the front of the church, that symbolize hope, peace, joy and love. Just like the lights around the Christmas tree, the candles in the church, to my childhood eyes, always seemed to hold a certain mystery. Advent reminds us to first become quiet and receptive to miracles, making way for the birth of eternal light in our lives, the light of Christ.
Whatever your spiritual tradition, or even if you have no tradition at all, when you are willing to open to this moment with innocence, purity and humility, you enter into your inner temple and reclaim the miracle of lasting light, your birthright. Then you experience the fullness of light in every moment, and everyday, through all things.
This week, Parvati.org volunteers are following the inner light of love, compassion and service – all the way to Poland. Director of Strategic Initiatives Darcy Belanger and General Counsel Vandana Erin Ryder are at COP24, the global climate conference in Katowice, to ask world leaders to sign the treaty for MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary. Our volunteers make this trip every year at their own expense because it is THAT important. The Arctic ice that keeps global weather patterns balanced is not waiting, and neither can we. With Giving Tuesday coming up this week, please consider supporting this work so that MAPS can be swiftly realized for the sake of all life on Earth. It truly means the world.
On the theme of light, I leave you with a simple guided meditation that uses a candle. It is a wonderful way to begin meditating if you have never done so before. This is a classical Hatha yoga concentration practice called Trataka, which means “to look” or “to gaze”. It is also said to be of benefit to your eyesight.
1. Find a quiet and relaxed environment away from the busyness of your life. It could be a separate room, or it could be a quiet corner of a room. Choose a spot where you feel safe and relaxed, but where you will not be tempted to fall asleep (eg, your bed).
2. Sit upright, either on the floor or on a chair, free from any backrest such as the wall or the back of a chair. You can sit on a cushion and/or prop your legs with cushions as needed, so that your hips and spine feel relaxed and supported.
3. Light a tall candle or elevate a shorter candle (not a tea light) and place it on a bench, shelf or table so that the golden flame is at your eye level.
4. Look at the flame with a relaxed, focused gaze, without blinking. Keep your eyes open, even if they begin to tear.
5. When you feel the absolute need to close your eyes, do so and keep them closed. While your eyes are closed, you will still see the image of the flame. Keep your eyes closed and focus on this image for as long as you can, until it is no longer visible. As you focus on that golden flame, feel that you are one with it. Internalize its gold light.
6. Open your eyes again, and return your gaze to the flame as in step 4. Repeat steps 4 through 6 for about ten minutes.
7. After ten minutes, conclude the practice by keeping your eyes closed, taking three long breaths, and feeling the gold light energy in your spine and your whole being. Give thanks inwardly for this practice. See if you can retain the feeling of gold light within as you move through your day.
Until next time,
Love our world.
We are one Earth family.