It is striking to me how many absolutely cannot wait for the calendar year to come to its end. It seems that almost everyone I know wants so badly to bid good riddance to 2009.
For so many, for too many, this past year forced us to navigate and balance the kinds of tests and trials few of us have experienced before in our lives -- despite identified station or generation. Many in our country and world were confronted with the unfathomable. It feels like we have been standing on a cliff, so frightened that the earth will shake once again, and down we will fall into the abyss. We have seen darkness in so many facets of our world: economically, politically and socially.
Even on Christmas Day, when the politicians finally left Washington D.C., quieting their battle cry, to join the country in sacred celebration; we were reminded of the fragility of life, as a lost and crazed soul tried to take the lives of others in the name of religion. Indeed, we have held our collective breath, waiting to breathe in the air of renewal and hope.
It seems ironic to me, however, that we somehow think the change of calendar will also transform our fortunes. Sometimes, we think that as we rip off the page that says December and turn to the one that reads January, all will be right with the world again. Yet, inside most of us know that the cosmic nature of the world does not simply change because the clock strikes 12 a.m. on the 31st of December.
However, I am an optimist and do believe that there is always a chance for a better day; indeed, for better year. I do believe that we can try to use this change in calendar to focus our intention on attaining joy and fulfillment and wholeness. For sure, we have felt pain of loss. We may even fear what the New Year may bring. But it would be a shame to throw away our sense of optimism, hope, and most importantly, our reason for being here on earth; indeed, our reason for living in the first place. One of the byproducts of this past year's economic environment is that many have been forced to explore the riches we possess which have nothing to do with financial worth. Many have been pushed by forces beyond our control to remember what counts most.
The question: How do we not get bogged down by it all and find a way to be aware of what is most precious? Staying aware of the blessings which surround us is a complex spiritual task. It does not come easy, but if pursued steadfastly, I do believe we have a shot at a better quality of existence.
During the past few years, I have studied a collection of mostly untapped spiritual literature. "Hanhagot," or spiritual practices, were a list of instructions created for followers of specific rabbis in the days of old. They were written to serve as inspiration and intended to provide spiritual guidance and centering; and I believe they can indeed be used as an aid to bring joy, awareness, fulfillment, and maybe even a bit of God's presence into daily living.
These teachings were written as practical, personal, wise and straight-forward instructions to help individuals navigate through their complicated lives. This literature was specifically above and beyond religious law. These Hanhagot were practices written with the intention of bringing together both mind and heart.
In humility, I offer the following as examples of my own spiritual practice, which I hope, with your own engagement, will help usher in and sustain days of fulfillment.