Today is Yom Kippur, the day of AtOne-ment (atonement). As a born Jew, who now experiences spiritual uniqueness via no singularly categorical traditional practice, this day remains holy and useful, important and sacred, to me. Through the many years of rituals practiced on this day, I can state unwaveringly how these practices were absolutely critical in evolving myself in ways that have had tremendous benefit, and so some of these practices remain.
The first way I work to be at one is by the examination of what is authentic for me in observing this holiday. Holiday experience is often inherited and it doesn’t sit well to with me to observe things or to do things that aren’t resonate with my truth. I find shaking off the old holiday commitments is often challenging because these things are entrenched, accepted, and there’s often a nostalgia around them. For me personally, evolving my holidays to suit what serves who I am now helps me have holidays that truly mean something to me, days where I can communicate their import to my family. It takes a strange amount of work to evolve your holidays, and I have faced the last couple of years of holidays with a bit of a dog paddle feeling. My partner is not Jewish, so I’ve faced most Jewish holidays especially feeling like I came too late to their recognition and without a plan for how/if to observe. More than once, this realization has made me sad. So, today I do the work of being present on this day and evolving it to what feels right in my life, here and now.
Generally, Jews fast on Yom Kippur, as I have done for nearly my entire life, except while pregnant or nursing. I’m still nursing so that couldn’t happen today. We fast in part so when the hunger pang happens we are reminded of the spiritual lesson we are facing today, reminded to do the work, the prayer, the asking of forgiveness.
…well… I can still remember to do the work, the prayer, the contemplation, the asking forgiveness.
What does that look like?
The work: this is the part that resonates the most and I know has a great benefit to my life when I utilize it. In biblical Hebrew the word eventually interpreted as “sin” is the same word that archers use when they miss the bullseye – oh how I value that wisdom. Thinking of where I missed the mark is a total game changing way to view oneself. Firstly, it’s less devastating, you don’t have to have done something totally terrible, but your list may then be longer because perhaps your thinking of ways you have comported yourself in the past year that are just… well… not your bullseye. Ahhh *sigh* yes I can make a list of those.
There is a tradition of going to a body of water and casting stones into the water. Before you cast each stone you think of ways you missed the mark, you assign it to the stone, and you throw that stone into the water so that it can be released to a greater power and travel far from you. I love doing this at the beach. Today I cannot get to the beach. I’ll write down my missed marks and under the moon tonight I will say them and I’ll ask the moon to wash them away and I’ll burn the paper I wrote them on.
Don’t forget, life review is most useful when done with compassion and a sense of humor. Oh boy, yeah, I will be reminding myself those things a lot during my review.
The prayer: there was a time this meant all day at services in the synagogue. But now what? I am not sure I pray anymore. I do communicate with spirits at large, I call to spirits who support me, ancestors, guides and such. Do I want to pray? Do I believe in it? What does it mean to me? It seems my belief center is a bit in flux again. Definitive statements are challenging right now, so I have to search to find them. …I ruminated on this and came back to it. I will develop new words, I’ll say them in new ways, but I will call out and I will listen for the calls back.
I believe in an energy that is both bigger than all of us and within all of us. For a long time, I’ve believed that prayer is greatly about having a conversation with your Divine self, to talk through your needs and hear the answers. Calling out to what is greater than us is absolutely something I believe in. I looked up some traditional prayers that used to be my favorites to chant, but I think the recitation of the ancient language, in community with others deep in their own self work and simultaneous communion with the uniting Divine center was what really moved me. I re-read the translations of the prayers and so many don’t resonate. Some do. One day I’ll take the time to piece together the resonance. Perhaps I can find the community in ritual with my own family. Going outside and talking to the moon. Asking forgiveness…
The asking forgiveness: We are only supposed to ask forgiveness for things we plan not to repeat again, and if your action needs forgiveness from another being you are meant to ask them for it before asking it in prayer. Well, that all sounds right to me. Challenging. Possibly uncomfortable. Definitely some spirit growth demand. I’m still into it. While I do my soul searching I’ll only write down what I’m ready to stop doing, I’ll own my apology with others who it affected, and then I will ask forgiveness from my Divine self and the greater power.
After all of this, there is renewal. In the prayers we ask, “create in me a pure mind, and renew in me an eager spirit”. That resonates too. Sounds delish, in fact. The word “pure” is a bit complicated, but in this case I hear it as a mind that is relieved of old practices, unburdened with guilt, and ready to approach life with new choices. If “worry is using your imagination to wish harm on your life” then “guilt is drowning in a pool when you have the ability to swim”. Guilt is generally unproductive, taking these appropriate accountability steps can allow a fair release of guilt and renew a path forward that is more productive.
In previous years, my year review is done ad hoc, I think of ways I missed the mark in a scattered non linear way, but many times the cumulative effect is a revelation of a continuous thread. Each year, a major theme recurs, the theme changes and I’m glad to see that evolution, but always it reveals that if I work on one goal for the next year, I will get closer to my bullseye. One year, I realized that being honest with myself was the work for the year to come, what value that lesson and goal held, I cannot overstate. We’ll see what today’s work uncovers, I look forward to it and know it will help improve me and the world around me.
Thank you for going on this journey of finding what works for me today. I hope you journey to find what works for you today, you are gentle through the work experience, and you revel in its benefits.