Happy Easter, Gut Yom toff and Chag Sameach!
As a child, I loved going to church even more on Easter than at Christmas. Yes, I loved singing Handel’s Messiah, with the Hallelujah chorus. I loved the mystique of a church sprinkled with lights “in the bleak mid-winter”. I loved the Christmas message, how the birth of eternal love comes through the innocence of the child that exists within us all. But at Easter, the church, in my child’s eyes, always seemed to be bursting with flowers. And you know how much I love flowers!
Flowers are a symbol of new life. They remind us of possibility and effortless being. They remind us of the sweetness of life when we are aligned with our true beauty. And flowers return each spring, bringing with them the same message of hope and inspiration, just as Easter brings us the message of rebirth, reunion and rejoicing.
I have always felt a very close connection to a particular Biblical passage that expresses the joy of flowers beautifully:
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them… See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”
(Matthew 6: 26-29 – New International Version)
This year, Good Friday was also the first night of Passover (Pesach), when the first Seder, the traditional Jewish meal celebrates the freedom from slavery under the rule of the Egyptians. The Christian feast of Maundy Thursday finds its roots in the Jewish feast of Passover, the night on which the Last Supper is said to have occurred. Seder is what Christians know as the last supper, because it is the meal Jesus was celebrating with his disciples as he broke bread and consecrated wine, which become symbols of his body and blood to be shed the following day.
The somber tone of Good Friday, which precedes the celebration at Easter Sunday morning, reminds me every year of the expression “It’s darkest before the dawn”. We are one with the eternal, rising light of pure consciousness. Even when we forget this truth and feel like our life is caught in a dark tomb, or we feel that we are crumbling from the weight of crosses we feel we must bear, we can remember that a new dawn always comes.
Though we may feel dark and heavy, we will rise again – not because we are called to make heroic, willful efforts, but because we are one with eternal light, the light that always is. Our effort comes in surrender and trust – in the power of letting go. When we let go, darkness passes and the light returns. The darkness of the cross and the tomb remind us of the death of our ego. The ego must dissolve in order for us to return to the eternal light. We must die to the dark so we may be born to the light.
Nature shows us this each year with the arrival of spring. Beneath the ice were seeds waiting to burst into life. We could not see them, but they were there. Only when the harsh winter softens, can we see new life come joyfully into the bloom.
For those of Jewish faith:
If you are Jewish, you may have just had Seder. My partner is Jewish. Each year we gather at his parent’s home, read the Haggadah (the Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder), retell the Passover story and eat the Seder meal.
I spoke with him this year about the meaning of the word “liberation”, a powerful word in the Hindu world. Liberation in Sanskrit is “moksha”, which refers to the final state of liberation we experience once we are enlightened. This is the freedom from our dualistic worldview and a permanent merging with the One, the all-pervading force of pure consciousness.
In the Jewish tradition, liberation at Passover refers to the freedom of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. I shared with my partner that I found it interesting that in the Passover story there are ten plagues that came upon the Egyptians. Why ten? Why not fifteen or six? It is a notable number to me as there are, in Hinduism and Buddhism, ten primary subtle body energy centers, that is, seven main “chakras” (energy wheels) within the body and three subtler ones above the crown of the head.
So I suggested that this year, we say the Shema, which I love and which is so very potent, then we look within ourselves, and contemplate what ten plagues we currently carry in our body/being, that, that is, what impossibilities tendencies we have that we would like to release. In this exercise, we learn to name the ways in which we resist our own liberation and can learn to witness, and eventually release them, with God’s Grace, so we may prepare our body, mind and spirit for the holiest day of the Jewish year, the day of atonement, Yom Kippur.
I suggested that we each take a pen and paper and go within to make note of ten impossibilities in our lives, by using our body as a point of reference. (Here goes the yogini in me!) As a starting point, we can ask ourselves the following questions:
- Where am I holding tension in my body?
- What are we holding on to?
- Where do I struggle in my life?
- What attachment of mine does this struggle reflect?
- Where do I push or pull at life and/or at myself and/or at people in my life?
- In which way am I greedy, too hard or severe, like the Egyptians were in the Passover story?
- In which way do I keep myself in bondage, a slave to my ego?
- In which way am I full of wanting and out of flow?
We all have the capacity for slavery and freedom. This exercise may help to soften the grip of holding on in our lives so we may experience greater freedom within. Note your answers to the question down on a piece of paper or in a journal to save it for the fall at Yom Kippur.
For those of Christian faith:
If you are Christian, ask yourself the following questions and make notes for your own personal growth. Revisit them at Christmas and see how your life has changed.
- In which way do I hide in darkness in my life?
- In which way am I not willing to die into the eternal light that is my true nature?
- What am I holding on to?
- What am I afraid of?
- In which way do I feel attached to seeing myself as the “doer” rather than being in service to God’s Will?
- What crosses do I feel I carry in my life?
- Am I willing to let God carry these instead?
- How do I stay hidden in the dark caves of my psyche and avoid my life’s rebirth?
For those of other faiths:
Though this weekend is focused more on Passover and Easter, I always feel we can be inspired by the grace that occurs during any spiritual festival or ritual. If you are of another religious tradition or if you are agnostic, then take this time to look within at the ways you resist your magnificence, the ways you keep yourself a slave to your wants, the ways in which you keep yourself in the darkness of ignorance, a captive of your ego, rather than be in humble service to the gift of life. This life is a gift. There is no better time than in the flowering of spring and by embracing its energy of renewal, rebirth, reunion and rejoicing to really embody the grace of who you are and meet the fullness of your life’s potential.
Until next week, be well.