Elements of a Sustainable Spiritual Practice: Part III – Winter
I started this series in January, 2010, with an Introduction to Sustainable Spirituality and ”Four Elements of a Sustainable Spiritual Practice: Part I.” In the fall of 2010, I picked it back up in earnest with the first of four planned seasonal guides, Part II – Autumn. Now we will soon be entering Winter, and it’s time to look at what we should shift in our spiritual practice to ensure we are working with the seasons and elements to cultivate a deeper connection to G!d(dess) and the world around us.
Winter is the season of Fire (אֵשׁ) within Water (מַיִם), according to the elemental system of RK’Jill Hammer which my concept is built on. RK’Jill assigns each season with an inner and outer element. The outer element, Water in this case, is the element we have in abundance. The inner element, Fire in this case, is the element we need. In the Peeling a Pomegranate approach to a sustainable spiritual practice, this translates to the idea of Divine Connection (Fire) through Creative Expression (Water).
Let’s start, like we did in the Autumn, by diving a little deeper into the elements themselves and a few of the correspondences that create our vision of “Fire” and “Water” in Judaism.
Here are few correspondences for Fire in Judaism:
FIRE (אֵשׁ): Summer, Noon, Burning Bush/Pillar of Fire, Strength, Issac, Rebekah, Candles (Sabbath, Havdalah,Yahrtzeit, Chanukiah, Menorah), Ner Tamid, Bonfire of Lag B’Omer, Burning Chametz, Sun, Gabriel, Gold, Priesthood, Divine Connection, Cooking, Aaron, Staves, Burnt Offerings, Letters on Parchment, Salamander, Myrtle, Phoenix (חוֹל Job 29:18), Snakes, Spiritual authority, Light, Atzilut, Existing, Chayah (level of the soul), Divine connection
Now let’s look at a few correspondences for Water in Jewish tradition:
WATER (מַיִם): Winter, Midnight, Well of Miriam, Love, Sarah, Abraham, Silver, Michael, Mikvah, Washing, Dipping Greens in Salt Water at Passover, Tashlich, Bat Yah, Moses, The “Whale”, Water libation , Willow Branches, Reeds, Sea of Reeds, Wine, Miriam, Joseph, Noah, Anointing oil, Divination, Intuition, Dreams, Willow Branches, Lotus flowers, Water lilies, Emotions, Leviathin, Darkness, Yetzirah, Feeling, Ruach (level of soul), Creativity
Hopefully these create a rich and diverse mental tapestry for what Fire and Water are in abstract form.
In a sustainable spiritual practice we are looking to do more than have abstract ideas. We need to be able to work with them in a concrete fashion. To begin bringing these to life in a way that we can use them to guide and enhance our spiritual practice, we should start looking at the holidays that fall during the winter and how these elements appear in them. Our key holidays of the winter are Hanukkah and Tu B’Shevat. Purim could also be seen as the last winter holiday, or the holiday that bridges us from winter into spring.
While both Hanukkah and Tu B’Shevat can easily be seen as holidays of Earth (Resources), they can also be seen as elements of Fire through Water, at least in our modern ways of celebrating them. Both of these holidays provide unique opportunities for creative expression that can be used to deepen our personal connection to the Divine. I think that may be the unique challenge of both of the holidays that have such a focus on resources. Instead of just focusing on presents or food, use Hanukkah and Tu B’Shevat as opportunities for creative expression.
Maybe you don’t think you are creative, but most likely you really are and just haven’t found your medium. This time of year isn’t about creating objects of art, it’s about using art and creativity to deepen a spiritual experience. It doesn’t matter if you create brilliant paintings or bad poetry. The point is to use it to foster deeper connections. Hanukkah, in particular, offers a bevy of opportunities. Consider just the act of wrapping a present. It can be a chore, or a chance to be creative. From entertaining to seasonal decoration and gift giving — the season is rife with opportunities.
Have you ever used creativity as a spiritual tool? There are so many contemplative and ecstatic art forms that have been used through out history as spiritual tools: Sufi Dancing, Spiral Dancing, Touch Drawing, Zen Gardens, Iconography, Calligraphy, Sofrut, Sand Painting, Poetry, Chanting, Automatic Writing, Cooking, Mandala Making — and on and on.
Questions to Explore:
- Do you consider yourself creative?
- What forms of creative expression(s) are you comfortable with?
- What forms of creative expression have you tried?
- What type of personal connection do you have to G!d(dess)? Do you have one?
- What forms of creative expression would allow you to deepen your personal connection to G!d(dess)? Why?
- Visual art: painting, mixed media, collage, fiber art, sand painting, mandalas, calligraphy, bonsai, touch drawing, etc
- Written arts: poetry, prayers, prose, calligraphy, etc.
- Audible arts: chanting, singing, intoning, etc.
- Physical arts: dancing, movement, etc.
- Interdisciplinary arts: menu planning, cooking, decorating, gift wrapping, gardening, dressing, ritual design, altar design/building, etc.
So many activities in life can be used as creative expressions to build and deepen our personal connections and relationships to G!d(dess). Don’t be afraid to explore many of these during the winter months. Don’t let your inner critic tell you that you aren’t creative. Don’t be afraid to be a little silly. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone and try something totally new — or just approach something you do every day, like getting dressed, from this perspective.
I hope you’ll share what you experience by applying this, or just reading about it. If you want to share your answers to the questions — that’s most welcome! If you want to share ideas you have or actions you take that is also most welcome.
Elements of Embodied Judaism Series:
- Sustainable Spirituality: Introduction
- Elements of Judaism – Overview
- Part I: Four Elements of Sustainable Spiritual Practice
- Part II: Autumn (Air within Earth)
- Part III: Winter (Fire within Water)
- Part IV: Adar I (Aether / Chaos and Void)
- Part V: Spring (Earth withing Air)
- Part VI: Summer (Water within Fire)