Jan and Karen, two of our resident faeries, laid out a spiral (the Heart of Chartres pattern) in fragrant cedar boughs on the floor of our clinic's classroom, studded with smooth river rocks and sparkly marbles and tea-light candles. Then our friend Melissa, author of Exploring the Labyrinth: A Guide for Healing and Personal Growth, led a candlelit workshop, describing the way labyrinths were walked at times of transition and challenge, as contemplative practice, as moving prayer. She suggested that this time between solstice and New Year's Day is like the subtle pause between the end of exhalation and the beginning of inhalation, a point of no-time right before the effortless receiving of the new. We each made our way slowly or quickly to the center of the spiral, feeling as if we walking into the center of the earth, encouraged to bring questions for the new year, rather than a resolution or desire to change ourselves.
I am also still holding in my mind's hand the kavannot (intentions) that I brought with me on retreat. (For a thoughtful and characteristically heartful post by Ashley on kavannot, see this from last summer.)
Rabbi Ted encourages us to light each candle of Chanukkah for the illumination of a particular quality or intention, keeping in mind that the first candle is lit anew every night during the week-long holiday, and so on, and so we make our fondest wishes the first ones. The places and qualities I wished for the lights to illuminate: that field beyond rightdoing and wrongdoing. Faith in each soul's essential good. Willingness to listen for the call to prayer/action. The capacity for quick and whole-hearted connection. Willingness to take responsibility for what has heart and meaning. A deeper remembering to bless and be blessed. To pay full attention, to slow down enough to notice the details.
One of my favorite image details is seeing several Israelis, including our friend and bus driver Ovad, turn their hand over, palm up, to cover their head during a blessing. Rabbi Ted explained that in some Jewish traditional cultures, if a man didn't have a head covering to use during a prayer, he covered his head with one hand, in which case it was important to do so in a way that wasn't just your ordinary, everyday, kind of hand-on-your-head.
|Here is Ovad during Chanukkah in Tzfat, with me, and part of Helen, in the background.|