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Double the Light (the very late “missing” post) December 14, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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[“Happy  Chanukah!” to anyone celebrating! May your lights shine bright!]


[This extremely delayed posting is from Sunday the 13th. You can request an audio recording of Sunday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.


In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)]

Yoga Sutra 1.36: viśokā vā jyotişmatī

– “Or [fixing the mind] on the inner state free of sorrow and infused with light, anchors the mind in stability and tranquility.”

How does one keep the faith? This is a question we can ask at any time, but it becomes a particularly significant question when we are faced with doubt or fear. Or darkness. We all have moments of doubt, of fear, of darkness. Those moments can come from the inside and also from the outside, from things that are going on all around us. Those are the times, I think, when it is good to remember the words of Yoga Sūtra 1:36 which instructs us to focus on our inner light. However, even if you are not familiar with this thread, every culture and every spiritual (and religious) tradition has a story that serves as a similar reminder – and, during the darkest times of the year – people in the Northern Hemisphere bring out these stories, re-tell them, and celebrate them.

There are some aspects of light celebration in Samhain, the pagan holiday marking summer’s end. But, in truth, this year’s celebrations of light started with Diwali, the 5-day Indian festival of lights. Next up is Chanukah, which started at sunset on Thursday (the 25th of Kislev). This year, the 8-day festival of light in the Jewish tradition overlaps the (Western Christian) Feast Day of Saint Lucia (also known as Saint Lucy’s Day) on December 13th – so we get double the light.

“And God said, ‘Light will be,’ and light was.”

– Transliteration of the Hebrew from Bereishit – Genesis (1:3), most commonly translated as “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

“Chanukah” means “dedication” and the holiday is a commemoration of Maccabees restoring the temple in Jerusalem after centuries of religious persecution (and a battle that was in and of itself a miracle). Before the battle, however, the Maccabees spent about a year hiding in caves and studying Torah. They would have been very clear on the importance of lighting the candles on the menorah in order to establish the sanctity of the temple. After all, it is commanded in the Bible. The only problem was that the temple had been desecrated and almost every vial of olive oil previously sealed by the high priest had been contaminated. I say “almost every vial,” because (miraculously) there was one still sealed vial of oil. Not enough, they thought, to last all the days and nights (8 in total) required to make and to bless more oil – but just enough to show their faith and their intention, to show where (and how) they stood in the world.

When people celebrate Chanukah, they light 8 candles in honor of the 8 days and 8 nights during which there was, miraculously, light when people were expecting darkness. Except in extenuating circumstances, when it is not safe to do so, people are instructed to place their hanukia (a special menorah for the occasion) in a window that can be seen from the street – so that anyone walking past will be reminded of the miracle that started with faith.

“The world that we live in, so much cold and strife
One little light to warm another life
Fill the darkest night with the brightest light
Cause it’s time for you to shine
A little dedication, a small illumination
Just one person to change a whole nation
Let me see the light”

– quoted from “Shine” by the Maccabeats

Saint Lucy’s Day is also a day centered around faith, persecution, and the miracles that come from someone doing what they can in the midst of so much “can’t.” It is mostly celebrated in Scandinavian countries and Italy, as well as places like the Twin Cities where there is a large Scandinavian population, as well as a strong Catholic, Lutheran, and/or Anglican presence. The day honors a 4th century virgin-martyr who would bring food and drink to Christians hiding from religious persecution. Lucy herself was persecuted, and that part of the story is a little gory – although, notably, full of miracles. However, being chosen to wear her symbols and to represent Saint Lucy or her court (including the “star boys”) is an honor not because of what was done to her, but because of her faith led her to alleviate the suffering of others.

In 4th century Syracuse (Roman Empire), the best places to hide were in the Roman catacombs, the very epitome of darkness on every level. So that her hands were free to carry the food and drink, Lucy (whose Latin name, Lucia, shares a root with the Latin word for “light”) would wear a wreath of candles around her head. Being the source of her own light, while carrying a feast, required her to stand and move very carefully, very deliberately, and very intentionally – almost as if she was in Tādāsana (“Mountain Pose”).

When we practice āsanas (“seats” or poses), a significant amount of energy and awareness goes into how we sit (or stand). This deliberation and intention allows us to pay attention to our breath (which is a symbol of our spirit and life force) and also to extend and direct our breath (and therefore our spirit and life force). In a sense, we are careful about how we stand specifically so that we can be intentional about how we use our energy. Another way to think of this is that how we move and hold our body, as well as how we breathe and pay attention to our breath, allows us to very intentionally, deliberately, and mindfully start to focus on our inner light. When we focus-concentrate-meditate on our inner light, it appears to get brighter. In fact, over time, our inner light begins to shine out into the world – but, first we have to be able to see it.

“O St Lucy, preserve the light of my eyes so that I may see the beauties of creation, the glow of the sun, the colour of the flowers and the smile of children.

Preserve also the eyes of my soul, the faith, through which I can know my God, understand His teachings, recognize His love for me and never miss the road that leads me to where you, St Lucy, can be found in the company of the angels and saints.”

– quoted from A Novena Prayer to St Lucy, Protector of the Eyes

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

“‘Remember, dear friend, that I am subtly inherent in everything, everything in the universe! I am the all-illuminating light of the sun, the light in the moon, the brilliance in the fire – all light is Mine. I am even the consciousness of light, and indeed, I am the consciousness of the entire cosmos.’”

The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners (15:12) by Jack Hawley

### 2x MORE LIGHT, 4x LESS DARKNESS ###

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