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An Auspicious and Holy Time April 21, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. “Happy Ridván!” to those celebrating the “the Most Great Festival.” Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Rama Navami / Chaitra Navaratri and those who are Counting the Omer.

“The truth, from my perspective, is that the world, indeed, is ending — and is also being reborn.  It’s been doing that all day, every day, forever.  Each time we exhale, the world ends; when we inhale, there can be, if we allow it, rebirth and spiritual renewal.  It all transpires inside of us.  In our consciousness, in our hearts.  All the time.”

 

 

– Tom Robbins quoted in the Reality Sandwich article “The Syntax of Sorcery: An Interview with Tom Robbins” by Tony Vigorito (posted online June 6, 2012)

“Renewal” is a funny word, because I don’t think it is (technically) a homonym (i.e., a word that has multiple meanings), but it is a word that can conjure up very different sentiments. Simply stated, a “renewal” is the continuation or extension of something. Sometimes we think of it in the context of an activity or state that has been continuous, but had a set ending date – like when we borrow a book from a public library. Other times, we think of it in the context of continuing something that has been interrupted. Renewal can also be used to refer to something that has been repaired and/or restored to its original state… so that it can continue fulfilling its purpose.

Regardless of how you think of the word, “renewal” is a concept that we often associate with Spring. In fact, similar to how cultures all over the world celebrate light overcoming darkness during the darkest times of the year, cultures all over the world spend some portion of Spring celebrating renewal. In many cases, these celebrations mark a renewal of faith and a celebration of the continuation of a covenant with God.

Today, April 21, 2021, at least five different communities around the world are observing rituals related to renewal. This is the penultimate week of Great Lent for people within the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition; this is the second week of the month of Ramadān in Islām; for people within the Jewish community who are Counting the Omer, this afternoon/evening marks the end of the 24th Day and the beginning of the 25th Day; this is the second day of the Festival of Ridván for the Bahá’I; and this is the ninth day and final night of Chaitra Navaratri – which is also Rama Navami – in the Hindu community. Each ritual has different customs, traditions, and significances; however, what is important to note is how each observation renews people’s connection with their faith, their community, and the deepest parts of themselves.

As I’ve mentioned before, the word “Lent” comes from the Old English word for “spring season” and is a period of 40 days meant to mirror the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness prior to being betrayed, crucified, and resurrected. For Christians, it is seen as a period of preparation (for Easter) and involves fasting, prayer, reflection, redemption, and (yes) renewal. While the story is the same, the Roman Catholic and Western Christian traditions use a different calendar than the Eastern / Orthodox Christian traditions. Another difference in the way the season is observed is that in the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions Sundays are considered “Feast Days” and excluded from the count, while during “Great Lent” Sundays are included.

The holy month of Ramadān is another observation within an Abrahamic religion and it also involves a different calendar than the others – so the overlap in holy times is not always the same. While the fasting from sunrise to sunset during the holy month is a holy obligation (for those who are physically able) and one of the Five Pillars of Faith in Islām, I normally don’t focus on the ritual until the end of the holy month – which includes a night that is considered the holiest night of the month, a night of revelation and destiny.

Within the Jewish community, there are people who started observing the sacred ritual of Counting the Omer on the second day of Passover. This is a period of 49 days, a total of 7 weeks, leading up to Shavuot (also known as the “Festival of Weeks”) – which itself is a commemoration of the Jewish people receiving the Torah. Commonly associated with Jewish mysticism (Kabbalism), the practice of Counting the Omer involves 7 of the 10 attributes of the Divine that are found on the Tree of Life. Each day is associated with a different attribute, as is each week – which means that for 49 days people are focusing-concentrating-meditating on the interrelation of two attributes.

This week the overall focus is Netzach, (“endurance” or “sustainability”) which is associated with the right hip and leg. Netzach can also be associated with “flow” in that it is the drive that keeps us flowing and going. Like a good majority of religious observations, sunset marks the beginning of a new day – which means at least one of my classes overlaps Days 24 and 25: endurance in balance (or compassion) and endurance in endurance.

“Every hero begins their mission by trying to avoid it…. We do the same in many areas of our life, and the focus of Netzach-Endurance is healing this spiritual-emotional character-flaw to achieve more in our life.”

 

 

– quoted from The Kabbalah Sutras: 49 Steps to Enlightenment by Marcus J. Freed  

Of course, there are other lenses through which we can view attributes of the Divine. If you look at a Bahá’i calendar, for instance, you will notice that each of the 19 months is named for an attribute (or name) of God – as each day. People within the Bahá’i Faith are currently in the second month of the year, which is particularly notable because it is the month of Ridván, “The Most Great Festival.”

Exactly one month after the Vernal Equinox, which also marks the beginning of the Bahá’i New Year, the twelve-day festival of Ridván honors the time that the founder of the Bahá’i Faith, Bahá’u’lláh spent in the original garden of Ridván prior to being exiled to Constantinople. The Arabic word ridván means “paradise” and I indicated “the original garden,” because in addition to the garden outside of Baghdad, where the great spiritual leader (considered a manifestation of the Divine) prepared for his exile, there is a second garden with the same name in Israel, which Bahá’u’lláh visited after years of exile.

The festival is a time of a sacred time of prayer, reflection, and celebration. It begins two hours after sunset to commemorate the actual time in 1863 when Bahá’u’lláh entered the Najíbíyyih Garden with his family and secretary and began to receive the visitors who wanted to wish him well before his departure. It was during this time, in the space he called “paradise,” that Bahá’u’lláh declared himself as the most recent manifestation of God; that all religious wars were repealed; that there would not be another manifestation of the God for another 1,000 years; and that the names of God (or attributes of the divine) are manifested in all things. To honor the fact that he made these announcements, the Universal House of Justice issues an annual Ridván message. There are also elections held during this time. The first day (yesterday), the ninth day, and the twelfth day are considered the most holy of days.

In Hinduism, the fall celebration of Navaratri is a celebration of divine feminine energy, specifically of Durga, the divine mother, in various manifestations. There are three other celebrations, also referred to as Navaratri (which means “nine nights” in Sanskrit) including this spring celebration, which is also considered by some to be the Indian New Year. In some regions of India, the spring celebration of Chaitra Navaratri, culminates on the final day with Rama Navami – a celebration of the birth of Lord Rama. Many people mark this occasion by telling stories of Rama, including reciting parts of the epic poem the Rāmāyana and partaking in various forms of bhakti (“devotional”) yoga like kirtan. Some people will wash and clothe miniature statues of a baby Rama, before placing the baby in the cradle. Many will also fast and engage in spiritual reflection on this special day that is, in some regions, an optional government and bank holiday.

“Lord Ram gave Hanuman a quizzical look and said, ‘What are you, a monkey or a man?’ Hanuman bowed his head reverently, folded his hands and said, ‘When I do not know who I am, I serve You and when I do know who I am, You and I are One.’”

 

– quoted from the epic Sanskrit poem Ramacharitmanas (Lake of the Deeds of Rama) by Goswami Tulsidas

 

Please join me today (Wednesday, April 21st) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

 

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, playlists, 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). If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can also donate to me directly. Donations to Common Ground are tax deductible; class purchases and donations directly to me are not necessarily deductible.)

 

 

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