What would you say if I told you I spend a full 25 hours in prayer, meditation, study and chanting while fasting in a spiritual setting? Would you ask for more details, wondering if this was a Buddhist retreat that I paid a few hundred dollars to attend? Or perhaps you would visualize a native peoples sweat lodge ceremony, and ask me for the sign-up information. Or you might have wonderful images of emotional breakthroughs at an exotic women’s retreat. All of these would evoke positive and supportive images.
But what if I told you that this was a Jewish holy-day, in fact the holiest day in the Jewish calendar (yes we have our own calendar), would you recoil and ask how I can participate in a patriarchal organized religion? This ritual that I spend a month preparing for each year, bursts me out of my self-judgmental inner troupe and into a sense of wild self awareness. Each year I am haunted by the memories of thousands of years of prayers, chants, hopes, dreams and songs that swirl and dance around. This day changes me, and especially this year.
I don’t know why this year was so very impactful, why I ended up in tears that flowed from the final hours through the night. Was it the time spent with my 90 year old mentor whose husband of 67 years is in skilled nursing care? Or perhaps the healing prayers that remind us all that life is fragile and unpredictable? Or even the prayers of “yizkor” where we honor the souls of those who have died in the past year. The next morning I awoke with a conviction to live as if this was my last year on the planet, committed to shedding the controlling judgments and restrictive regulations that I surround me. I have walked away from all those voices that have tried to cage and chain me.
This is life on the loose, a life guided by my soul’s craving, while walking in my power without fear or apology. A life traveling my unique path without explanation or justification. All of this from a ritual birthed thousands of years ago in another time and place that is easily dismissed as archaic and obsolete. From a tradition seen as limiting and rule bound. All of this from a month of preparation and a 25-hour day that renewed my spirit.