Yom Kippur occurred on a Saturday this year, which gives the normally austere-feeling holiday (Repent! Atone!) a different flavor.
Sabbath is the day of lounging and eating heavy food that makes you want to doze on the floor afterwards, and joking out with family and friends and Just Saying No to work. (This is far from my regular practice, mind you, but it’s still the idea perched in my brain. A weekly labor day.)
Traditionally, Jews wear white on both of these days, a symbol of joyful marriage to what can’t be easily seen.
As a grazer, I suck at fasts, and typically break down by mid-afternoon. The headaches, the hunger pangs, the weakness are the kinder, gentler symptoms compared to my level of kvetchiness. So for a few years, I gave up fasting, arguing that my blood sugar didn’t like it, and how is a person supposed to feel connected to something greater if she’s miserable?
But this year, I decided at the last minute to make a go at it again. It helped that I have been suffering from an awful bout of insomnia, and one glass of white wine with an early dinner knocked me out until Saturday morning.
As I jokingly emailed a mentor-friend, all my misdeeds had been committed in previous years, so there was no need to go to synagogue and chant ashamnu v’bagadnu v’ifuckedupnu. And what of the prayers for the dead said on Yom Kippur? My dead, I told my friend, had gotten a damn poetry book out of me this year. More than that they want? Start haunting other relatives.
This is true, in a way. The day before Yom Kippur, my poetry chapbook, The Last of My Village, became available. And it is, in fact, dedicated to my dead. (The actual list of my dead would be too long. This doesn’t stop them from wanting to hanging out, as friends who have been to my place for dinner when the TV goes on in the other room can attest.)
The title alludes to a few things, including Greenwich Village (old stomping grounds) and that feeling I’ve carried of being the only one left standing.
Which, ironically, is also shifting. This past spring, my first cousins and I got together for the first time since…whenever the last funeral was that brought us all together. We’re set to see each other this Saturday again, hopefully to catch up and lounge and eat and nap.
Back to Yom Kippur. Working with energy — in writing (yes even this blog) or movement or laying my hands on someone who’s not feeling so hot — feels like the most spiritual cleansing work I can do. So it made sense to spend the day with two teacher-friends and study a holistic approach to energy called Polarity Therapy, rather than go to synagogue. Polarity works with the body’s own energetic system, unlike Reiki which channels frequencies from within the greater field into our bodies. (Although as Hermes said: “as above so below” — so at some point energy is energy is energy — and it’s all connected and reflective. For a fascinating read on this, check out Michael Talbot’s “The Holographic Universe.”)
In this basic overview (the full course is 650 hours), we learned the history and principles of Polarity (harking back to high school physics), reviewed the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether) and elemental chakras, and three axis of movement of energy in the body, and then spent time working on each other. Several of us had powerful experiences: at one point when my friend John was working on me, I saw a starburst of turquoise and felt a sonic boom that corresponded to a sensation of all my teeth being crunched and shattered, jolting me awake.
Maybe I was just contemplating what I would have bit into, had I been eating. (Contrary to custom and in deference to my blood sugar, I did sip on herbal tea all day long.) Seriously though, the energy work definitely made the fast a lot easier and dealt with a headache-in-making very effectively. (Perhaps this could make for interesting marketing at a progressive shul?)
On Sunday, a friend asked if I could give him Reiki, and I decided to mix the session up, with the first half being Polarity and the second Reiki. I figured this would help get his body’s system back in whack and then see if he could handle the sweet, higher frequencies. He felt better after, and I hope to continue figuring out when one set of energy tools is helpful, rather than another.
So mix up your practices this week. Meditate while walking in the woods, reflect with a lover rather than on canvas, feast instead of fast. And then see how far apart from each other your practices actually are.
And now a word from our sponsors. (Seriously.)
- If you’re interested in purchasing The Last of My Village, please go here.
- This weekend I’m teaching two workshops at Quiet Mind: yoga and writing on Friday the 24th from 8-10 pm (this month’s theme: time); and on Sunday the 26th, an introduction to the musculoskeletal system with Daniel Hickman.
Hope to see you soon!