Holidays originated as Holy Days whose purpose was understood as much more than simply giving us a respite from our hard labors. The Holy Days were meant for celebrating the sacred.
The gradual deviation from that original intent touches at the heart of the pervasive discontent of modern society.
Overwhelmed by commercialism, consumerism, materialistic expectations, self-indulgence, and gifts given from a cynical sense of guilt and obligation – is it any wonder that the Holy Days have lost their meaning, leaving human hopes dashed and disappointed?
What if we were to make a conscious decision to bring holiness back into the holidays? Imagine how wonderful it might feel.
Where would we begin?
For those who’ve received the supreme blessing of being immersed in a spiritual tradition, or even of living in a spiritual community, the tangible vibrations of the teachings and of a life among like-minded souls lifts our energy to realms of divine joy and love.
Where Spirit is honored as the highest reality, ritual and remembrance add outward color and inner richness to this earthly life.
Uplifting Holy Day celebrations sparkle like jewels in the yearly calendar. Reverence, devotion, and love replace the empty longing for mere things that can never give us meaning.
If we’ve lost touch with our spiritual roots, we can seek meaning very consciously in the depths of our hearts and souls.
It may require that we make firm choices regarding where we’ll go for the Holy Days, and how we’ll spend this special occasion, and with whom.
We can choose to create temples of our own making in our hearts – by resting, worshipping, honoring the saints, and cultivating the silent contemplation of higher realities.
Our restless minds find it hard to welcome stillness. But music can help – the Messiah, the Blue Danube, Pachelbel’s Canon in D – what to speak of devotional music and chanting; all of these can create a mood of stillness and inner focus.
Nature, too, offers spiritual blessings. Walking through the woods, or finding our center in the astral spine while contemplating ocean vistas, or even sitting quietly on a park bench can help us pull our very lives back into perspective. Curling up with an inspiring book and a cup of tea is restful, restorative, and calming to the weary spirit.
Those who claim not to believe in a God or a higher power, if they would examine their own thoughts, would inevitably find that they do believe in noble qualities such as friendship, courage, and kindness that can be thought of as qualities of a higher power within us, born of the presence of Spirit.
At the very least, contemplating the highest qualities of our inner nature is worship of a sort, and an exercise that can change and ennoble our lives.
As a young monk, Paramhansa Yogananda had an interesting exchange with his guru, Sri Yukteswar.
“What is God?” Sri Yukteswar asked him one day, seemingly out of the blue. Yogananda groped for an answer, “Why, God is everywhere!” he exclaimed.
“Ah,” said Sri Yukteswar – a budding pantheist. No! God is infinite Intelligence and Energy.”
The Eastern scriptures hold that God can take any form the devotee holds dear. Thus, God can come to the Catholic or Orthodox devotee as the Holy Mother, to Hindus as Krishna, and to Buddhists as Quan Yin or Tara.
Sri Yukteswar said that God can manifest to us in eight ways that allow us to commune with Him – as Love, Joy, Peace, Calmness, Wisdom, Power, Sound, and Light.
In Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda promises that even the beginning meditator will soon hear the blissful sound of AUM – the intoxicating melody of Infinity. Over time, as the devotee learns to merge his consciousness more deeply with AUM, he finds his sense of self-identity expanding to embrace God as his own truest and highest Self.
Many simple activities can bring forth joyful springs of spiritual blessing in our hearts.
Expressions of gratitude bring precious gifts to the appreciator.
Even the smallest gifts of service can impart great joy. Acts of kindness, no matter how seemingly insignificant, are not unimportant to our spiritual development – acts as simple as sweeping leaves for a neighbor, or taking a meal to someone in need are deeply important to our own spiritual welfare, far beyond their outward merits.
Imagine how it would fill our hearts to be able to support a needy child in a faraway land (click here), or an abandoned widow in India (click here), or to donate a farm animal to living in abject poverty (click here).
The Internet makes it easy to find meaningful local volunteer opportunities for the Holy Days (click here), or to simply “pay it forward” by random acts of kindness – follow this link.
How will we spend our Holy Days? Will we succumb to the general consciousness of materialism, and to honoring perceived obligations that no longer hold meaning for us – thereby opening ourselves to disappointment? Or will we choose a meaningful holiday that will enrich our lives by lifting our souls?
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