A “Religious” Path to Thaw the Soul

So much of our country is under the pervasive, chilled wrap called winter. It seems harder to reach within, to find wholeness when the shell surrounding our souls feels frozen.

I offer the following spiritual practices (called Hanhagot) as potential antidotes to thaw our spirits. These are indeed religious paths, but don’t let the word religious push you away….these are inspired by, but don’t come directly from Sinai.

– Arise each day and express gratitude that you are actually alive. Wiggle your toes, stretch your legs, stretch your arms, and go to the bathroom. If that all works, say thank you that it is all possible.

– Record what comes to your mind first thing when you wake up. Write it down and know that in the state between sleep and wake is a piece of your vulnerable self that may be worth pursuing to have a better understanding of self.

– Kiss your loved one(s) whoever they may be, because you don’t know if you will be able to kiss them again. If you can’t and/or don’t want to, make sure to ask yourself why. It is the sacred that
lives in that relationship, and thus attention and nurture should be contributed.

– Smile at as many people as possible. Everyone needs to be acknowledged, and it might just help them to take the turn or change of direction they need at a crucial crossroads of their journey. It will help you understand that what is going in your life is just not as important as you may think.

– Hush….please hush. Quiet in a noisy world will make space for you when you don’t even know that you need it. There is wisdom in each of us, and to run away from being interactive with that wisdom is to draw away from the world. Shh.. don’t even think about why…just be quiet for a moment longer than you think and your wisdom will come to you at the most important of times.

– Practice one private form of good deed each day. Continue to do public good works as well, but the private kind will help fix your world.

– When things are great, when life is good, when you feel whole, celebrate your joy from the deepest of places. But don’t stay there for days at a time, because then your joy will only be about you. Go back as soon as possible and practice what got you there.

– Engage with every legitimate joy that comes your way. Eat that ice cream cone, see a movie, walk in the park, exercise, study something, go to the ocean, go to a sporting event, read a great book, ride a wave, dance, fly on a plane, walk in the woods, ride a wave, see a bee make honey, play with your dog, engage in friendship and say aloud, “L’Chaim”, to life. We are not ascetics. Connection to the sacred can come strongly through pleasure. Not obsessively or addictively, but in healthy and appropriate doses.

– Seek out friends in relationships that are authentic, meaningful, and intimate. Be vulnerable with them. Be truthful with them. Be critiqued and give that same back with love and the ability to hear. Learn and explore with them. Fantasize with them. Laugh with them. Reconcile with them. Find their soul and have the courage to let them find yours. Give to them generously and find it within you to receive openly in return.

– Make reconciliation. Take stock of yourself and your relationships. Be honest about it. Don’t reconcile until you are ready, but don’t convince yourself that there can never be a “ready”.

– Be humble without putting yourself down. Pride is necessary. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that we are better than anyone else. We all get lost but we can all find our way. Sometimes it is the most unlikely of messengers that redirect our ways.

– No matter, what, have hope. Know that everyday, we can renew ourselves and the world around us. As the seasons change and the night turns into day, we will see that each day can be more whole than the last. If it is day again, we must believe that it can be better.

During these unbearable days of winter, perhaps the above ancient, but new religious practices can navigate our way to wholeness. What do you think?

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