Celebration: Reviving the Sacred in Holidays

celebration

By  Jack Adam Weber  L.Ac., Dipl. C.H.

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

The word ‘celebration’ can have many connotations. Most often, though, celebration conjures images of excitement and explosive fun. American holidays fit this description. Our holidays largely lack spiritual context and meaning, save for expressing our love to one another and sharing good times. The former is left to the purview of religious holidays, which don’t fare much better. We are missing the sacred in our celebrations, which would honor the things and experiences for which we are truly grateful, that truly fulfil us and give us life, with more respect, as if we were truly grateful... which collectively we may really not be.

Sacred celebration not only leaves us feeling more whole, but renews us and does no to little damage to everything that celebration touches. In some way, we feel better after sacred celebration, even if “better” is simply to acknowledge what is true — true about ourselves and about the world today, the next year, and hopefully longer. Grief and despair, decline and decay, can also be celebrated, as central to the cycle of fertility in both soma and psyche, in our relationship with nature. These are, in fact, already celebrations.

When we celebrate what is sublimely beautiful, gifted, and enchanting, gross expression is often not needed. In fact, such appreciation requires a good dose of quiet so as to be consolidated in us, sacredly and quietly abided by, not dispersed in gross outward expression. I am not saying we have to be monks, but we would do well to be more monk-like, in almost all we do.

Celebrations that cause damage not only to ourselves but to the world around us, that have little heart, and merely serve as more diversion and drama, are emblematic of our footprint on Earth. They are part of the problem. Ironically, it is on the holidays (at least American ones) that humanity collectively increases pollution on the planet. A return of ‘the sacred’ to our days, and especially (ironically enough) to our celebrations would go far towards restitution.

Our short-term celebrations bear the same signature as our short-term pleasures, short-term consumption habits, short-term environmental policies, and short-mindedness. Just as we need new consumer models that ensure durability, we need celebrations that profoundly shift our focus, habits, and our effects on what surrounds us. Last week, on New Year’s Eve, amid the noise, I imagined the body of Nature cringing in disgust, as if saying, “Ugh, there go those humans again hurting my ears and polluting my veins, as if every non-holiday were not enough!”

I grow more that convinced that celebrating major holidays by way of reckless banter and superficial fun is a way not only to demonstrate our lack of appreciation, but to avoid appreciating what we have, ironically enough. Many of us feel awkward in social contexts trying to find meaning and genuinely express ourselves in frivolous environments. This is why we have the sacred settings of circles, ritual, and long pauses between meaningful words uttered in such places. We feel awkward at holiday parties, especially if we want a meaningful experience, so getting drunk helps assuage the discomfort, as another form of anaesthetizing ourselves from a sober reckoning of much more.

Many of us pass through holidays with excitement, anxiety, stress, and a secret desire to return to “ordinary life.” We party, entertain, and then can barely function the next day. What if we celebrated in a way that gave us something to make the rest of our days truly better? This would introduce a new pattern, a new signature to our ordinary days, which suffer mediocrity in the shadow of the pumped-up grandeur of holidays. This too is part of the problem.

I am convinced that humanity needs to stop partying and start appreciating if it wants any chance to survive into the future, and most definitely in a way that is worth living. I am convinced that humans feel the need to have so much superficial fun because we don’t feel fulfilled, that we are not grateful for the gift of life. I think our celebrations are another form of consumerism, driving our planet and ourselves into the ground – and neglecting to use such opportunities to sanctify our lives in a context of comprehensive wellness.

We have driven Nature to the brink in an utterly disgusting display of projected self-hatred. This desperate situation has created the imminent extinction of our species. There is nothing “fun” about this. Yet sacred celebration, as ceremony, can accommodate this grim reality as the ceremony of embracing darkness and life’s failing side — Like decline and decay, sadness, loss, and remorse also are celebrations in their own right. A fertile exploration and sharing of these emotions, along with their attendant revelations and wisdom, is largely only  possible in sacred contexts.

Just because we are in the doghouse does not mean that we can’t be also be happy, excited, impassioned, excited, and joyous. We just have to make sure that we don’t use these feeling states to puff ourselves up into denial. We can, I assure you, be fully conscious of our plight and still find great, if not greater, meaning, purpose, and passion in our lives. Many don’t have healthy relationships with pain, and we unrealistically imagine that if we were to fully embrace our hurts and griefs, personal and collective, we could not also lead passionate, meaningful, connected lives. Indeed, the opposite is true; embracing darkness engenders a depth, passion, and belonging that we could not experience without them. They are integral to our joy and a meaningful life, even (and again, especially) in times of greatest despair.

A sober, grounded passion for life welcomes an acknowledgement of what we have done to the planet. Such sacred celebration is permeated by great humility, remorse, introspection, and heartfelt resolve. I think it’s time our president call an emergency Marshal Law for holidays – under which holidays would all be employed toward acknowledging environmental collapse and correcting human folly!

When most of our holidays include extroverted displays of extravagance, noise, and the production of trash – no matter what the state of the world – what are we really celebrating? Life? People toss around notions of celebration as if to not join the party is a sin (sin’s original meaning is “to miss the mark”); I imagine they are uncomfortable with their own relationship to holiday and celebration. To me, it is a sin to blindly participate and not speak out. If we truly appreciate life, it seems there would simply be less need to announce it so loudly and desecrate what supports our very lives.

The tradition of New Year’s resolutions are a worthy sacred function of the holiday. Yet these resolutions mostly fall unconscious to the priority of partying and superficial socializing. If we cared enough, we would consider our resolutions after a good night’s sleep, or during sleep in our dreams, not tanked out on too much food, stimulation, and distraction.

It is taboo to be ‘against’ fun. But fun comes in different flavors. I, for one, am nourished and vitalized by honesty, care, depth, sacred space, laughter, absurdity, genuine conversation, exercising my creative imagination, the awe and beauty of nature, and healing. I celebrate by experiencing them. In the spirit of sane absurdity I often celebrate the holidays paradoxically — I don’t celebrate them, not literally anyway.   I abstain from celebrating as way of commemorating every other day, committing to make sure I celebrate their message every day of the year.

I don’t expect you to have my kind of fun, but I do hope you will consider if the fun you have is truly fun for you, and if your brand of fun enlivens or injures the world around you. And if your fun desecrates others and the environment, then I encourage you to consider what sort of fun doesn’t do this, if you can celebrate this way, and if not, then at least be conscious of why not.

I think we need to start having a lot more of a very different kind of fun on the planet and spend a lot less time being frivolous, unless you are a child. Sacred fun is embodied, has persistence, recycles and conserves, uplifts in an enduring fashion, leaves us truly renewed and has vision and respect for the future. At the very least it does no harm. We need to rekindle the fun of watching the simple fireworks of nature and let that overflow our hearts and instill in us a relationship with the quiet, with the ordinary. For, it is the ordinary that is suffering so desperately all around us. Most of our major holidays have pagan, earth-centered origins. Yet, ironically, the sacred beauty of nature usually goes unnoticed by us, especially on these holidays.

We wish each other well and for a healthy new year; this also serves a sacred function. But perhaps we could spend some time on New Year’s Eve reflecting and sifting through what we do with our time and energy and resolve to make changes, which might include a commitment to keep checking in with ourselves and supporting others to stay on track. Yet this sort of discipline we loathe and reject, as we reject most discipline that does not serve our hunger for  immediate gratification. Can we then be mature enough to act responsibly by rooting our issues with commitment and discipline, especially as it affects our environment?

It seems to me that the more we celebrate outwardly, the more we lose internally. The more we need to celebrate externally and superficially, the fewer emotional-spiritual resources we actually have. Our dearth of internal resources mirrors the resources we plunder externally. Our excessive partying and meaningless social distractions serve to further impoverish us and the planet.

So, this first week or two of the New Year, will you spend some sacred time in nature, if only, and perhaps especially, by the tree in your own yard? Will you write down some sacred New Year’s resolutions you will not only do but also stop doing?

With the world in collapse, it is my prayer that more and more of us, if only as a last gesture of honor and humility, commit to celebrating in ways that remedy even a fraction of the sacred wound we have collectively inflicted on the planet. And may our celebrations be every day.

“Happy” New Year to you.

The Nourish Practice

The Nourish Practice for Deep Rejuvenation

Jack Adam Weber’s “The Nourish Practice”  is an easy, guided meditation-Qi Gong practice in radical gratitude and self-love. It is an Earth-based, body-centered practice — at once physiological and mythological — that is deeply relaxing and replenishing, especially for modern-day burn-out syndrome, and requires little physical effort.

The Nourish Practice  “resets your nervous system” and fosters a rich inner life. You  can  purchase The Nourish Practice as a CD or Digital Download here.

Previous  articles by Jack Adam Weber:

About the author:

Jack Adam WeberJack Adam Weber, L.Ac. is a Chinese medicine physician, author, celebrated poet, organic farmer, and activist for body-centered spirituality. His books, artwork, and provocative poems can be found at his website PoeticHealing.com. He is also the creator of The Nourish Practice, an Earth-based rejuvenation meditation. Weber is available by phone for medical consultations and life-coaching.

You can connect with Jack Adam Weber on Facebook or by emailing [email protected].

 


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