Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Sacred Writing

This past Saturday, I attended the Bar Mitzvah of my college roommate's younger son, a day-long party beginning with the ceremony in the morning, followed by a bagel lunch, then hanging out at my friend's house, and finally a "clowning around" party at night with circus food and lessons from professional performers in plate spinning and feather balancing for the kids.

I was raised Catholic myself and escaped what I saw as the iron hand of organized religion as soon as I was able. For many years, I associated spirituality with the rigidity and misogyny of the church. As I've gotten older, I've come to see the the power of self-chosen, self-directed spirituality. Yet, as I sat in the informal "California hippie" synagogue on Saturday, gazing at a beautiful quilt portraying the Tree of Life, I gained a new appreciation for communal spirituality in the music of the prayers and the rabbi's insights into how tradition informs our lives. Unlike the sort of top-down approach I knew in my church-going days, the 13-year-old who becomes Bar Mitzvah in this very liberal congregation not only learns to read the Torah in Hebrew, s/he prepares a thought paper on the relevance of his/her passages to modern life and leads the assembled group in a surprisingly profound discussion. This recognition of the young person's intellect, creativity and leadership was very moving to me, and I wished we had a similar coming of age celebration for my sons. (Of course, I am relieved to be spared the intense planning and expense!)

Writing is my spiritual practice now. When I do my best writing, I draw deep from all of my inner resources and hope to reach others on a deeper level. Perhaps that is why this poem, read at the Bar Mitzvah service on Saturday, spoke even to me (a woman with a bad case of poetry-phobia!)

A person reaches in three directions:
inward to oneself--
up, to God--
out, to others.

The miracle of life is that
in truly reaching
in any direction
one embraces all three.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav


Craig Sorensen said...

Truly, that is what spirituality should be: sharing one's inner vision through their creativity. Shining one's light, as it were.

By doing that, we give something of ourselves to those around us.

I love the poem (and please note, I have not yet given up on my personal mission to help you get past that poetry-phobia.)

Thanks for sharing this!

neve black said...

I love that, Donna. The more introspection we have, the farther our reach becomes of others...words to live by, I think.

Thanks for sharing and reminding.

Erobintica said...

Lovely. And I'll join Craig in the quest to help you move from phobia to philia.

Emerald said...

That poem really resonates with me too.

And yes, the understanding in me is that virtually anything may be a spiritual practice. Indeed, as per the poem, life itself is.

"The more introspection we have, the farther our reach becomes of others"

Nicely put, Neve!

Donna said...

Thank you all so much for your comments! I'm glad the poem spoke to you, all writers I admire greatly :-).

Craig and Robin, I definitely need some rehabilitation with poetry. Perhaps a weekend camping at Robin's country getaway, with Craig as campfire chef (and equipped with lots of chocolate chip cookies). We could commune with nature, sip wine and work on my phobia? Sounds like a good program to me!

And Neve, absolutely, we are told that introspection must be the antithesis to engagement with others, but again, if you do it "well," it helps you to connect with the commonality of the human experience. I feel the truth in that as I get older and maybe even wiser.

Emerald, you are one of my best teachers in bringing spirituality to everyday life. You have a goddess goodness about you that shines through in everything you do.

Well, I'm feeling pretty good right now, lol. Thanks all again!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

A. Love some poetry.
B. The quote is lovely.
C. My heart may be Catholic but my soul is Jewish. I love to use religious themes, history, teachings in my books. Weird, huh.
I'm glad you had a wonderful time, the Bar Mitzvah sounds great.

Donna said...

Welcome, Julia! I'm finding myself much more open to religion now. It is, of course, the most profound of human fictions, and yet I also feel something more in it these days.

Anything that opens our eyes a little wider is a good thing for a writer!