Embodied Practice for Hanukkah

candlelight-yoga

There is a mystical teaching that the light of the first day of Creation is hidden away in this world as the Or HaGanuz, the Hidden Light. This light is no ordinary light. The Or HaGanuz brings the heat of timeless, limitless energy that penetrates and permeates matter and animates our physical bodies. It also exists as light waves of thought and feeling within our more subtle bodies of emotion and intellect. The Zohar states that this first light of Creation, this hidden light, is hesed, lovingkindness. Vibrating within each of us is this primordial, hidden light of love.

In the Hanukkah story, hesed wins. Light increases and drives away darkness. Hanukkah thus challenges me to reveal and to embody the healing power of love. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Sometimes, being a Heart Warrior, a modern Maccabee, requires the courage to feel how my body holds fear and the willingness to let it be touched and softened by the transforming presence of loving attention. Other times, being a Maccabee means standing firm and strong, emboldened by the love I feel lighting me up inside.

How do we embody this miraculous power of love? We bring awareness to the body and pay attention without judgment to whatever is arising. We meet our bodies with compassion and curiosity. When we can receive our own beings just as we are, we strengthen a vessel that can reveal the hidden light of hesed that is inscribed in our very cells, no matter what we are feeling in the moment.

Begin standing with your feet hip distance apart. Let your arms rest by your sides. Close your eyes and feel your feet on the floor. Draw a deep breath through your nose. Watch the breath move down through the neck, the chest and belly, into your hips, and back out through the nose. Repeat several times. Visualize the breath kindling the light hidden inside the face, the neck, your heart, under the shoulder blades, your belly, and hips.Allow the sense of light to grow inside you with each soft, deep breath.

Next, again begin by feeling your feet firmly on the floor. From that grounding, as you inhale, raise your arms and clench your fists as you cross the forearms over each other in front of your chest. Furrow your brow and clench your jaw.

As you exhale, release the fists and uncross your arms. Let the arms lower towards the earth with palms open and facing forward.

Repeat several times. Notice what happens to the energy in your body as you clench your fists and cover your heart. Notice what you feel as you soften the hands and release the hands and arms by your sides. Explore moving your arms and torso in ways that clench, hold and guard your chest, and those which open and soften the hands and chest. See, with curiosity, how you move between states of open and closed. See if you can bring the state of openness to the following posture even as you engage your muscles and find your strength:

Star Pose

Take your feet wide apart, facing forward. Inhale and lift your arms up to shoulder height. Spread the fingers wide. Inhale and rotate the arms so the palms face the sky and the armpits are opened upwards. Strengthen through your legs, toning through the upper thighs. Lift up through the crown and the sides of your waist as you send the tail bone to the floor and draw your stomach in towards the spine. Enjoy several long inhalations and exhalations as you sustain the muscular energy to remain firm and toned in this pose. With each breath in and out, visualize the cells of your bones, muscles, organs, tissues, each filling with light and growing softly brighter. Fill yourself with light and scan your body. Where are you holding very tightly? Can you soften and let the light bathe you there? Stand firm and burn softly, and, brightly as you embody a luminary pulsing with the light of Divinity.

Now return your feet to stand under your hips and let your arms rest by your sides. In the stillness, notice what your body is feeling as you receive the gifts of having sown seeds of light through your body in the pose. Is there tingling? Warmth? Sweat? A quickened heart rate? Feel all that there is to feel in this body now. There is no need to do anything other than be right here.

What if, as Carl Sagan asserts, we really are stardust? And what if these stellar beings we are hold the energy of hesed, lovingkindness, hidden in our DNA and physical bodies since the beginning of creation? Practice shining this love through your eyes today as you greet others. Shine it into your own heart, belly, hips, hands and head. Become a modern Maccabee, letting your firm yet open stance become the vessel through with divine light burns steadily and bright.

With warmth and blessings,
Rabbi Myriam Klotz

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