This is the time of the year, when my tribe declares a moratorium on everything ordinary. Beginning on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and ending 10 days later on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. At this time your task is to take a break from doing things the way you’ve always done them, and think about how you might like to be doing some things differently, Is there something you need to give up, stop doing ( or start doing), in order to live the life you really want. This is a chance to do some heavy editing of your life’s story; to look at yourself, with your competencies as well as your flaws and foibles, and get another crack at living a meaningful life; which is not simply a successful life, but a righteousness and forgiveness, so that you will be inscribed in the Book of Life before the sun sets on the Day of Atonement.
Every culture has similar ceremonial rituals; a time to cleanse oneself, to be exposed before the Great Spirit; to present yourself intimately without being afraid or running away. The best way I know how to be open and prepare myself for the journey within is to participate in a Native American Sweat Lodge Ceremony. I’ve incorporated this ritual into my tribal spiritual life, and every year on the Sabbath of Repentance, ‘Shabbat Shuva’, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur I get together with relatives to prepare ourselves to be inscribed. We are not all Jews, but each of us comes prepared to get out of our heads and open our hearts, look at ourselves undefensively, and make some choices about how we’d like to be remembered. This time has always been pretty somber for me.
This year, I asked my adolescent grandsons to help me prepare the Lodge. The three of us would set up the lodge, build the fire, make the ceremonial water wand, and prepare the altar and instruments. When they arrived they brought along a CD and asked if I had a CD player that I could bring outside. They wanted to listen to tunes while they worked. I told them I’d hoped they might want to hear some different music. I had in mind telling them some stories about what we were doing out there. Of course a debate ensued, they presented the possibility that both could be done; and I said bopping to rap music would be distracting to the spirit of the work.
We started working outside as we continued to talk when some girls walked by that they knew. This led into a discussion about coupled relationships, and contemporary sexuality that got pretty intense, and very funny. Which then led to them asking me to teach them some limericks to In China They Eat It With Chili, which their parents said I had considerable familiarity. It started off pretty tame but they wanted the raunchiest lyrics and soon we were draping the sweat lodge in gales of hysterical laughter.
I flashed on its appropriateness at such a sacred time and holy place, but it didn’t last long; it seems to me that this is the music of life. Here with my grandsons, I watch my life story unfold sweetly,
To all of my relations, in this season of renewal I wish for you intimate laughter in all your sacred places and may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.