Dear Friends & Family,
May this communication find you well as I send best wishes for a healthy, safe, and happy holiday season. Thanksgiving is upon us and we’re prompted to pause, practice gratitude, and give of ourselves. The holidays are a time for connection and when we celebrate light. However, for many the holidays can be sad and dark. More than ever it’s vital to look to the light, keep our faith, be kind, and maintain hope for the future. I love the Gandhi quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” which could be paraphrased, be the light you wish to see in others.
As I continue to work on my memoir, I’m prompted to dig deep into self-reflection. This results in regrets about “what could have been” and “why in the hell did I do that?” which leads to “seemed like a good idea at the time.” Sometimes this audit is hugely painful. Yet at other times, I’m in review of the magical experiences I’ve had too. I’ve been given awesome opportunities and have met, worked with, and been influenced by incredible people in the arts and the realms of spirituality, as well as icons in the wellness and entertainment industries. I believe that there was and still is a “divine hand” at play in the form of serendipitous or “chance meetings” that set the trajectory of my life. Another favorite quote I love is Einstein’s “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” The dark times led to the light. Deep depression and failure have led to the highs of success. I remind myself to keep all in spiritual perspective, seek the middle path, and find peace within this struggle. I’ve an abundance of resources that inspire and support me: family, friends, students, teachers, and healers plus a lifetime of coping skills from all my studies. I’m eternally grateful and realize how blessed I am.
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
- Leonard Cohen
Festivals celebrating light abound this time of year. They lift our spirits and bolster our moods. We've got Diwali, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice and Christmas among them. Diwali – literally “row of lights” – was celebrated in late October this year. To me, its grandeur and symbolism usher in all the other holidays that follow in this season. It’s the Hindu festival that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and hope over despair. The goddess associated with this festival is Lakshmi, one of my favorites. She is the personification of prosperity and abundance. Celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains all across the world, this auspicious five-day festival is one of the most important holidays in India.
Diwali is celebrated by wearing traditional Indian outfits and gathering with family and friends. Much preparation is spent on the traditional Indian meal, called a thali, which is a platter holding many dishes including rice, flatbread, vegetables, lentils, chutney made from fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices and raita, a yogurt-based side dish. Special savory snacks and sweets are served such as pakoras, a fried snack made with flour batter mixed with a variety of vegetables and chili peppers. Laddoos – are among the most popular sweets. These small deep-fried sphere-shaped sweets are made with flour rolled with seeds, nuts, spices and soaked in a sweet syrup. The making of rangolis – an Indian folk art – is another delightful activity. Rangoli – “row of colors” – is an intricate decoration created on the ground outside or on the floor of entrances to homes during Diwali. These exquisite designs welcome guests as well as honor the Goddess Lakshmi for her blessings of wealth, good fortune, health and happiness. Rangolis are geometrical and symbolic patterns made from a variety of materials such as flower petals, colored sand, powdered lime stone, lentils, and beans. Stunning firework displays, sky lanterns, and sparklers are also an integral part of Diwali.
Hanukkah, an eight-day festival, is another holiday involving light as metaphor. This year it begins December 18. A candle is lit each night on the menorah and there are readings of scripture as families gather for special meals and gifts. The word Hanukkah means dedication and the holiday symbolizes keeping one's faith beyond all odds. It commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and honors the triumph of a band of rebel Jews known as the Maccabees in reclaiming their temple from the Greek-Syrians (second century B.C.) During the siege and despite having only enough oil for the temple’s sacred light for one day, miraculously, it lasted eight. Eating fried foods – a nod to the miracle of the oil – is one of the many traditions of this holiday. Two of the most popular foods are the latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts.) Gift-giving is a relatively newer practice. Influenced by the gift-exchange at Christmas time which increased in popularity in American culture in the late nineteenth century, American Jews adopted this practice during Hanukkah. However, the giving of Hanukkah gelt, or money, rather than gifts, has been part of its original custom.
“This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled. But there are moments when we can...reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.’”
- Leonard Cohen