People on both sides of the globe are getting ready for a nine-night, ten-day period that is sacred to millions. It starts this Thursday, September 21 and ends Saturday, September 30 this year, according to the lunar calendar, which is observed by many old traditions.
Here in the West, it marks the Jewish sacred period that starts on Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur. In India, the Hindus celebrate this as Navratri, meaning “nine nights,” a time that they dedicate to the Divine Feminine.
For the Jewish, it is the start of a new year and is followed by a period of reflection and prayer that culminates in Yom Kippur, a day of Atonement when all accounts are squared, so to speak, to start the new year on a fresh page.
For the Hindus, the nine nights signify the battle between the ego and the spirit, separation against oneness, waged by the Divine Goddess Durga, the embodiment of the opposites of courage and compassion. She emerges victorious on Vijayadashmi meaning the Victorious Tenth day when she establishes peace on earth through the ending of duality, bringing about non-duality or At-One-ment.
In another story from Hindu mythology, these nine nights mark the battle between the noble King Rama and the ten headed demon Ravana who abducted Rama’s wife the beautiful Goddess Sita. The glorious tenth day marks the end of the battle and the reunion between Rama and Sita.
Cultural coincidences such as these are always intriguing to me and I see them as evidence that religion is the language of the Divine. Just as languages are different from place to place and express ideas that originated in that place, so also religions differ and express ideas particular to that region. Yet, just as all languages express the universal human experience despite the differences, so also all religions express the underlying Faith that is the common to all despite the differing religious traditions.
Holidays such as Navratri, Yom Kippur and Lent point to a universal idea - the importance of setting aside a period of the year as a sacred time to go within, reflect, release, and start over.
I remember celebrating this annual holiday in India during which time the usual household routine and rules were turned off, with the greatest priority being accorded to the inner work of prayer and Goddess worship in its various forms.
The Goddess represents the feminine principle, which is universal in nature and has nothing to do with gender. She is the Divine in human form, the ultimate paradox, Differentiated Divinity, who lives and breathes in each one of us as a vulnerability that is not weakness and an individuality that serves the collective. Worshipping her, we learn to honor our own complicated, often messy selves as humanly Divine and Divinely human.
Having moved here almost twenty years ago, I continue to observe this tradition: first from a need to keep alive the ancient practices, but more, to allow myself permission to make the inner world a greater priority than outward goals, thereby shrugging off for a while, the constant pressures from the ego. It is like taking a vacation - though not to go out but to go in, retreating to clear out the baggage collected during the year and make space for new experiences. And that baggage is all the residues, the leftovers from the year’s ups and downs. Successes that have gone to the head, failures taken to heart and all other events that have left me out of alignment with my soul.
Taking that time off to cleanse the ego and resurrect my spirit leaves me at the end of that time, feeling like I have emerged from a spiritual cleanse, peaceful and at one again with life, ready to go out and have a go at the illusion of duality once again!
This year’s Sacred Time, which begins Thursday, September 21, assumes even greater importance with the world being so divided on almost everything and almost everywhere. I believe it is even more important now for us to go in and call upon the practices in our respective traditions to heal the divide in ourselves, our relationships, and our world and pray for At-One-Ment.
Most importantly, the point is to enter into this period intentionally: to participate as co-creators of our reality, to support through our internal work the forces of peace and compassion in the world, to manifest world peace through inner peace. Every time we choose to honor our own innate Divinity in its human form, every time we choose love and peace in our meditations, every time we choose to forgive another for their unique brand of Divinity, we choose faith over fear. And as we do that, faith becomes more powerful a force than fear in the world outside.
So join the movement at this sacred time: embrace a regimen, do a cleanse, practice forgiveness and detoxify at various levels to prepare for new beginnings born out of a new inner space.