Amy Ward Brimmer

mother daughter wife teacher writer dreamer sister worker seeker activist minister healer student human


Days of Awe

I don't know much about Yom Kippur, but I do know it is the holiest day in the Jewish year, the culmination of a 10-day period that begins with Rosh Hoshanah, the new year. This period is called the Days of Awe. They end with repentance, sacrifice, and purification. Today is the Day of Atonement.

I don't hear that word much, unless I'm reading the Bible or other religious book. Webster's definition includes "reconciliation" and "satisfaction" as descriptors. When I Google "atonement," I get 3 basic items: Yom Kippur, Christian reconciliation with God through the death of Jesus Christ, and the novel and film, Atonement (which is amazing, please see and/or read it when you can).

All discussions of atonement remind us that the original English meaning was literally, "at-one-ment," the bringing together of beings who have become separated. Harmony, peace, and unity are attained. Wholeness is restored.

Restored. That is crucial, because it implies that wholeness and harmony are already present, are the way we're meant to be in community with one another, and with the Divine. (Please substitute whatever word works for you: God, the Force, the Universe, the Way, Nature. The finger that points at the moon is not the moon.) In assessing our mistakes, the harms we have done, our unconscious cruelty and lack of compassion, we are recalibrating ourselves back to how things really are. If we have gotten lost along the way, or traveled down some roads that take us farther from our felt connection with all living beings, we can change direction. Your internal GPS will announce "recalculating," as you move into a restored way of relating to your life.

So atonement doesn't manufacture anything, doesn't produce some special state or mood. It eliminates what is interfering with right relationship. It makes right speech, right action, more likely.

I'm not sure what "awe" means to Jews when they consider the Days of Awe, but to me it points to the amazement that I can be brave enough to look at my failures, selfishness, lack of faith, potential for mean small-mindedness, and my dumb mistakes and say, "Yes. I did all that. I'm capable of some despicable behavior. I am at fault and owe several people apologies." I can see all of it and neither flinch nor be destroyed by it. I can face my frailties, arrogance, fear, and darkness, and when I do, it dissolves. It shows me my growth potential, and it is a blessing to see it. Awareness can hold it all.

The days are getting shorter, the darkness is growing. This is a time of increased looking within, tending the fires for the long cold nights ahead, keeping vigil with the heart-mind. Once I have restored unity with my fellow humans, gotten back on track with the Universal Way, and come home to myself, I move in a fresh direction, full of awe at our innate ability to be One With Another, One With All.

Meditation for today:  May the coming days of ripeness and release bring me the courage to let go of what has been, and may I cultivate the curiosity and fortitude to turn toward whatever is here now, just as it is. I give thanks and praise for unknown blessings already on their way.