Itís 5:05AM. Like clockwork, I beat my alarm by ten minutes as a self-affirming exercise that Iím still on my game. My mind reviews the dayís ensuing balancing act as I traverse the crevice between darkness and dawn to feed
a pack of snuggling creatures that, like me, only moments before were chasing rabbits in their dreams. I gather yesterdayís composting and take a short jaunt down to the barn to feed my stand-in-her-sleep mare Lucy and her hay-burrowing sidekick Mr. Pigfuddles. After picking up after what only 2,600 pounds of four-legged love can generate, I make some tea and check out the surf report to determine the dayís dawn patrol destination. Ah, morning has broken.
Carried out with the precision of an ROTC cadet, I pick out my alter egoís wardrobe for the day, grab my board and wetsuit, and burn rubber (not petrol) to my local surf break. And thatís my moment. There I am in the water, one with nature Ė if you donít count the 20 other neoprene-clad guys sitting in the line up next to me. If Iím lucky I get an hour of surf time before I have to quick change on the side of the road and head into work. I then move through my day in a perpetual state of implementation with very little thinking time, juggling client work, philanthropic commitments and various eco-evangelical side projects. A journey? Absolutely. Spiritual? Youíve got to be kidding.
Can spirituality be something you can wedge into your day, between picking up the dry cleaning and unloading 50-pound bags of horse feed into the hay barn? Or is it something you make time for, like working out and meditation? Maybe itís like balance, a concept you donít quite master at first, but then, after a succession of seemingly unsuccessful attempts, voila, it just happens. And like balance, G-d help the woman who tries to comprehend spirituality through theory alone. This much I know: it takes practice.
Like anything else, the practice of spirituality requires a conscious effort. Taking the time to stop, focus and perform an act that connects you more with the process than with the end result. I am certain that the key to spirituality lies deep within each of us just waiting to be unleashed. And while my spiritual expression seems to hibernate more often than not, it is stirred when I take off on the perfect wave, hold hands with my husband, navigate a rock face, explore random new thoughts, dance with my dogs when no oneís watching, make a meal with no recipe or ride horseback into the hills guided only by the full moon. It is during these moments that I am overcome with gratitude, filled with joy and enveloped in bliss. But while all good, these personal interpretations of spirituality provide only fleeting fulfillment and leave me feeling somewhat bereft of a constant spiritual connection.
So whom do you have to know to get an all-access-laminate to the spiritual backstage? How can one cultivate a sustaining feeling of spiritual connectedness?
While spirituality isnít necessarily religious in nature, religion is all about spirituality. Or at least it should be. History aside, religion in its purest form provides people with a path to spiritual consciousness, plain and simple. It offers the tools and the guidance for us to reach fulfillment. On the highway to holiness, achieving a sustainable spiritual connection elevates us above lifeís speed bumps, making our existence that much more meaningful.
So in knee-jerk fashion, I call upon my Jewish roots. My quest for spiritual sustainability begins with simple acts that help usher in tranquility and reflection. Little rituals that I did without question as a child now remind me to stop, breathe and reflect on what was and what is yet to come. In fact, after further exploration, Iíve discovered that Judaism offers 613 of these trigger mechanisms or mitzvot to help us reconnect with our source.
Whether itís making a commitment to light the Shabbat candles on Friday night, bake challah, observe mikvah, affix a mezuzah at your door, keep a kosher home, or put a penny a day in a designated household charity jar, these are all small ways in which I can take a moment out of my chaotic schedule to nurture spiritual empowerment and experience that elusive sense of balance.
Each Friday, when I take a moment and light Shabbat candles, the sleeping spiritual giant within me most certainly stirs. Something brightens, the divine spark grows, and I recognize a familiar launching pad for my own spiritual orbit. Making this part of my practice helps make spirituality part of my existence.
Once again, I remind myself that itís as much about the journey as the destination. Destinations are reached and then left behind. But journeys, well they can go on forever.
Excerpt from FridayLight.org, an online community of women celebrating Shabbat. FridayLight.org is currently creating an anthology of stories such as this one. If you have an original story, poem or prayer to share, please submit it to Marina@FridayLight.org.