Friday, December 13, 2013

A Shamanic Perspective of Advent.

Christmas is in 12 days. 

When I was a child I loved the idea of the Advent calendar.  I was brought up Catholic and was educated by nuns at the convent.  In Latin the word “advent” means “coming”.   It explicitly speaks of anticipation and merriment two incredibly important characteristics in the experience of celebration.  For example, through time “we” told the story of Saint Nick and his reindeer to build up a sense of mystery and expectancy in children.  The same way children of the antiquity expected the coming of Christ.  The notion of having to prove ourselves good to a Father figure who only wants to be generous and make us happy,  invited children to prepare for his coming.   Where the hope and keenness during Advent was more spiritual in the past, it became more secular and focused on consumerism in modern days.  One way or another the month of December is devoted to the study and journey of magic and anticipation. 

Advent calendars were big at the convent.  They were more like wooden boxes with 30 drawers hidden behind little doors.  Within each drawer we’d find a small gift not unlike the little toys given to children during the 8 days of Hanukah.  Actually Advent calendars first appeared in Germany during the 1800’s and were based on the Hebrew Bible – hence it’s not strange to find a weaving between Hebrew and Christian views within this tradition.  If we were 24 pupils in a class we’d get the pleasure of opening one door and receiving one gift, which was usually the case.  What I remember most about the Advent calendar was how great it felt to anticipate. As soon as my children were old enough I introduced the tradition to them. 

Just last week as we explored Lintd’s chocolate boutique here in Montreal – my daughter stopped in front of the Advent calendar.  She mentioned how wonderful it was for both her and her brother to anticipate the little chocolate at the end of every day. 

“It always led to Christmas,” she said with a smile, “and it was always perfect.”

When my husband and I decided to have children we made a conscious decision to celebrate the Solstice more so than Christmas..   We were both committed to a shamanic path and we both agreed that it was important to bring back “medicine / power” to the word “celebrate.”  We didn’t want any celebration in our life to be dictated by national economy or social indoctrination.  We also didn’t want our gatherings to be about drinking and about passive aggressive jokes and teasing.  We both craved to be with people we enjoyed and with people who enjoyed us. 

For years while we transitioned between the old ways of celebrating and our not-so-defined-utopic-new ways we didn’t celebrate much of anything at all.  Obviously not too many of our friends and family members were on board when it came to a drastic life change.  Where we tried to express it as a personal, simple shift in attitude many of the people around us took it as insults and criticism.  After all we were pointing to specific behaviours and we were saying these behaviours were detrimental to us, and our children.  It took over a decade before we realized that our commitment to a humble self-discovery had turned into a harsh and offensive attack on people’s lifestyles.  Unfortunately we had to literally let go of the past and the people in it – to be able to be us.

So much of the work G and I do focuses on relationships and how we can handle transitions and transformation without having to blow up our lives quite literally.  With 20 years of experience we still get impressed with how people perceive change as a result of a dramatic and emotional devastation.  So many people devote to self-sabotage and self-destruction in hope to produce “change” in their lives.  Years and years of commitment to the “big bang theory” when instead we could be teaching them the step-by-step process; which leads quite naturally to change. 

No doubt there’s a need for surrender and death in the process of change; but does it need to be a forced demolition and complete annihilation of everything and everyone around you?  No!  At least not from “my” perspective.  I say this because even after giving this short lecture to people most will chose to do it their way no matter how painful it may be…

Looking back I realize that it’s never easy to bring forth change because it means acknowledging a need for it.  Of course “acknowledgement” implies looking at what empowers our life and what doesn’t…

Strangely enough it was during those somewhat depressive years that I enjoyed Christmas, New Year, Easter etc… the most.  It seemed that our quest to understand the meaning behind these festivities and our place in them is what finally determined the value of celebrating for us. I remember spending one Christmas passing out sleeping bags to the homeless.  Honestly, it completely changed our perspective on life; poverty and homelessness. Another Christmas we opened the doors to anyone who didn’t have family to celebrate with.  Again, we were surprised at how much fun we could have with people who were so diversified in culture, age and lifestyle. No matter how many strange ideas we came up with in those early years – we enjoyed every single outcome.

While all of this was happening my babies grew into toddlers, then into children.  We didn’t realize it then; but they were being impacted by our experiences and their views on “celebration” were being shaped.   Today, they are both young adults and I love having them around during the holidays because they are the ones now who bring forth the new crazy ideas …  They are creating the traditions of tomorrow and they are redefining the word “celebration;” bringing small transitions and change into our World just as it should naturally be. 

I now understand that change doesn’t hurt when it’s about the natural occurrence of growth, trust and love (empowerment). It only hurts when we have to look at the unresolved that was overlooked or ignored for so long and even assimilated between the threads of “medicine” that we call our “personal story.” 

Celebration has been defined as adventure, mystery, phenomenon and togetherness in our home.  It’s become something we clearly anticipate and look forward to.  The idea of Advent in our home was replaced by  “initiation” where we find the Winter Solstice on the Wheel (where the wind of the initiator resides NW).  It’s still about “preparing for what is coming.”  Rather then waiting for the Father or St-Nick we work all year through with the help of “wishes” to find “the Father / Mother within” – that parent that can generously give to us what is ours to receive. 

The true meaning of EMPOWERMENT.


Wheelkeeper said...

Thank you for this reminder of Advent and the need for healthy change.

In letting go of the consumer part of Christmas, I feel a lot happier and lighter. It took a few years to change my attitudes towards it. I went from loving the Spirit of the Christ love, the music and coming together with loved ones... to feeling depressed and lonely after my parents died. Christmas became something to avoid. Then the stress of shopping and feeling compelled to have to buy gifts became a burden and I stopped that too. Letting go of the consumerism indoctrination was a huge relief.

Advent is not something I thought about much. Celebrating Winter Solstice has become much more important, with the making of wishes for the year to come. It has much more significance for me.

I am more attuned to the season and looking forward to the return of longer days. Meanwhile I give thanks for my warm home, community, food, music, health and more..

Wheelkeeper said...

Happy Solstice Lisa!