Breathing the Festivals

Latifa Kropf, 9/2/2003

In Seasons of Our Joy, I suggested that the festivals of Tishrei are a spiral of spiritual growth — at Rosh Hashanah (the new moon), birth; at Yom Kippur (egg-shaped moon), meeting a Partner; at Sukkot (full moon), harvesting the fruitfulness of that encounter; at Sh'mini Atzeret (waning moon), letting that harvest go to seed underground for winter, carrying new wisdom for the next spiral, the next generation. — Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Latifa Kropf, Jewish-renewal leader and teacher in Virgina, writes:

I have made-up a breathing meditation for the Tishrei cycle.

It goes like this:

Inhale for Rosh Hashanah, the first breath of life/freedom.

Hold the breath (lungs full) to experience the awe of Yom Kippur.

Exhale for Sukkot —offering all we have to God

Hold the breath (lungs empty) at Sh'mini Atzeret and feel the emptiness before beginning the cycle again.

This also spells the letters Hei (in-breath), Vav (Lungs full, body tall), Hei (out-breath), Yod (lungs empty, body small). HVHY. The mirror image of the Name.

This breathing exercise could be done beginning at any time in Elul and continue straight through the festival season. As we finish the month of Tishrei, the visualization could shift from the lunar cycle to the solar sycle, in which Pesach (spring) is birth and freedom, Shavuot is the time of meeting with our Partner, Sukkot (harvest time in the solar year) remains harvest, and Sh'mini Atzeret, looking toward winter, remains inwardness, going to seed.

In this way we could unify the most intimate of our cycles, the cycle of breathing, with the spiral of the year. At any moment we could choose to experience inwardly the whole process of spiritual growth that is encoded in the festivals.

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