Wednesday, October 12, 2016

At-one-ment

"A Time to Mend" 

For Jewish people, today is the most sacred day of the year: “Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement” – a day devoted to reflection upon and repentance for personal and corporate sinfulness. 

I find that I don’t often use the world “atonement” on my own spiritual journey. For me, the word carries way too much negative baggage. Personally, when I think of “atonement” it conjures up images of an angry God offended by the sins of people who are expected to repent of their sins to avoid divine wrath and punishment.

I never think of “God” as some sort of angry deity who is angered and offended by by what human beings do and who needs to be appeased “or else!” But, there is another side of “atonement” that offers me great wisdom and deep insight as I make my way on the spiritual path.  

When l take a closer look at that word, “atonement,” the phrase “at one" catches my attention. Atonement implies “uniting” that which is not at one, mending that which is torn apart and broken into pieces. While I don’t at all think a life of faith ever calls me to wallow in guilt or to appease an angry deity, I do believe that a significant dynamic of a spiritual journey must focus on “mending the broken.”

On any spiritual path we are all called to practice a discipline of at-one-ment.

I am reminded of a wisdom teaching from the Taoist tradition.  Chuang Tzu says:

The universe and I came into being together
And I and everything therein are ONE.

Today offers a perfect opportunity for any of us regardless of our spiritual paths to celebrate the truth that we are all “at one” with the universe, "at one" with everything and everyone that exists. This is a day for each of us to do our part to mend that which has been torn apart in our lives

On this “Day of Atonement” I call to mind a wonderful teaching that emerges out of the ancient Hebrew mystical tradition known as Kabbalah. According to this teaching, the world was initially created in perfect harmony, all the many parts in a harmonious relationship, all flowing together, energized by the light of “God.” However that perfect harmony was shattered and the universal harmony was broken into many pieces – the light of God was scattered everywhere, little “shards of God” peppered throughout a broken universe.

Kabbalah teaches that, rather than just wringing our hands and bemoaning our own personal or corporate brokenness, we are all called to actually do something about it, to put the broken pieces back together again.

According to the Kabbalah tradition, all human beings are invited to practice Tikuun Olam, translated as, mending a broken world. When we act with kindness and compassion, when we care for the needy and poor and foster reconciliation by seeking and offering forgiveness, we are in fact mending a broken world, putting the broken shards of God-light back together again, thus making the world a brighter place. 

As I see it, this terribly dark and ugly presidential election season has made many of us feel rather broken. Our nation and world seems so fractured, divided and torn apart.  I suppose that there isn’t an awful lot that I or any one of us can do as individuals to control what goes on in a political campaign or to direct the course of world events, but each of us can choose how we will live our own personal everyday lives. We can either tear apart the fabric all the more or live each day in a spirit of “at-one-ment,” doing our best to mend a broken world.

I just came across this wonderful Prayer for Yom Kippur.  I am sure that many of my Jewish friends will be saying prayers like this as they celebrate the “Day of Atonement.” It also seems like a perfect prayer for each and every one of us to call to mind this day:

To those I have wronged,
I ask forgiveness,
To those I may have helped,
I wish I had done more.
To those I have neglected to help,
I ask for understanding.
To those who helped me,
I thank you with all my heart.

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