Working with the Inner Festivals

On February 25, Lent begins. Lent is the Christian festival that remembers the forty days, Jesus Christ spends in the wilderness following the Baptism in the River Jordan. During this time, Christ does not eat, is ministered to by angels, meets wild beasts and is tempted three times by Satan.

It is a Christian practice to “give up something tempting” for Lent. Usually we give up a favorite food or activity – chocolate, pasta, TV or video games. Even as a child, I wondered about this. It felt like a demanding law that had to be obeyed to be good, but didn’t make much sense spiritually or personally. Of course, I have never been any good at denying myself anything for a few hours and couldn’t imagine 40 days of living without anything I enjoyed, just to be “good” in the eyes of the Church. Yet, had I given a or found a reason, or an understanding in the heart of my heart, I felt I could have a true Lenten devotion and given up anything.

My childhood wonder and doubt has shaped my spiritual life into a practice of questioning. I don’t accept answers offered by exclusive dogmas and sectarian perspectives. I am fascinated by all religions – the dogmas and the rituals – and study them all with loving objectivity and respect.

In my childhood I attended a number of Christian denominations (from Catholic to Christian Science) as my father wanted me to have a liberal and inclusive religious experience. College opened me up to the Eastern paths and also to Judaism. I loved the whole gamut enough to minor in religion but did not find any one doctrine that called me to belong or practice.

With my marriage to a recovering alcoholic, I found both community and personal significance in AA and Al-Anon. I loved that it was a 24/7 relationship, that the “program” was devoted to healing, liberation and the acceptance and support of all others without judgment. The 12 Steps offered a one-size-fits-all path to self-mastery that was beautifully effective, challenging and compassionate. No dogmas and a open spirituality related to a self-defined Higher Power meant beliefs were personal.

Yet I still had a quiet longing for more. I felt there was something profound in the Christian Mystery and the story of Jesus Christ. Although I was not aware of my feelings at the time, there was something in the Christian festivals that called out to me even though the “church and cultural” festival practices felt empty of personal meaning. What did Christmas mean to me and all other souls? What was the personal and present significance of the Resurrection?

I wanted and needed festival practices that took me into myself, that made greater meaning of and in me. (I had no idea that I would need to create these inner festivals for myself or that I would be sharing them with others around the world.)

Then I put my kids in the new Waldorf School of Princeton and discovered Rudolf Steiner. Steiner brought this wonderful esoteric picture of Christianity and the Festivals. Esoteric signifies “within.” Everything I had been longing for in my heart and in my mind was present in Steiner’s cosmic worldview. I had found the essential ground and foundation on which to build a fulfilling spiritual life and my future work – Steiner’s anthroposophy (the wisdom of being human).

Inspired by Steiner’s loving and wise imagination of role of the Christ in human consciousness, a major piece of my personal work is a new psychospiritual understanding and practice of the Christian festivals – the design and guidance for a yearly cycle of practices for cultivating a rich and dynamic inner life.

Imagine what it means to your inner development to have a yearly rhythm of self-evolving practices that intimately connect your soul life to the cosmic cycle of the year and the esoteric meaning of the Christian festivals. The therapeutic process is often shaped by the immediate issues of the client, not any archetypal design or rhythm.

Through my attention to the Inner Year, I am now quite excited about a new two-part therapeutic design. Why not combine one-on-one counseling dealing with the immediate personal issues with the engagement in a group activity based on the festivals and the cycle of the year. This combination provides a highly effective process that acknowledges your reality as a unique individual with a unique biology, unique biography and unique destiny facing unique challenges, while also acknowledging the universal significance of the cosmic cycle of the sun through the course of the year and the esoteric impact and meaning of the Christian festivals to your thinking, feeling and willing?

The Inner Year is a program of self-knowledge, self-healing, self-development, self-restraint and self-liberation. It addresses all the archetypal issues of the soul in a yearly cycle. The Inner Year is a cosmic and universal guide for inner work and complements the intimate and unique process of one-on-one counseling and coaching.

Each of us has an inner sun shaping the life of our souls. This inner Sun is an image of our sense of “I am.” The inner Sun moves between solstices and equinoxes shaping our spiritual and material realities and attention. The twofold process of immediate and cosmic therapy engaging the unique and the universal aspects of our souls supports the development and maturing of our individuality and our humanity, the awareness of our Inner Sun.

The Christian festivals provides an extraordinary design for our lives. They reflect nature and both the story of the Christ Being and the longing and preparation of the human soul for the experience of Divinity dwelling and acting within in our heart of hearts.

Over the last few years I have given talks and written about all the major festivals – the quarterly festivals that reflect the esoteric meaning of the four seasons – Christmas/Winter Solstice, Easter/Spring Equinox, St John’s Tide/ Summer Solstice and Michaelmas/Fall Equinox. I have also spoken on Whitsun or Pentecost and on Advent. My focus on these talks is always the role the festivals play in the personal awakening of our inner life, the guidance to the fulfillment of the truth, beauty and goodness of our thoughts, feelings and deeds.

I have come to feel a real conviction that the renewal of the festivals, not as ritual and sentimental demonstrations of religious dogma, but as essential symbolic and guiding events during the year providing inspiration and illumination of our inner journeys, will free us to be free.

Christmas and the Holy Nights
December 25 – January 6
renews our innocence through Nativity and
increases the gifts of our wisdom through Epiphany.

40 days prior to Easter
cultivates self-mastery and builds the capacity to wisely and freely say “No!”

1st Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox
brings a conscious relationship to sacrifice, death and resurrection.

Whitsun or Pentecost
50 days after Easter
(re)awakens our sense of community and active empathy.

St John’s Tide
June 24
leads our souls to our moment of destiny and manifestation of our deeds in the world.

September 29
asks us to face the presence of evil in our souls and in the world. We learn to redeem the perpetrator and resurrect the victim.

All Saints and All Soul’s
November 1
engages us with souls beyond the realm of life and death.

28 days before Christmas
offers a time to reflect on the meaning of the course of the year and the release of our attachment to our stories (dramas)allowing us to enter into the deep mystery of Christmas and the renewal of our inner (re)birth.

Over the course of 2009, beginning with Inner Lent, I will be offering some group opportunities for awakening and deepening your experience of The Inner Year. I will offer an indepth teleseminar of 2 or more 60 minute sessions of more direct guidance and interaction for each festival. These programs will be offered for a reasonable fee.