Cross-Cultural Spirituality

My family is about as secular as they come. We celebrated the holidays, but Easter was about the bunny and Christmas about the booty. Thankfully, I had an ace up my sleeve growing up. My best friend was Jewish.

Over the many decades of our friendship, I’ve had the honor of experiencing how a rich heritage can bring family together and draw community closer.

Thanks to my dear friend, I’m still learning new ways to celebrate life through tradition. Last week she sent me a beautiful Elul from her rabbi. I didn’t know what a Elul was and delighted to discover its meaning.

Elul is a time for deep reflection. For the month before Rosh Hashanah we are asked to take stock of ourselves and the lives we lead, to look at where we have fallen short of our spiritual aspirations, and what we can do to improve ourselves.

Most of us are satisfied with the lives we lead. We may not be happy with what life has done with us, but we are mostly content with what we have done with life. By leaning into discomfort and shaking up our complacency, we get back in touch our aliveness.

One of the reasons for devoting a full month to inquiry is to allow us to take the process one step at a time. Otherwise, the hit parade of self-improvement would be overwhelming. It’s a balance that requires we push ourselves to improve, while realizing our inherent limitations as fallible human beings.

The beauty of “cross-cultural spirituality” is that we can pick and choose what works for us. To me, a month of brave, sincere and courageous self-examination sounds like a fine definition of spiritual growth, if ever there was one.



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