Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Celebrating Christmas

I was raised in a Conservative Jewish household. I spent many years studying Hebrew and going to Sunday School, attending a synagogue, celebrating only Jewish holidays. Yet I secretly loved Christmas: the decorations, the tree, the beautiful carols and the celebration of the birth of a little baby in a manger.

When I graduated from college and moved to San Francisco I started celebrating Christmas. I loved being able to decorate a tree and feel a part of this holiday away from my family's confused and disapproving eyes. My love for Christmas continues to this day.

This year it finally dawned on my just why I love Christmas so much - aside from the tree and the beautiful songs and lights. I love Christmas because it is the only holiday I am aware of that celebrates the natural birth of a baby. Christmas celebrates the birth of the little baby Jesus and his loving mother Mary. Mary has become a symbol of all that is good and selfless and pure about motherhood. And Jesus is the little innocent babe who is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Perfect.

Perfect for me whose prefessional career has been devoted to the health and well being of mothers and babies. Christmas in its purest form is a holiday made for me, the original Baby Nut!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Bird Does Not Sing Because It Has An Answer

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. (Chinese Proverb) There is no "If - Then". There are no conditions to the singing. Cage a bird and - though saddened by the loss of its freedom to take wing - it will still sing.

This applies to humans as well. I heard on NPR about a Jewish man and woman who found love in a concentration camp during WWII. Miraculously they both survived and were able to marry after the war. While everything around them was bleak and full of depravity and despair, they found a way to sing their song of love.

In Yiddish it is called a nigun, a melody, a tune, a song we are forever trying to remember, to recapture and to sing. In the journey to recapture my nigun, I discovered Kirtan, or sacred chant. I play the harmonium and sing chants in Sanskrit and other languages. The words are songs glorifying the divine. The words repeat themselves over and over and the effect is mesmerizing, heart opening. Shivaya Nama Om, Shivaya Nama Ha. By naming and honoring aspects of the divine, I am also honoring my own divinity, my own sacredness.

A baby in the womb first hears its mother's song. The baby is nourished by the cord connecting her to her mother, and she is also soothed and carried by the song she is surrounded by as she floats and grows. Perhaps it is the emergence of the baby's own song that pulls them from the womb. Gradually her own song takes the place of her mother's. Where will that song take her? What bits of melody will inform her life as she grows?

When we are little babies I believe we hear our own song loud and clear. It is so much a part of us that we do not need to sing it aloud, though some of us may try. As we grow older the needs and expectations of others may soon drown out the sound of our own song, our nigun: so many voices clamoring for our attention; so many outer enticements pulling us away from our center. Still the song keeps on singing deep within, high and low, soft and loud, fast and slow. At night before sleep we can almost hear it. In our dreams we catch snatches of the melody.

As our life unfolds we will look for answers. Why? Why is life so hard? So cruel? So unfair? So short? So long? What does it all mean? Why am I here?

Life's longing for itself is the only answer needed. The only condition to the living of life is this: sing your song, your nigun. Only you can sing your uniquely You song. Only you can hear the melody, the words, the rhythm. Only you know when it is soft or loud, high or low, fast or slow. To hear it and to sing it and to live it, you must listen within, to your inmost place, where the nigun of your life goes on.