By Aubrey Bamdad, Co-Founder of the Sacred Motherhood Blueprint.
Growing up bi-racial, bi-cultural and bi-religious had its challenges, especially as a young girl in suburban New Jersey in the 1980s, yet I feel my unique family mosaic is a gift that allows me to continually expand my perspectives and transcend outdated beliefs, as I evolve, deepen and refine my spirituality.
I created my life and family here in the upper Peruvian Amazon, living on a piece of beautifully cultivated land near the mountains and rivers and at a healthy arm’s distance from the immediate consequences of consumerism and global materialism. My daughter is growing up passionately interacting with her landscape, she doesn’t see television and hence isn’t subject to the barrage of media indoctrinating her likes and dislikes, nor are there malls or stores continually assaulting her senses and mind.
These intentional circumstances allow me the spaciousness to define holidays in a unique way that feels authentic and speaks to my heart and soul.
My husband and I choose to celebrate the holidays that we feel a personal connection to. The year’s wheel in our home is speckled with an amalgam of earth-based, religious, ancestral, spiritual and personal festivals that mark events auspicious to us. These include birth and death dates, anniversaries (we have had two weddings hence we celebrate our marriage twice a year) and the Pagan quarter and cross-quarter days, many of which coincide and blend into religious observances or cultural celebrations such as Samhain, Day of the Dead and Halloween, Equinox, Easter and the Persian New Year or Yule, Solstice and Christmas.
While we may not practice or hold belief in the religions we inherited from our families, some of the religious holidays hold tender feelings of remembrance that we wish to continue to cultivate and share with our daughter.
It is the nuclei of these holy days that we strive to distill and honor through meaningful traditions designed to bring us closer as a family, to our own inner nature and to the Earth and her seasons.
Today, it is easy to get caught up in the commercial and consumer aspects of holidays, which can leave us feeling devoid of spiritual contentment and inner peace. When we miss the essential meaning of a holiday, feelings of alienation and emptiness can arise. Our psyche’s default mechanisms attempt to compensate for our soul deficiencies through consumption and dissociation by numbing out: patterns of overspending, overeating and intoxication further separate us from the intrinsic joy that holidays were originally meant to commemorate.
Quintessentially, holidays were moments we exempted ourselves from the obligations and routine of daily existence to celebrate life and nature in all their glory and mystery while connecting with our families, communities and nourishing our souls.
If you seek to define the holidays in a more meaningful way for you and your family, consider the following as a starting point:
· Identify values and ideals that are important to your family.
· Contemplate the essence of what a holiday means for you.
· Ask yourself how can you express the essence of a particular holiday through your family’s values and ideals.
· Create our own traditions, which are simple perennial practices designed to bring you closer to your loved ones and invoke the spirit of the season.
As we turn toward the season of Yule and Advent with the coming celebrations of Solstice and Christmas, I like to take time to explore what this season represents for me. I observe a natural tendency towards slowing down, and a taking stock of the events of the year as it winds to a close, while clarifying my intentions for what I intend to seed and cultivate as the cycle resets itself. Resetting feels appropriate now, a reflection of the macrocosm in the microcosm, a synching of the inner fluctuations with the cycles of nature. As Lynn Jericho aptly puts it, this is the time to “harvest the wisdom of your year.”
When we slow down and create more spaciousness in our lives, it becomes much easier to assess our own personal development.
For me, this season represents light. The light of our soul, reflected in the light of the sun. Celebration is an opportunity to embody this light; to commemorate and to honor it. We do this in my home in a myriad of ways. We fill our home with candles and strings of light, which create a wonderfully intimate environment for sharing time, stories, drinks, meals and treats together. This year I will host a gathering for some of the parents in my daughter’s Waldorf school. We will dip beeswax candles together with our children.
The advent wreath/mandala is a tradition I adopted in recent years since Nahal Devi was born. Last year, I introduced it to my mother which felt full circle to integrate a tradition into my lineage. It was really special. During each night of the four weeks of Advent we light a candle, which has been lovingly placed in a wreath of ever-greenery upon the table. Incorporating from the Anthroposophist tradition, we recite specific verses for each week and adorn the mandala with different objects from nature that represent the 4 kingdoms on Earth: mineral, plant, animal and human. We gather together around the wreath each night to sing a carol, recite a verse or read a Christmas story. Then the candle is blown out and we all go to bed.
As per the Yule tradition, which predates Christianity, we deck the halls. Ancient Northern cultures brought boughs of greenery into the home to adorn the mantelpiece and tables in order to remind them that the long hard winter indeed had an end and the Earth would renew Herself once again. This has always been a favorite activity of mine. I try to keep our decorations minimal but artistic. We don’t use anything plastic or disposable, instead relying on artisan made garlands, wreaths, advent calendar, angels and ornaments, which can then be put away and taken out the following year. These lovingly made objects take on energy of their own and we look forward to them filling our home each year at this time.
Another essential facet of this season, which has many ways to be expressed and embodied, is to identify and explore the Christic qualities within, such as generosity, compassion, peace and clarity.
While we as a family engage very regularly in philanthropic activities, this time of year we focus on refining the art of giving. One can give of their time, resources and oftentimes most overlooked yet most valuable, is the gift of our presence.
In our home, the emphasis is not so much on what we can receive at this time but what we will be giving. Nahal and I enjoy making lists of family, friends, team members and neighbors whom we would like to show our love and appreciation to. We relish taking time to come up with gift ideas that we will create ourselves. We pour, dip and roll beeswax candles, wrapping them in sumptuous ribbons. We make raw super food chocolates and a variety of gluten-free baked goods, which then are artfully arranged into reusable gift tins. As a natural product formulator by profession, I adore sharing this art with my daughter and happily allow her to guide the process by choosing what she would like to help create. Together, we will make simple aromatic bath salts, lip-gloss and facial balms. These gifts are easy and affordable to make. They are imbued with our energy unlike mass produced items plus the creative process in itself is an opportunity to spend quality time together.
With Nahal, we try to not overemphasize the receiving aspect of this holiday. We don’t play the naughty or nice game and there are no long lists transcribed for Santa. I like to take time, usually a few months prior to the holiday season to think deeply on one special gift that I feel she would love and benefit from. It is not unusual that I contact an artisan toymaker to create something totally original for her. We don’t buy her lots of toys during the year and try to avoid stockpiling cheaply made, plastic, trendy, character-driven toys. Instead, we opt for fewer, quality-made, open-ended toys made from natural materials. They are more aesthetically pleasing, create minimal clutter and I feel when chosen wisely, Nahal gets unlimited playtime out of them.
While this is a brief outline of how we will be celebrating Yule and Advent in my home in the coming weeks, please remember there are no fixed ideals to live up to. We can all relax deeper into the enjoyment of this sacred and ephemeral moment on the wheel of the year when we come back to the essence of why we choose to celebrate in the first place.
The true gift is in the experience of discovering how to interpret the meaning of the celebration for you.
We have the potential to create traditions unique unto each of us that are based on deeper, more meaningful expressions of these observances that can then be passed on and carried through our lineage. As I mentioned previously, our ancestors created these festivals to express remembrance of the beauty, bounty and mystery of Earth and her ever-changing cycles, to take time out of the mundane to reflect on the wonders of the mystery, to connect with our loved ones and community and ultimately to experience the limitless beauty, bounty and mystery that is our own true nature. This is my prayer for each of you this holiday season.
Aubrey Bamdad's body of work bridges the fields of Ayurveda, yoga and their corresponding Vedic technologies with traditional Amazonian medicine and the shamanic realms. She is a mother, writer, teacher and visionary, as well as an Ayurvedic practitioner, yogini, and contemporary vegetalista with decades of immersive experience in these respective wisdom traditions. She has founded and co-directs the Sacred Motherhood Blueprint, the Eleusinian Mystery Field School, Qori Inti Amazonian Herbals, for which she also formulates and creates their product lines and co-directs Yacumaman Sanctuary for Integral Shamanism with her husband Dionisio Santos. Aubrey is a sought-after and well-respected teacher the world over. Her approach to motherhood is completely unique to her and stems from her experiences, studies and the result of a life lived passionately and spontaneously.
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