In this Chanukah season of gift giving, how about a certificate for some spiritual direction? Why not give the gift of spirituality?
As a creative Chanukah present, why not enable someone you care about to spend time with their rabbi to explore their spiritual lives – their questions of faith or doubt, their search for purpose and meaning, their interest in an aspect of their heritage they’ve never had the time to delve into?
Spending an hour with a mental health professional to explore our emotional and psychological landscapes is a gift we give ourselves – and by extension those we love – by making the effort to stay balanced and grounded in our relationships. Spending one with a religious leader is no less a gift we give ourselves and those around us by making the effort to stay invested in and inspired by our spiritual commitments.
So many people are able to articulate what it is that challenges their beliefs and practices in our complex, modern world: How can I believe in a God who is good and compassionate when there’s so much suffering and violence around us? How can I make my harried life more peaceful and contemplative? If I don’t find God in a sanctuary, where can I find the Divine? How can I bring holiness into my home? Is it wrong to borrow rituals I see my friends enjoying even though I belong to a different spiritual tradition from theirs? How can I negotiate the traditional definitions of identity and community with the more fluid cultural boundaries of our open society?
And yet the same people who ask those questions often they find it hard to search for resolutions. Wrestling with them takes time, an alarmingly scarce resource. Research suggests that people with well developed spiritual and communal lives are happier and more at peace than those without them. And happier people are more productive and physically healthier. Given the enormous value direct dialogue with an insightful mentor can have for someone seeking to deepen his or her connection to spirituality, to self, to the Source of Life, and the profound impact such connection can have upon their lives and relationships, it’s certainly time well spent.
It is a personal investment with returns for generations to come.
Recently I did a wedding for a couple committed to creating a vibrant Jewish home and an active Jewish family. As part of their wedding gift, their parents arranged some private sessions with me so the new spouses can learn more about Judaism and grow in their commitments. Like the business school graduation gift of a few sessions with an executive coach, carving out time for a new couple to spend with their rabbi gives them a unique opportunity for reflection, particularly for those who face complicated choices around setting a spiritual course for their lives.
Imagine other life moments that prompt this kind of introspection that can be nurtured by one-on-one spiritual direction. They include milestone birthdays, childbirth, college graduations, divorce, illness, loss, retirement, becoming an empty-nester, becoming a grandparent, or even religious holidays.
It may not yet have the allure of a gift certificate to a spa for a massage or facial, but next time you’re perusing a wedding registry or buying a gift for your secret Chanukah Harry, consider also booking an appointment or two for someone with his or her favorite rabbi. Give, and receive, the gift of spirituality – of inner reflection and enlightened renewal.
Chag Urim Sameach. Happy Chanukah!