“Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.”
~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
During the three weeks of Advent we hold a sacred space in the center of our dining table. The centerpiece is a round wreath of evergreens, a symbol of the eternity of life. The wreath encircles a log on which four candles stand upright. For the first week of Advent we will light one candle each supper. We will also exhibit a sample from the mineral kingdom. For the second week of Advent we will light two candles each supper and add something that symbolizes the plant world. For the third week we light three candles and add something from the animal kingdom. The fourth week brings the joy of solstice, Hanukkah and Christmas. We celebrate the power of a small light to shine in the midst of darkness — the light in each and every one of us that shines when we act, feel and think with integrity.
Advent is a special time of the year when the light of the spiritual world shines close to the Earth, making it a good time to reconnect to the destiny we came to fulfill in the world and to reevaluate our lives. Do our every day deeds align with the tasks we came to fulfill here on Earth? What about our day-to-day habits? Our relationships? With ourselves and with others?
The first week of Advent provides us the opportunity to examine our lives in connection to the mineral world. The mineral world is a symbol of the skeleton that provides the infrastructure to our world. Our deeds provide the infrastructure for our lives. We build a house, grow food, make medicine. They are what provide us with what is essential to sustain us and our work on Earth. We have worked hard to establish the infrastructure for the garden (greenhouses, barn, drying and processing room for the herbs, chicken coop, etc.) and the garden itself. But a garden as they say is “a work in progress”. Every season the garden teaches us new lessons. Every winter we evaluate our season and modify what and how we grow. Every year I evaluate the medicinal products that I make and the way I make them. Learning and improving our work in the garden and beyond keeps our work alive and creative. It is what inspires us to go back to the garden and start a new season.
In the second week of Advent the life forces are the center of our contemplation. The life forces are the carrier of our habits and so it is a good time to examine our working habits and rhythm. Elad and I tick to very different clocks when it comes to our working habits. Elad is a very efficient and organized gardener, while I am very sanguine and intuitive. Elad will get up in the morning and start the day by making a list of tasks that need to be done. He will finish the day by examining the list and marking what was accomplished. I will usually get up and rush out the door to meet up the day. I will have a picture of things that need to be accomplished, but I am open to new “needs”. The garden always provides us with more tasks, so I tend to add more and more to my plate. It does not mean that I do more, of course; it mainly means that I get more tired and overwhelmed. Now is the time to ask myself if my habits really serve me and my work as a gardener and as an herbalist. My way of doing things keeps me open to new possibilities and ideas. It keeps me excited and alive. Elad and I balance each other. Could each of us create the same balance within ourselves? Thats a good question to contemplate through the second week of Advent.
Emotion is what connects us with the animal, hence their name, from “anima,” which means inner or soul life. One lesson that I learned while living in Camphill is that you cannot change other people's thoughts and feelings; you have the power to change only your own. Our thoughts and feelings are not confined to our physical bodies but pulse into the world and have an impact on it. Creating an intention while growing food and medicine provides the plants that you are growing with healing forces. These healing forces radiate into the garden and heal the Earth, plants, animal and man that are part of that community. As biodynamic farmers we see our work as a sacred mission to transform the earth through agriculture. Using the biodynamic planting calendar and biodynamic preparations is an important practical element in our work, but what informs our work the most are the intentions that we create through observation and through our thoughts and feelings as we come into relationship with the tapestry of life in the the garden and beyond. Looking back to the past year in search of a clear understanding of my intentions will be the center of the third week of Advent.
Consciousness, the light within us, is what binds together those three different realms into one coherent identity. The many different festivals of light that are celebrated in December celebrate the unifying power of consciousness to cast a light over the shadows of the unconscious.
Michaella Glockler M.D., the head of the medical section of the Anthroposophical society, writes:
“These four levels of health — spiritual, emotional/psychological, physiological, and measurable physical health — are in us all the time in their ongoing interaction. In this sense health research is at the same time truth research, because health is absolute coherence: the soul feels healthy when it doesn't split anything off from itself and doesn't suppress anything, but when everything in the soul is in relationship. When there are no secret corners that one doesn't touch — only then does one feels healthy. One has the experience of being in an organism in which everything is coherent, or becomes so through inner work.”
This is an invitation to use Advent as time of contemplation in preparation for New Year. I invite you to look back on your year and ask: What kind of seeds did you sow in your garden? How do you work with habits and rhythms? Do you let them carry you through the days and seasons of the year? What kind of feelings do you cultivate in your heart? Are they conducive to the journey that you have taken on for yourself.
Wishing you a meaningful Advent and a joyous Hanukkah and Christmas,