Sara Davidson’s the december project is a treatise on how to navigate the December of life and “not freak out about dying”. It is a joint endeavor by Davidson and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, wherein “An extraordinary Rabbi and a Skeptical Seeker Confront Life’s Greatest Mystery.”
Having the distinct privilege to meet some cousins of my husband’s during the summer of 2016, I came home with the realization that there are Jewish people in my own family. Not only that, but Jewish writers and kindred souls who appreciate the counter-culture of my youth more deeply than I do myself. And, though I do not personally know Reb Zalman, my cousins do. That made the book intensely more personal. Cousin Burt explained, “Reb Zalman was the closest I’ve ever come to meeting/knowing a true ‘holy man.’ It seemed every breath he took, and every word he spoke, was holy.”
Returning home from our 2016 visit with some reading recommendations from cousin Sharon, it was early 2017 before I got around to reading them. the december project was one of those books.
I was enthralled with Rabbi Zalman’s story. He had escaped the Nazis in Europe during the Holocaust years, and struggled with his faith upon arrival in his new country, America. Years later, after personal audience with the Dalai Lama and Thomas Merton, among other notable events, he became a founder of the Jewish Renewal movement.
I read the book because my cousin recommended it, and because I figured I was on the verge of my own life’s December phase. The book concludes with several exercises to help folks prepare for their check out. I found many of them to be good tips for any stage of life. Among them:
Begin each day with a thankful heart. Give thanks often.
Practice forgiveness. Forgive others who have wronged you. Ask forgiveness for your own mistakes. And perhaps the toughest, Learn to forgive yourself.
Review your life. Explore your purpose. Claim the life that is yet yours to live. What is urgent and needs to be done before you feel complete?
And one that speaks to my introvert’s craving for personal space: Make friends with solitude. Create an inner sanctuary—a place to go where you can feel the spark of the divine within you.
Solitude and sanctuary are concepts that are fast becoming archaic among the younger generations. Yet, I crave the space to find myself. And I wonder, if we can’t stand to be alone with our own selves, how can we expect others to find solace in our company? We came into this world alone, and most certainly we will leave it in a solitary experience as well. Get to know and love yourself.
Up next: About contemplation, or Discovering a few Kansas poets