In recent American culture (not so much Irish!), St. Patrick’s Day has provided another respite from Lent for those observing its practices. In what has become an annual ritual, Archbishops proclaim dispensations from Lenten fasts on St. Patrick’s day so as not to interfere with the celebrations. St. Patrick’s Day is known primarily as a day to party. Aside from the vagaries of human nature that pull us away from discipline and toward creature comforts, might there be a spiritual lesson in occasions such as St. Patrick’s Day or the Hindu feast of Holi, celebrated on March 6 this year, in which breaking social taboos is excused with the words, “Don't be offended—it’s Holi?”
Perhaps these days of raucous celebration serve as a balance. Fasting and “giving up” during periods such as Lent help us overcome raga—attachment. When we become overly attached to our possessions, our pleasures, even our relationships we hinder our spiritual development. But we can also become overly attached to discipline and austerity. When we become obsessed with our spiritual practices to the extent that they interfere with our obligations to those around us; when our own spiritual discipline causes us to become rigid, self-righteous, or judgmental; when we are so busy reaching toward enlightenment that we fail to experience the love and joy in this earthly life, we need to practice a different kind of fasting. Yes we can observe the austerities of Lent, of Yom Kippur, of Ramadan, of Shivaratri and Navaratri. But we can also join in the Mardi Gras parades, throw some color at Holi, and dance a jig on St. Patrick’s Day.
How do you maintain balance in your spiritual life? What challenges you most—too much self-discipline or not enough? Come explore with us at this week's sadhana, Sunday, March 15, 4 p.m., Hill House, Ruscombe Community Health