Advent literally means arrival. It is a time of preparation and a time of anticipation. For Christians, it is a time we remember God’s incarnation – both God becoming human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as the ongoing inbreaking of the Kingdom of God where mercy, compassion, and justice reign. It is here, but not yet. The building of the Kingdom of God requires receptivity and participation on our part.
How do we prepare for the arrival of the Kingdom of God? It involves a metanoia, a turning of our lives from identification with the external, changing world to identification with a higher Source and Truth. It is a turning from the self as the center of the world to God, to others, and to true Self. This turning or devotion to the Lord, is a common translation of Isvara Pranidana.
The practice of tending a garden serves as a helpful metaphor for the preparation of the Kingdom of God. A gardener tills the soil, plants and waters the seeds, clears out the weeds, and waits. There is both doing and being, action and contemplation. It requires a willingness to take a risk for new life to sprout that may not always be predictable or up to expectations. It is a time of waiting in hope and expectation for an encounter and for new life to emerge.
This year especially, there is so much anticipation for the future. We are waiting for a vaccine and a return to normal with more access to the activities and people we love.
Here are some suggested practices from the Ignatian and Yoga traditions to help prepare for the arrival of the Kingdom of God:
Some Ignatian Practices: Ignatian examen, Ignatian discernment, Ignatian contemplation, spiritual direction, spiritual conversation, find God in all things, practice being contemplative while in action
Some forms and practices of yoga: Karma yoga (service), bhakti yoga (devotion), juana yoga (knowledge and learning), raja yoga (yoga of Patanjali). The eight practices (astanga) from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: the yamas (external restraints) and niyamas (internal observances), asana (posture), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption).
What are some ways you are navigating this time of darkness in our world and in anticipation for new light to come? How are you/can you prepare for the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God in the world and in your own heart?