As we embark on the spiritual awakening that might come for those who seek the journey during Lent, regardless of religious orientation, this time of year is overflowing with a newness and anticipation for a budding out. All of these attributes to this time of year I find beautifully symbolic; new lambs, budding trees and flower buds peeking from their cold winter beds, the sun's warming glow turning brown grass in to a brighter green, seeds going into the ground where they will sprout and provide our summer bounty. New, alive, to begin again. Life during Lent is profound in that we are asked to look deep within ourselves and see where we might find a bud peeking out waiting to be found. What new life is sprouting within you? How might you cultivate the newness that lies within you to be a gift to the world around you?
I've been speaking with several around me who are devout in their Lenten celebrations. They always give something up for Lent; chocolate, sweets, meat, alcohol. I always question them about their particular choice as a way to understand how giving up that particular item for 40 days will make a difference in their devotion to their God of choice, themselves, and their greater community. The idea of 'sacrificing' a particular item for Lent shows that they are a devoted follower of Jesus, that by giving up something they are mimicking Jesus' 40 day fast as he prepared his body to receive enlightenment, a closer connection to his Higher Power, the Light, the Creator. I agree that a degree of cleansing is a good idea during these Holy Days, cleaning and nourishing our bodies and spirits to bring forth a replenishment that will bring us closer to remembering who we are and what greater good we are seeking to provide in this life time. How can we clean out the old stuff, the stuff that wears us down and drains our energy? What is that stuff......emotional, physical, relationships, spiritual? Is this stuff that we can work on to let go of and allow the newness within ourselves to unfold, like the flower?
During Lent, we choose for it to be a quiet time in our home. Our seasonal table is bare, holding vigil is a candle, a bowl of earth, and some bare twigs. The empty landscape allows us to see how the preparations begin........through the creation of our Lenten garden, we see Life spring anew. Celebrating Lent with our children is a lovely and reflective time. We hang 'Our Lenten Journey' poster that helps us travel through the 40 days, reflecting on a particular emotion or other word, that will allow us some clarity into our depths. This is a great exercise for our bigger children as they are old enough now to ask questions of themselves and can clearly express how and why it is they feel a certain way. Last year, they found this to be a very nourishing activity and looked forward to putting up our new leaf everyday; focusing on the word of the day and allowing whatever thoughts or emotions that came up to come through so that they could process........and then replenish. It is a beautiful experiment in self care and healing. We found that this process provides a space for the child to feel the work of the Light within them. Seeing and knowing that there once might have been a space within them that was clouded and hurt and now.......there is Love and Light.
The season of Lent is also a wonderful time to reach out beyond our doors; to bring about a healthy balance of give and receive during Lent is like magic. As Jesus sacrificed himself for the world, we can give of ourselves to those around us. While you are preparing your body with nourishment and cleansing.......reach out and provide a 'random act of kindness' to your neighbor. Visit your local shelter and share your gifts with the animals that are seeking their forever homes. Volunteer your time. Clean out your closets and donate what you no longer need to an agency that will then give your items to someone who could use them. In fact, why stop there........clean out your homes from items that just sit and take up space, whether it be energetic space or physical space, let those items move on to a second life where they will cherished and needed. Leave love notes to friends and family or randomly scattered around your town. Someone will find them and be touched at the notion that they are being thought of and loved at that moment. Any and all of these activities are wonderful ways to share the Lenten season with your children. They will see that they don't have to give something up to show that they are connected to Spirit.......by giving of themselves they are simply honoring the connection that is always there.
And yet, as we seek the peace and solitude of Lent, what might we do to prepare the foundation for substantial growth? How will we tend to our gardens and allow the sunshine to warm the earth to prepare for the planting of seeds? When I think of ways to go inward I think of quiet walks in the woods. I think about sitting creek side and listening to the water flowing and with journal in hand, feeling the freedom to express whatever might be asking to come out. When I think about tending to my spirit I think of sitting snuggled up with my children, feeling their breath and the deep and constant connection we have to each other and how that relationship binds us to the Universe. When I think of nourishing my spirit I think of holding my partners hand, basking in the memory and the reason for our union and how that connection to each other brings us closer to knowing ourselves more fully and our Creator. Reinforcing our foundations, our spirits, nourishing and preparing our bodies and hearts to receive the gifts that surround us, to open our hearts to receive the Light, and then in turn, give it back to the world around us.......that is what the season of Lent means to me.
As we travel through these quiet days, I hope that you are able to disconnect from the things that might be taking up too much time and space within your spirit.......the things or people that drain your energy and keep you from knowing and giving your best self. My hope is that you find the peace in these 40 days to deeply nourish yourself and your families so that you all feel full and replenished and ready to begin again.
"Let's have a merry journey, and shout about how light is good and dark is not. What we should do is not future ourselves so much. We should now ourselves. "NOW thyself" is more important than "Know thyself." Reason is what tells us to ignore the present and live in the future. So all we do is make plans. We think that somewhere there are going to be green pastures. It's crazy. Heaven is nothing but a grand, monumental instance of future. Listen, now is good. Now is wonderful." ~ Mel Brooks