Monday, February 15, 2010

40 Days of Delight: A New Approach to Lent

This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and even if you in no way participate in this season, there are some meanings in this story that are relevant to anyone trying to live this life fully, bravely, and blissfully.

On Wednesday, some of us will have ashes placed on our foreheads to mark the beginning of the 40 day journey. The ashes are not a morbid reminder of our impending deaths, but they are, I assert, meant to wake us up to the opportunity of these bodies.

The opportunity is brief and therefore precious.

Many of us are squandering the opportunity, wearing these bodies heavily, as burdens, rather than inhabiting them joyfully. We diminish the Body, placing it at the bottom of a hierarchy of Spirit and Intellect.


It is through this body that we enter the ocean and feel the salt water and contemplate our connection to the whole.

It is through this body that we embrace those whom we love and know we are not alone.

It is through this body that we celebrate, that we mourn, that we play, that we rest.

The word Lent itself is of Anglo Saxon origin and simply means spring.

Over these 40 days, the ground will less often be white where I live, and I will start to hear a low murmur of water trickling in the ground. There will be small green shoots pushing up through the top crust of earth. By the time we get to Easter, there will be strongly scented flowers at our front door.

The body of the Earth awakens in these 40 days, and I wonder if we are not meant to go through the same process.

(Lent ends in a death, you protest, so how can it be about joy? But the death is meant to remove the final veil of fear so that we might live in these bodies "free of all anxiety.")

This stretch of 40 days is a time to shed our winter hibernation, but more generally, this year, perhaps it is time to finally shed the idea of Body as Burden. Rather than sacrificing a way of eating or thinking or speaking, perhaps we could take on a different kind of 40 day journey -- one of awakening the body to the light and warmth of our own love for ourselves.

I challenge this very serious time of become less serious and more joyful.

I challenge you to 40 Days of Embodiment. Get in your body and experiment with what your body wants from you. Again, think back to your youth -- what did you like to do when you were little? Ride your bike? Cartwheel in the grass? If you were a sedentary child (for whatever reason), what did other children do that you envied? Did you dream of riding horses? Did you desperately want to learn karate?

For 40 Days, I Dare You to Dare Yourself. I dare you to not feel better about and more connected to your life.

Here are the Rules:

You have to have Fun. If it feels like exercise or obligation, get rid of it. If it is boring, get rid of it. If you have to force yourself to do it by parsing it out in small bits, get rid of it.

You have to sweat and laugh simultaneously. Not continuously. I just mean, if you can't smile or giggle, you are doing the wrong things.

That's it. It's quite simple, really.

For 40 days, no more limitations. No more excuses. No more fear.


Sandy Dempsey said...

Just thinking about this makes my stomach clench in fear. Actually live in my body with awareness for 40 straight days?? I am not sure I can do this. I have two days to ponder the idea and get used to it.
hugs, sandy

christine said...

I want to dance and sing...I have recently began smoking again...and want to quite. How can one sing beautifully with a raspy voice?
how does one go about singing after all these years of doing it in a whisper? how can one dance while doing it half heartedly? I wonder.

Linnea said...

I like this idea. As much damage as The Church That Shall Not Be Named (aka my former employer) did to me spiritually, a positive lesson has stayed with me more than the pain: "Instead of giving something up for Lent," the senior pastor suggested, "why not take something on?" I've tried to do that ever since, and I need to start sweating oh-so-desperately. Can I manage 40 straight days? I don't know. But I'm going to use these next two days to ponder the possibility.

(Is this like regular Lent, where you get a Sunday "reprieve" of sorts, or would that be more for the denial mindset?)

differenceayearmakes said...

LOVE THIS IDEA! Beautifully said.

Sign me on!

Eco Yogini said...

oh, now THIS makes sense to me. And fits well with my spiritual leanings. :)

Beautiful. it is all a cycle, afterall.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful way to welcome's like the flower that has been hiding under the soil all winter and finally feels the sun so has the courage to sprout and bloom....I have much to think about...what does my flower look like? Thanks for this......

Christiana Spiritguide said...

This is a wonderfully articulated post, and I am pledging myself to this approach. Thanks for making me get up off the couch and try something new!

Heather Plett said...

I LOVE this challenge! Count me in! I've been observing Lent for about years, and it's always meaningful, but this adds a whole new meaning.

I just read this quote from John O'Donohue... "The sensuous is sacred. For too long in the Christian tradition we have demonized the sensuous and pitted the 'dim senses' against the 'majestic soul'. This turned God into an abstract ghost, aloof and untouchable; and it made the senses the gateways to sin. But the world is the body of God.... When we begin to awaken to the beauty which is the Sensuous God, we discover the holiness of our bodies and our earth."

Yarrow said...

I love this post! Thank you. I do not in any way celebrate Lent, but I do celebrate my body and the Earth's. This has really made me think, and I accept your challenge! Blessings.

Megan Potter said...


LOVING this! OMG, I have a thing about finding, making, creating balance between body and spirit so this is just screaming my name.

I always post a Dare on Mondays, hope you don't mind if I direct everyone to join in your dare this week.


hywayjypzi said...

This is so awesome - A great new way to look at lent! stupendous idea! Thank you

Elize said...

fantastic challenge :)

Susan said...

I so love the approach you have to life, Christine! It is not an easy thing to get this body up and moving each day...I will try to simply move each day in a way that makes me want more!

Elaine said...

This is great. I love the idea of thinking that the Earth is awakening to spring. Much more positive than thinking about sacrifice. Now I'm thinking about what I liked to do when I was a kid. We ran around and made up stories and played pretend. And played on the swingset. A lot. I loved to swing. I wanted to fly!

tinkerbell the bipolar faerie said...

Spring lives and breathes here, already, in this place that's hosting the winter olympics. I have seen some early cherry blossoms, a crocus or two ... and a single red bloom on a bud-laden bush. No snow here, not even on the mountain, where the athletes need it! LOL.

As for the embodiment challenge, it feels like I have already begun ~ over these past 2 weeks I have had fun walking more and have been blown away at how good it makes my body feel to drink more water, and less sugary stuff.

Love this idea!

Michelle said...

yes! wonderful! I'll be posting my own Lenten writing challenge on Wednesday. Time to shake things up and let something new bloom! Thanks BlissChick!

claire said...

I love every bit of this post and will do my very best to follow your wise advice.
The only instant where I do not completely follow you is when you say that Lent ends in death. I feel that it ends in a 'resurrection' -- in which everyone of us is invited to join.

Blessings, Christine!

Christine Claire Reed said...

Oh, no, Claire, you and I are on the same page. I think some people mistake the death as the end. As I go on to say, I think it's all about lifting fear and seeing the new life that comes. Sorry if I wasn't clear right there. :)

Lori-Lyn said...

Oh, I love this. What a beautiful way to think about Lent.

Lisa (Mommy Mystic) said...

I love this...

Kim said...

Awesome - this is just how I feel only I didn't know it until you articulated it!!! Thanks you for this wonderful post!!