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 you...in this very serious time of year...to 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.