a novice observing Lent

I learned about Easter in my Christian upbringing and often participated in programs and musical performances re-enacting the story of this religious holiday. But I was never taught about observing Lent.

As I grew up and met a broader scope of friends of the faith, my perception of Lent was 40 days of fasting or denying oneself certain foods, habits, pleasurable things, or unhealthy vices i.e. smoking or gossiping. My theological opinion about Lent rested on it being a sacrificial practice to mirror Christ’s fast in the wilderness and suffering leading up to Easter Sunday.

I saw my friends and family following intentions for their own Lenten practices. But never thought about it for me.

Until this year.

The Lent discussion came up in the huddle of women I meet with for friendship, growth and accountability in our spiritual and personal lives.

Why would we want to observe Lent? If we did, how would that look? How dedicated could we see ourselves to our intentions? We decided to think, meditate and pray until our next meeting, then report back if and what our individual practice could look like.

I’ve walked through the why, what, and how questions – personally and with others in my rejuvenated health work – to get clear about making changes in food, lifestyle, mindset for healthier living.

Not surprising then that my initial thought for Lent was from a similar perspective. Should I restrict or eliminate wine with dinner, my snacking on fresh-roasted peanuts, or roving around social media for 40 days?

This could be positive and challenging. I love those peanuts.

But this direction didn’t feel right for me. Instead of denial or taking away something, I reflected on the question: what could I add to my life?

I’m a believer that personality types influence most everything. My favourite testing tool is the Enneagram. If you’re familiar with it you may know your type. I won’t carry on about the Enneagram (for me a fascinating topic) other than to say I am a type Seven.

A mini definition for type seven is: The Enthusiast. Busy, fun-loving type: spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered.

I love my strengths as a seven. And the other side? Authors Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson explain so well, “a busy, scattered mind that won’t simmer down …. is a problem because the quiet mind allows us to feel profoundly supported: inner knowing and guidance arise from the quiet mind and give us confidence to act in the world.”

That was it. I’d add a habit with intent to support a quieter mind.

This is my daily practice for Lent: pulling out of my active life a block of ten minutes to be physically and mentally still. Without intentional thinking or meditating or praying or planning. Only ten minutes. Yet not a simple thing when you’re wired with a mind burbling and bubbling with ideas, plans, energy.

With an inclination to talk to my Creator rather than sit and simply be and breathe together.

Lent is now at the halfway point. My mind still runs about. Skipping from one place to the next, including “don’t forget to be in stillness today!” Yet I am experiencing longer moments of mental stillness.

The point is stillness and not “thinking”, but I’ve still been taking away thoughts to journal later.

Structure. Flow. Life happens in the gaps. Courage. Stillness and rest. Breathe. Don’t force it. Endurance for suffering. Limits. Depth.

My stillness has triggered thoughts for other times in my day.

Imagining the unconceivable stillness of the Christ of Easter leading up to Easter weekend. Visualizing how universally people seek and struggle to move into stillness in their lives. Wondering how my friends online and in real life might be walking through their own Lenten practice right now.

I don’t think it serendipitous or by chance I’m doing this particular practice at this particular time.

For me it’s a kairos moment – beyond “conditions are right…..an opportune and decisive moment“.

I’m accepting it as a divine moment when the world; my country and community; my family; me – are all trying to cope with unusual uncertainties. Three weeks ago we knew the coronavirus was active on another continent, today a pandemic afflicts the whole world. Isolation, fear, disease bears down on hearts and minds. Our normal living.

My prayer – especially now – is that you are finding safe support, a place of inner stillness. If you are observing Lent and would like to share I welcome your comment.

Love and peace ….

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