lent has been an important season for me since my childhood. although i was not raised in one particular religion, the notion of spirituality, especially in terms of the idea of a shared humanity and mutual love and respect for all beings, has always resonated with me.
and, as such, the lenten tradition of sacrifice as a way towards greater understanding of the needs and challenges of other humans has always appealed to the highly sensitive person in me.
in our household lent was a time (as was ramazan actually), in which we were encouraged to recognize and celebrate our basic comforts and privileges. the sacrifices that came along with these seasons were meant to encourage us to be grateful for our own lives and empathetic towards those of others.
over the years, i have given up many things for lent- candy, chocolate, junk food, fizzy drinks, hard liquor, wine, negative thoughts… each abstention has had its own challenges and benefits but none as important as the way in which each season has reminded me of the role that habit, and habitual thoughts and actions, play in our lives.
how often have i popped a piece of candy in my mouth without thinking twice, munched on chocolate without really even tasting it, poured another glass of wine without considering if i had already had enough?
we live so much of our lives without really noticing what’s actually happening. mindfulness takes practice and the pace of our days can sometimes border on ridiculous; there have even been days when i find myself running from one task to another in my own home!
in this way, the lenten season asks us to take a moment to pause and consider our comforts and to appreciate them more fully.
normally i start talking about lent and what we are going to give up two or three weeks before the season begins. we often have a small mardi gras celebration amongst ourselves and i always enjoy pancakes on ash wednesday.
but this year the whole season snuck up on me. it wasn’t until we pulled out alegra’s academic planner to start scheduling things for her second semester that i realized lent was just days away.
my first reaction was to rack my brain frantically to see what i should give up this year- last year was coffee- should this year be wine? sweets? booze?
but as my mind raced through the options i suddenly stopped and realized that this year I AM NOT GIVING UP ANTHING.
this year, this pandemic year, we have given up enough.
we have given up hugs. we have given up social interaction. we have given up in-person school. we have given up countless plans and dozens of dreams. we have given up travel. we have given up seeing relatives who live abroad. we have already given up so much.
so, this year instead of giving something up, i am taking something up.
rather than mindfully abstain, i am going to mindfully make an addition. i am going to add something to my life; something meaningful and important for me; something that makes me feel good. it is unlikely that any one thing can possibly make up for all that we, as humans, have had to give up this year. but one nice thing for myself will certainly bring me joy, and a little bit of hope, and that is something that we all need right now.
therefore, in this lenten season of 2021 i am adding to my life one hour of creativity. for one hour every day i will allow myself to create; to move away from all the daily necessities and practical concerns and just spend time creating. there is no goal in this. i don’t need to have a specific purpose to do what i do, i just need to like doing it and enjoy that time. mindfully and with great appreciation of my ability to do this for myself.
what about you? do you traditionally give something up for lent? if so, what will you give up this year? or would you too, rather add something this season?
let me know, i would love to hear!