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Friday, February 19, 2010

Lent - What a Concept

Ash Wednesday started the 40 days of Lent. Sure it is a catholic concept. But why should you bother to stop to think about it. And is there more to it than abdication and loss of pleasantries? The Dalai Lama said that without discipline there was no freedom. I was inspired by that saying and here are my insights.
Growing up as a good catholic girl I did not like the time of Lent. For me it was not so much the absence of meat on the dinner table (never cared much for meat), it was how my three older brothers explained the concept of Lent to me. They said I needed to give up something that I love. Wanting to do my share of fasting, I thought it was necessary for me to give up singing. For I loved to sing while I was on my swing and pretty much all the time in between. No wonder I came to think of Lent as a time of punishment and sin.

Growing older I realized that many concepts in various religions are meant to serve the believers themselves. Lent is a time to tune up the body and spirit, help it along with the natural detox that takes place in spring, when the metabolism can come out of the energy storing mode of the winter.

From fasting come other rewards, such as simplicity in daily life and a lightness of body and mind. Having extra time on hands has often been reported as well. Bad habits have the tendency to accumulate over the year. Lent/spring time is the perfect opportunity to get rid of some unwanted habits in order to feel more alive again and in order to live the life once dreamed about.

"Without discipline there is no freedom". The Dalai Lama said in an interview and that the not knowing of this fact is what ails the western world the most. Freedom is a big word here, but what is taken for freedom does not serve the individuals on the long run. Often the call for freedom to do/not to do certain things is motivated by enertia (which is not friendly towards the flow of life itself). "Easy" is not the way a fully lived live is done (another misapprehension). Yet, the current ideal seems to propagate easy. The result of easy and instant rewards is all too often sluggishness, spiritlessness and dullness. The consumer of easy starts to feel empty, dull, uninspired.

So discipline has its place and many rewards (don´t confuse it with obsessive behavior, however): feeling alive, proud, part of the community, being able to make your own living, feel the creativity flowing inside yourself, being able to enjoy rewards. The list is long, satisfying and life affirming.

About Lent today. Every year I make a conscious effort to ask myself what would bring me forward and would assist me in my goals. This year, I will be without wine and committed myself to a daily reading in a meditation book. Whereas I like to enjoy a glass of good wine, I know it will serve me to be without it for some time and be fully present at all times. I want to use the time of Lent to satisfy my graving for more awareness in daily life.

You don´t have to be catholic in order to make a resolution, that´s for sure. You do need to want something bad enough however, in order to shed those sticky clingy habits of instant comfort.

Good luck!

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