Lent: A Tool for Simplifying

As Lent approaches, let me talk about how this time can be used as a wonderful tool.

First of all, I just want to mention that I am a lapsed Catholic. I do not participate in any other Catholic rituals, other than occasional visits to Mass and Weston Priory. There may be a time when I feel a call to return, but for now, I am what I consider to be a non-denominational spiritual seeker with strong Christian and moderate Buddhist leanings.   

But I have always found Lent to be a highly inspirational, instructive, and sometimes life-changing opportunity for spiritual practice. By making one small part of our lives change for the better for this period of roughly 40 days, we have the opportunity to become stronger spiritually, and set the behavior into our daily lives for good.

Last year, for instance, I gave up high fructose corn syrup.  A few days before Ash Wednesday, I picked up Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma in the airport while on a business trip. I won’t go into why this book provoked this 40-day experiment. I would rather recommend you read this fantastic book, but as a direct result of this serendipitous pick at the airport newsstand, I had the opportunity to learn something valuable and life-changing.

By the time Easter arrived I had:

  1. Successfully eliminated HFCS from my diet for Lent. I now am much more conscious of labels and still feel that we are better off eliminating manufactured additives such as HFCS from our diet. Long-term change: Drastic reduction in consumption of HFCS.
  2. Greatly expanded my ability to cook with healthy foods. Because of the ubiquitousness of HFCS, I was literally forced to cook from scratch most of the time. Long-term change: Dare I say it? I actually enjoy cooking now. 
  3. Learned about all the local farms in my area and visited most of them. Much of these learnings came from great local food sites such as www.sustainabletable.org and its partner site, www.eatwellguide.org These two sites are fantastic resources for learning what’s available in your area, what foods are in season and when. Long-term change: I now have the resources and more knowledge so that choosing local foods is not a big mystery to me; I now plan trips to the farmers markets and local farms on a regular basis. 

I will talk more about food and this particular experience in later blog entries. But for now, I would like to set the stage for the next several weeks. To continue on the purgation theme already begun, this year will be the Lent of Letting Go. My goal will be to:

Reduce personal consumption and the number of my possessions and increase my mindful release of negative emotions such as fear, worry and anxiety, to allow me to be able to focus on the True North of my life: greater communion with God, family and friends, nature, and meaningful contribution to work and society.

That’s the journey. I will post the pathway on Ash Wednesday.

I’ll be drawing from the works of others who have  

  • Learned to thrive with less
  • Developed philosophies around voluntary simplicity
  • Have written works which both motivate and instruct. 

This means authors such as Richard Gregg, Duane Elgin, Jim Merkel, and Richard Foster. There are so many teachers to learn from in this area!

But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.  Next post:  Wednesday, February 25.

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