My theme for Lent: Speaking up about silence

Yawn.. stretch…Good morning!  Has a year really gone by already?

The name of the blog is Silent Entry and that title has proven to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. I haven’t wanted to write. Words just weren’t coming! The past year has been a chrysalis of words and ideas in hibernation. Yet I haven’t wanted to disturb this foment of wordlessness or prod it prematurely. Words this past year have been unwanted, and diversionary, and writing itself felt like a tailoring a cloak for a manikin . Yes, having a blog in which a silence is a journey becomes its own enemy.

But now, Ash Wednesday seems like a good time to wake up and explore silence itself: explore the everyday tension between silence and words; silence and thought; silence and movement; silence and the physical world; silence and the interior world.

Alrighty then.. where’s that snooze button?  That’s enough stretching of my atrophied writer’s sea legs for now. But moving forward, this Lent I intend to provide support and ideas for growing the spaces between our thoughts and turning down the noise in everyday life.  I think this quote by Kierkegaard is a nice place to start:

As my prayer become more attentive and inward
I had less and less to say.
I finally became completely silent.
I started to listen
– which is even further removed from speaking.
I first thought that praying entailed speaking.
I then learnt that praying is hearing,
not merely being silent.
This is how it is.
To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking,
Prayer involves becoming silent,
And being silent,
And waiting until God is heard.

–Søren Kierkegaard, quoted by Joachim Berendt in The Third Ear, translated by Tim Nevill (Shaftsbury, England: Element Books, 1988).

 

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Preparation for Lent with Thomas à Kempis and Elizabeth Gilbert

My Lenten journey and Elizabeth Gilbert's book have an odd connection

Those who choose to follow you, Lord, by despising the world and by perfect mortification of their fleshly desires, are known to be very wise, for they are led from vanity to truth and from fleshly pleasure to spiritual purity.    Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ, Book III, Chapter XXXIV

Here we are at Lent again.  Last year I was a brand new blogger, and used my blog to meditate on Letting Go–that was my Lenten spiritual discipline.

This year, I’ve decided to do three things:

  • Eat healthily on a food stamp budget; I will give the difference between my Lent budget and my regular budget to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
  • Increase my prayer and meditation life; through daily mass, reading of the Divine Office, and meditation.
  • Reach out to family and friends on a regular basis.  Time goes so swiftly by and I often find it’s weeks or even months between calls or emails to the people I love most, so I have pledged to contact three friends/family members a week.

I have not decided how to format my efforts in this blog, but I’m sure it will come to me.  In any case, as with last year, I intend to write at least three times a week to track my journey.

Tomorrow, when Fat Tuesday is officially over, if I haven’t eaten all the sweets in the house in my own celebration of Fat Tuesday, I’ll throw them away.   I will also attend Mass.  And I have a built-in opportunity to do #3, as my son has curated a music gig and has asked for the support of his family and friends there.

Although I have posted Thomas a Kempis’s quote as inspiration, I have no delusions of spiritual grandeur.  Actually, looking at my three goals, maybe my true inspiration is Elizabeth Gilbert, because I’m hoping that I will simply arrive at Easter with a more mindful way of eating, praying, and loving.



Lent of Letting Go: The Plan

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  And why do you worry about clothing?  Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith?  Therefore, do not worry, saying ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all of these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.    

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today. — Matthew 6:25-34

Today is the first day of Lent:  Ash Wednesday.  As promised in my last post, I will outline my plan for my personal Lenten journey.

Reduce personal consumption:  

I have borrowed some of the following language with due respect and gratitude from the blog Evolution to Simplicity:

  • I will not buy any new items throughout Lent.
  • I will carefully evalutate purchases of used items, health and hygeine products, and groceries before buying.
  • I will only buy items that I need.

Reduce number of my personal possessions

  • I will eliminate all unused and unloved possessions by vowing to donate, freecycle, or throw out 42 items a week.

Increase my mindful release of negative emotions such as fear, worry and anxieties

  • I will meditate at least 20 minutes each day on the abundance in my life and on my gratitude for God’s daily blessings.  I will use a mindfulness bell five times a day to continue to remind myself that I can make a choice to surrender myself to God in total trust and faith.
  • I will learn more about letting go of undue attachments in my life by using this blog to share the wisdom of great writers and thinkers on this topic.  I vow to post at least three new entries a week.

I welcome others to join me on this Lenten journey.

Next post:  Friday, February 27.


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.