I was raised Catholic … well, for at least half of my childhood. I did participate in the rite of First Holy Communion, but I never went through Confirmation. In fact, I stopped attending church shortly after going through Communion, and now rarely go unless it’s a special occasion and/or holiday (if then).
I am a spiritual person, but I don’t believe God is found in a church … at least, I’ve very rarely felt God in a church. I find God in nature, and in my quiet moments alone. So I pray quietly to myself. I try to get outside often (or, at the very least, leave my windows open). Maybe some people think I’m ridiculous, in that I don’t “feel” God inside a church … but to me, what’s important is that I connect with God/the universe/the spirit as often as possible. And that’s rarely in a church.
I personally do not identify as a Christian anymore, though I do still culturally celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter. At this point, Christmas is basically a commercial holiday, celebrated by many who don’t really keep a nativity scene in their home. And, again, while I don’t attach too much religious significance to it, my parents love Easter and it’s just a day for us to get together and enjoy a nice lunch.
But one tradition I carry forth with me every year, is the tradition of following Lent.
Lent is a Christian practice, beginning the day of Ash Wednesday and lasting 40 days through “Good Friday” – the day in Christianity when Jesus was executed and buried. Of course, Good Friday is right before Easter Sunday, celebrating the resurrection. The 40 days is symbolic of the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert, and many Christians commit to some form of fasting and/or spiritual practice during the 40-day period.
As a spiritual person, and one who has committed in the past year to become even more connected to our greater purpose in this universe, I still use Lent as a time to practice minimalism, sobriety (not in the alcoholic sense … more in the ‘taming down my life’ sense), and just as a specified time frame to focus heavily on my spiritual practices.
My Lenten practices this year are two-fold, the first being to complete the Whole30 program. I’ve wanted to follow this program in an attempt to improve my personal health (good health lends itself to strong spiritual heath). There’s also enough in this program to count it as “fasting” – no cheese? No Diet Coke? No beans? Jokes aside, it’s a test of personal discipline and strength … so I plan to benefit, again, with my physical health and tying it into my spiritual practice.
On a more overtly spiritual level, I’ll be completing Gabby Bernstein’s “May Cause Miracles,” a 40-day guidebook offering a spiritual lesson every day. I did not complete it – I went through about three weeks back in August 2016. It was interesting and helpful, but I let life take over and I just never went back to it. As a follower of Gabby, I plan to use this book to carry me through Lent (along with her monthly Miracle Membership).
My theme of the year – 2017 – is the word compassion. Compassion for myself, compassion for others, compassion for my neighbors, compassion for the world. So while you can never quite guarantee what you’ll get out of a certain spiritual practice, I am hopeful that this year’s Lent season will allow me to grow closer to the universe, and to grow in compassion.
And, further, I hope YOU awaken this Lenten season, to whatever practices you desire, to whatever positive outcomes you are searching for in this life. Please, let me know in the comments if you are committing to any practices for these 40 days, and what spiritual guidance you hope to attain.
Featured image courtesy of Don Christner