Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Lenten Promise

Someone asked me yesterday what I gave up for Lent. I said I hadn't decided. Her response was "isn't it a little late?" since it was a FULL DAY after Ash Wednesday. I had decided what I wanted to "give up" but I am giving up in a different way this year. In the past, my small sacrifices of caffeine or candy or arguing with my sister (that was a long time ago folks...) didn't seem to make a permanent mark on my physical or spiritual life and body. I get uncomfortable around people who talk about how they are giving up sweets so they can lose some pounds from the lower sugar intake. Rarely do I hear of people who keep sacrificing those sweets after Easter, even if it would be something that is just a good, healthy idea. For others, I recognize, the sacrifice of something that is an addiction (like my coworker who is giving up the scones from the coffee cart outside our office) and thus taking focus away from God in many ways, Lent is a good time to focus on that flaw and find a better way to happiness and fulfillment through God.

I feel like a lot of that previous paragraph was apologizing for not agreeing with some Lenten "sacrifice" choices. Maybe what I find absurd is meaningful for someone else. Giving up something for Lentis a practice that people of many different religions take up every year as a sign they are participating in the Lenten season. . Just like ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday show the world our beliefs as Christians.

This year I did not make it to an Ash Wednesday service for the first time since I can remember. I wasn't horribly ill or something like that - I just over scheduled myself and managed to not be around for any of the many masses and ashe distribution ceremonies. I guess that was a little sign that this Lent would be different for me. I felt the good old Catholic guilt when I was walking down Michigan Ave to the dentist and everyone seemed to have ashes but I was not zealous enough to go ot the only service near me that I could make which would have been completely in Spanish. I don't speak Spanish.

Now let me explain my Lenten "Sacrifice." Sacrifice usually connotes to being something we hold on to too much and don't want to give up. For me, it is more a giving of myself into God's hands and pushing myself to heal the spiritual, emotional, and physical obstacles I have been encountering. It all came back to this blog. "In Search of an Enlightend State of Confusion" It is easy to become confused by everything that is going on not just in the world but even closer in the personal life. This lent I am renewing my wish to be a "samadhiseeker," my user name for this blog. I meant to write more about something specific I did tonight but this post is getting long. To be brief, here are some concrete "promises" or standards I am giving to God no matter how frustrating, painful, and exhausting it may be.

1. Do more yoga - yoga is my prayer. When I am doing a sun saluation or lying in savasana, I am talking to God too. In addition, it will help me with depression and anxiety as well as my physical body.

2. Do more weight training - I need to acknowledge the strength God made me capable of and put it to use. Doctors have been telling me all year that losing weight is going to be the biggest prescription that will help alleviate my PCOS symptoms. I'm doing this for myself which in turn is honoring God.

3. Take more walks in the winter when it is so cold, even if that is a walk on the treadmill. This is related toboth 1 and 2. I just read an awesome article about walking meditation that I want to try.

4. Eat no milk. period. This has been a 9-month mandatory sacrifice due to my milk allergy. It is to the point that I have to check bread labels to make sure there are not milk products.

Last, but not least, if for some reason I fall behind or break one of the above intentions (as we often call them in yoga), I must not hate myself or feel guilty. It is okay. Maybe just a quick downward facing dog and child's pose is enough for some days to keep me centered and whole. The most important thing is doing what God wants and I can feel God cheering me on. These are all "selfish" as in they are all about me but I have been learning in the last few months that if I am not whole, I cannot do much to help others.

What do you think about Lenten sacrifices? Have you ever given up or done something that made your Lent more meaningful and memorable?

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