Like many people, my spiritual journey has been (and still is) a long and twisted one rather than a straight path. Part of that journey included attending Catholic school from 1st-7th grade. After Advent (the weeks leading up to Christmas), Lent was my favorite season. A psychologist probably could have pegged my love of Lent as the beginnings of an obsessive tendency to self-reflect and over-analyze, but I think I was really searching for renewal. In my young mind, I believed that giving up candy and eating fish on Fridays really would make me a better person. Plus, I HATED fish, so I felt like I was accumulating extra points for my date with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.
I am no longer a practicing Christian, but I do consider myself a deeply spiritual person. If I had a religion, it would be an amalgamation primarily of Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism, with some Judaism thrown in for good measure. I don’t miss religion per se, but I do miss the structure and ritual it provides. Ritual is important because it forces us to step back from our frenetic lives and reflect on the deeper meaning of our existence. Rituals remind us to take the time for spiritual practice. Without the formal structure of a religion, I find it more difficult to create the time for that practice (although I do try!).
So, driving around town the other day I started thinking maybe I should just take back some of the rituals and practices that had meaning for me. Who says that just because I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I can’t give something up for Lent? Then I started contemplating what I could give up. For all of about two seconds, I contemplated red wine because that really would be a sacrifice. Luckily, I came up with an excellent excuse to reject that idea. “Hmmm… We’re having our first book club meeting on Thursday, and that would be pretty anti-social…” I kept brainstorming, but each idea felt flat and uninspired.
Finally, I came up with a new twist. Instead of “giving up”, I’m going to try “giving to.” For the next forty days, I will practice “random acts of kindness and generosity” to the people in my life and community, near or far. I say random because I will not plan them in advance. Each day I will be open for opportunities to “give” to another person. The actual acts may surprise me just as much as the other person. Just small gestures that might make a big difference for someone on one day.
As an example: one of my best friends back in Virginia loves to read as much as I do. We’ve also had conversations about how great it is to get something fun in the mail for no particular reason. Remember letters? So my random act for today was to send her a light, fun and humorous book that I enjoyed with a hand-written note. She travels a lot, and this book is a great plane read. This is the type of giving I mean. I’m going to try to make a small, but positive, difference in someone’s day every day for the next forty days. Giving to.
I will probably blog about it here and there if the mood or occasion strikes, but this is not a gimmick for the blog. I will, however, blog about the experience as a whole on Easter. How about you? Have you created any of your own spiritual practices? Let me know in the comments.
Meanwhile – Peace, Shalom, Namaste