Today is the beginning of Lent- traditionally a time in the Catholic Church of abstinence and repentance. My mom and I went to mass to receive our ashes and also walked out with some solid spiritual guidance from Father Padraig. Instead of instructing the community to give something up, he advised that Lent be viewed as a time of reflection in which we look into our hearts and see what's there. We are to spend the 40 (technically 46) days of Lent opening to the love of God and allowing the knots in our heart to be undone. He said that it's perfectly fine to give something up, but it's a superficial symbol of sacrifice if we don't take the time to turn in and consider what the sacrifice means and how we can grow through this time. Lent can be a time of abstinence in which we flex our will to avoid chocolate/caffeine/red meat/Facebook. Lent can also be a time of deep self-discovery and rebirth- so that when Easter arrives we will experience a true "springtime of the heart."
Coming from the Kundalini yoga community, I'm no stranger to 40 day commitments. I have experienced first hand the transformational power of committing to and (more importantly) completing 40 continuous days of practice. I remember my first few 40 day attempts and how much resistance I used to put up to my practice. It takes time to build a daily spiritual practice into your regular schedule- to make it as natural, normal and necessary as your dental hygiene routine. My practice has grown over the last two years from 10 minutes of pranayam to two hours of meditation/set, divided between morning and evening. I used to complete 40 days with relief and fall off for a while. Now I am never without some kind of practice, laying a solid foundation for my daily life. Now that my practice has become deeply rooted in my life, I am gaining ever more depth and value with each passing day that I remain committed to taking care of myself in this way. And it all began with struggle and resistance, failure and false starts. Commitment builds so much character because we push ourselves up out of the mud over and over, and keep reaching for the light.
When you look into your heart, what do you see? Father Padraig suggested that people often avoid looking because they're afraid of what they will find. Now is the time to be courageous. Last night I looked in my heart and found immense hurt and anger, so I joined the other 1,200+ brave souls doing Spirit Voyage's Burning Inner Anger 40 Day Global Sadhana (here's a video of Snatam Kaur teaching it, if you're curious). It's only been two days and I can already feel the challenging meditation breaking up the scar tissue in my heart, making me a clearer channel for God's love to flow.
If you want to make a Lenten sacrifice, give up time each day to commit to doing something that will support you in becoming a healthier, happier, more integrated human being. If I, who am so very self-indulgent, can bend my will to support this daily commitment, you can too. When it comes to showing up for yourself, you're never late. Supporting ourselves is a decision we have to make sometimes on a moment to moment basis and you can start right now. Look into your heart. What is there that needs attention and love? What can you do every day for 40 days that will help to loosen the knots and leave you more free to laugh, love and enjoy life? Make a commitment to yourself to take this time to explore your inner world and build a little consistent self-care into your life.
It takes 40 days to change a habit. What would you like to commit to change? Every moment presents an opportunity for rebirth.