What to give up for Lent?
When I was a kid, I remember especially my Catholic friends giving up some
treasured thing or food or toy for the duration of Lent. Seeing myself as pretty much
“holier than thou” I didn’t want to be left out of this religious practice. So, I made
some attempts at “giving up”… one memorable year when I was about 12, I gave up
sugar. And I lasted the whole 40 days. That astounds me right now!
But, recently, my yoga teacher, Alan Haras, gave us a different take on this practice
of giving up. He said that the original intent was not to “sacrifice”, not to “do
without”, but rather to give up doing something that got in the way of your spiritual
path. People might, for instance, give up 15 minutes of sleep each day in order to be
certain that they meditated. Or, one might give up playing computer games and
instead take up the practice of reading poetry for 15 minutes. The idea was to
remove the obstacles to following the religious practice you want to follow. I have a
friend who plans to give up “self-negation” in order to open space for a more
generous outlook on herself. That strikes me as a wonderful “give up”… not a
sacrifice, but a creating of space and a taking on of something truly desired.
In addition Alan mentioned that people often would decide to give alms more freely
during the time of lent. I can imagine doing something like deciding you will express
more gratitude, or give more compliments, or write a note once a week to someone.
There are many ways of “giving alms” besides monetary.
So, I hope during this Lenten season you might find something to let go of and
something to hold onto – and maybe also something that you can give away. May
this be a blessed season for your soul.
…If you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.