“As you may know,” my friend wrote me, “it can be challenging to remember the holy and divine.”
I do know. It can be challenging, indeed. She said this in a conversation about remaining kosher. She continued, “Kosher is a way for us to be challenged on a daily mundane scale to give literal food for thought regarding how to obtain some of the holy into our very being. Using the physical to obtain a spiritual goal is something I find fascinating and something shared by both of our religions.”
My belief in getting at the spiritual through the physical is what attracts me to my Jewish brothers and sisters. I am curious about their rituals and chosen restrictions. It is what fascinated me about walking the streets of Nepal– Hindus and Buddhists publicly weaving physical practice into their daily lives. It is what worries me about my young students who walk away from the church without walking toward anything in particular. My faith in practice is also why I love Lent.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. For me, since I was very little, Lent has been a treasured time of reflection and refinement. How have I strayed from my best self? How have I given into the default settings of being human– being greedy and thinking I am the center of the universe? How have I given up on the good news? What adjustments can I make to my physical life to be made new spiritually?
This Lent, I am committing to three physical goals that I believe will welcome reflection and refinement. First, I will consume less alcohol, sugar and caffeine. I believe there is a connection between what we put into our bodies and what our bodies are capable of exuding back into the world. My spouse and I make very good, healthy choices about food. But alcohol, sugar and caffeine are three things I do take in that are not nutritious in and of themselves. I am using Lent as a time to check in and make sure I’m not leaning too much on these three items that people can become addicted to. I know my body will feel better, stronger, and more alive with less alcohol, sugar and caffeine to process. I’m interested to see what the spiritual implications of this cleanse will prove to be.
Secondly, I will use my phone as a phone. Ever since I got a smart phone, I have noticed the slippery slope of my dependence to it. My personal ethics around cell phone use has gotten more and more lax. Am I addicted to my phone? I don’t think so, but I want to make sure. Over Lent, I am going to push myself to use my phone to make and receive calls. Period. This means not checking my email on my phone throughout the day. It means leaving it in the next room and not carrying it around with me like it is an extension of myself. It means less screen time and less distraction. It means not having a social crutch to lean on when I am waiting for a friend by myself and admitting that I don’t need to be available to everyone at every moment of the day. I think I will learn a lot about how we use our phones to hide from our own humanity.
Finally, I will keep a gratitude journal. Habits are powerful, and it is just as important to eliminate what takes life away as it is to incorporate what offers life. I’ve noticed that I’ve become a little more bitter and negative. I complain a little bit more than I used to. I believe in acting the way you want to feel. I want to feel more generous and grateful. So each day, I will take a few moments to write down what I am grateful for. Forty days of shifting my focus to gratitude, I hope, will invite renewal and a more permanent shift in focus.
My hope is that these three minor adjustments to what has become my routine will change my daily, mundane reality enough to remind me of the holy and divine right in front of me. The effort and intention it takes to change these practices, I hope, will bring about something new in me. This Lent, how will you get at your spiritual life through your physical life?