In honor of continuing my practice of “going with the flow“, I’d like to welcome you to my next little blog series. It’s gonna be over the next 7 Wednesdays, and I didn’t even know I was going to be doing this until today. Go with the flow, right?
You see, today marks a special day in my spiritual life. A day that comes around every single year and silently, slowly eases me into my favorite spiritual season.
So, what’s so special about today? What season am I referring to? Some of you may know, and some of you may be clueless. No matter. I am certain almost everyone is wondering why this season is my favorite.
Today is Ash Wednesday. Christians around the world celebrate the beginning of the Lenten season with this day. It is a day of penitence and remembering. And it is the first step in a 40-day (not including Sundays) journey towards Easter.
Just as Christmas celebrates the story of the birth of Jesus, Lent celebrates another milestone in the life of Jesus. His 40 day journey into the wilderness. Though this is no piece of cake, walk in the park, vacation in a hut 40 days. According to the story, it is a solitary, cleansing, challenging, tearing apart, grounding, and transformative time. Having survived trials and temptations, once Jesus comes out the other side of his journey committed and inspired, and he begins his 3 year ministry of spreading his message of acceptance, love, hope, inclusiveness, and justice.
The culmination of Lent, as I said before, is Easter… the end abrupt of the ministry of Jesus because he is put to death – for being too revolutionary (my take on it). But, then, as Christians believe, that death is simply the threshold to rebirth, new life. So, I wonder, can Lent be a symbolic season of experiencing our own rebirth, our own new life, our own commitment to living our our purpose + our own truth?
Just to be up front with you, I do not celebrate Lent the typical Christian way… because I do not belong to a Christian church. However, my theological education, professional life, and personal life have all been grounded in this tradition. At this point in my life, as I seek to live my life authentically, I do so out of many varying religions and beliefs. But, this season… this season… will always be special to me. I will always reach back a bit to my Christian roots. And, as I embark on the journey of Lent this year, just like the past few years, I create my own rituals, find my own meaning, and take those foundational themes of wilderness and commitment and transformation into my everyday life.
So, that is what I am doing here. On the blog. Beginning today. Creating my Lenten ritual. Reflecting on my own journey of the next 7 weeks. And sharing it with you.
Writing once a week during Lent is not a completely new thing for me. In 2014, I wrote a Lenten series as well. And, this morning, as I meditated in my usual fashion, yet with an old Lenten podcast that I found by some Catholic priest, I realized that writing on Wednesdays in Lent just might be something for me to do again. Go with the flow, you see? Stay awake and aware… the inspiration just comes.
I do have one other tradition that I have often celebrated during Lent. Visiting a cathedral.
Folks, I live in a very historic European city (be still my heart!), which has a very historical European cathedral. Like 700 years old or something. And it is huge. And beautiful. So, I must take advantage of this amazing space, I think. And, if that’s not enough, it’s only about a 5-10 minute walk for me from work to the cathedral… sooooo… that means that I can visit it during my lunch break throughout Lent.
And I went today.
I go to cathedrals, especially during Lent, because I need to. My soul yearns for it. I don’t go to a service, I just go and sit. Or wander. I observe. Meditate. Write. Think. Breathe. Pray. It’s just a place for me to be. A concrete symbol for me that I am doing something sacred… the same as lighting a candle every morning when I meditate at home. It’s a time that I consciously, mindfully simply set apart for the mystical.
Speaking of mystical, one of the things I love about Lent is this image of the wilderness. Of journeying and being in the wilderness.
It’s where Jesus spent 40 days, as I said before. And it’s where countless of people throughout history have gone in search of wisdom, spirit, connection, and deeper spirituality. The desert mystics and pilgrims from the past, the nomads of today, the wanderers, the seekers, the off-the-grid, simple life, slow living people of modern times… all of these people inspire me. And, though I may not live in the desert or the woods, I crave and create that wilderness life right where I am. Because I know that there is something magical about the wilderness, about living a slow life, about connecting to that spirit within.
So, this Lenten season, I am calling my Wednesday posts… Into The Wild.
And the journey starts right now.
Even though the wilderness is a romantic, untamed, uncertain, tough, beautiful, authentic place in my opinion, it’s main draw, for me, is the energy that I feel when I am standing in a desert, by the sea, on a mountain top, or in the woods.
To go “into the wild” is literally something spiritual, and symbolically something spiritual. Spending time in the wild connects us with our wild, authentic, true selves. Away from all of the hustle and bustle of regular life. Going into the wild spiritually, as in meditating or praying or whatever you do to connect to your soul, also connects us to our true selves. Allowing us to step away from the hustle and bustle of regular life in order to renew and reconnect with our souls.
You know, there is so much more to life than the physical stuff that we see and understand, and as I stand alone in the middle of a desert or on a mountain or in a classroom at work, there is always something present that I just cannot grasp. It is not a thing, but it is a feeling. It is incomprehensible, powerful, yet delicate, unexplainable, and vast. It is the energy that wells up inside me that moves me to tears when I talk with a student or hear a song or look out over the ocean.
This mystical and spiritual dimension of life, that which is beyond our physical understanding, and yet still capable of knowing, is what some of us mean when we say god, energy, universe, the divine. It doesn’t matter what we call it.
And, to me, the wilderness (of the natural earth and of our souls) is the perfect place to experience the divine.That’s why I love Lent so much.
So, on this first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, I ponder all that I know without knowing. And I feel compelled, as I take my first step in this Lenten journey to simply accept where I am.
Acceptance of all that is. Of how it all is. That it simply is what it is. Acceptance that I am right here, right now. In this physical place, but also in the beginning of my spiritual journey into the Lenten desert. A simple moment of pause and acknowledgment.
And, then, before I make another move, or take my second step, I accept something else: I accept the divine.
The magic. The mystical. I accept that it all is accessible to us. That it is actually quite easy to access the divine energy that we all desire… that feeling of inspiration, meaning, awareness, and love. It is easy because that energy flows freely. And it is within us and all around us.
So, today, to start my Lenten journey, I walked to the cathedral during my lunch. I sat in a pew and gazed upwards + around at the beautiful old building. I soaked in the symbols and I breathed in the spirit of the divine. The energy of love. I paused. Accepted where I was. Accepted the gift of inspiration. And let a simple everyday moment teach me about living an authentic, mystical, Lenten life.
I hope you visit here again next Wednesday. I’ll be sure to share how my journey is going, a few more photos of the cathedral, and the thoughts that have been crossing my mind. If you have any thoughts or questions about Lent, or anything else, just leave a comment or email me (in the menu above).
For now, though, as I have taken to blogging again late at the end of the day, I bid you good night. And I send you mystical Lenten blessings for your own wandering into the wild.