lent has begun. as last week passed, christians around the world began their six week reflective season before easter. a time of remembering who we are and where we are headed in this life. a time to look at the difficult life of the person of jesus, and see if there is anything that one can learn from the path that he walked while living on earth.
stay with me now. i’m not saying that any of you have to believe or not believe in jesus. but, i think the example of his life, as the example of siddhartha’s life + many more, have something to teach us.
lent is a time of darkness + sacrifice + wilderness. it’s like the darkest part of the night just before the sunrise. or the last snowfall just before flowers bloom. and it’s not a short period of time either. in fact, it is 40 days long, mimicking the 40 days that jesus spent in the wilderness before he began his 3 year wandering ministry that lasted until he was killed. it was 40 days that he spent alone. doing what, i don’t know. 40 days is a long freaking time to be in the desert and all alone. but, whatever happened out there, it filled him and inspired him to follow the path that was ahead. he found courage, trust, compassion, and his purpose. i am guessing that he got to know his true self quite well after such an intense time alone. perhaps those 40 days were exactly what he needed in order to transform him – to give him the confidence to stay true to himself, all the way to his death.
i’m fairly certain that should any of us spend 40 days, or even a week, alone and in the middle of the wild, we’d be changed too. empowered. inspired. and proud that we’d been bad ass enough to make it on our own. life back in the real world most likely seem foreign to us in the beginning and we’d probably approach life completely differently. and, hopefully, we would have found a deep treasure of amazingness within us, propelling us to claim who we are and teaching us to never, ever be afraid of living out our calling, our dreams, and using our gifts. even the world, which had not changed at all while we had been away communing with nature, would not tempt us to let go of the power and peace we’d found out there on our own.
now, i’m not suggesting that we all pack a bag and hit the road for some place in the forest or the desert for 40 days. though that’d be pretty damn amazing (and scary!). no, we don’t have it that easy. we live in the world. we don’t have the luxury of going away for an extended period of time just to fight our demons and calm our soul. if we want transformation, if we want to change and become the person that we know we can be, then we have to do it right in the middle of the chaos that is everyday life. with all of its distractions and corruptions. not an easy feat.
but, still, something to consider. what about spending 40 days having anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes all alone? without music or tv or our smartphones. just us and perhaps a piece of paper + a pen. maybe we could find time to do that since we can’t fill up a backpack and traipse around the world. how would 30 minutes of yoga or writing or prayer every single day change us?
well, before you go getting all ready to hear me announce my little “lenten project” for 2015, prepare yourselves for a shock: i have no project. nope. nada. nothing. zippo. by ash wednesday last week, nothing had come to me. well, to be honest, i didn’t even think about it to try to see if something came to me. instead, i somehow just knew that this year i’d still be journeying during this season of lent. but, i’d be doing nothing. or, if i did, i didn’t know what that would be yet. and, i still don’t.
i mean, in some ways i feel like i’ve been on some 40 day journey for the past 7 years. from 2007 – 2014 all i did was wander in the desert. figuratively speaking, that is. it was a period of insane growth for me as a person. i got divorced, fell in love, got married. sold all my things. moved to denmark, to the states, to sweden, to the states, and to sweden again. i have had numerous types of jobs form teaching to preaching to writing to photographing. i almost lost my love to anorexia. i’ve explored every little facet of who i am, including falling in love with a woman, dealing with same-sex inequalities and discrimination, been rejected as a minister because of who i love, lost a calling, found the creative within me, merged my life with another, found new relationships with my family, learned a new language, been “big sister” again, taken care of everyone else, meditated every single day, written my story down, dabbled in other religions, gone to church, stopped going to church, traveled, enjoyed good food + good wine and beer like never before, and reconnected with my love of nature. just to name a few things.
in short, i have experimented and learned and grown. and i have found a beautiful, grounded, connected base that i like to call my soul. now, this doesn’t at all mean that i am happy 100% of the time, or that i do not freak out or get confused or trust the universe. in no way is my life settled. in no way is my mind all at peace and lovey dovey. but, the core of me is completely content and at peace. i have found the me that i am supposed to be (at least at this point in my life).
so, i’ve done the 40 days. it’s just taken me 7 years. like other mystics, saints, buddhas, etc. i’ve spent my time alone (though i haven’t been alone). i’ve reflected + fought my demons. and, what i feel now… what i know is happening since i had no desire to do any lenten project this season, is that the energy is shifting.
it is time to say goodbye to past 7 years. to say goodbye to my old ways of doing things, and to embrace this energy that is swirling around me + within me. i don’t know what it means, and it sometimes terrifies me, but it’s time. it’s not time to think that i know what comes next or how things will work out and what my life will look like. but, it is time to turn around. and step forward.
i do not need to hold on to all of the self-focused, constantly reflective, quiet, contemplative ways of living. oh, these will all always be part of my life. but, it’s time that i focus outward again. like someone who has walked on a labyrinthian path in towards the inner circle and is now on her way out again, it’s time for my focus to change. my foundation is set. my feet are planted. and it’s time for me to take that first step. and then to faithfully trust in myself. i’ve learned way too much. there’s no going back now. it’s not even possible. it’s not time to imagine or plan. it’s simply time to do. to follow. to walk. to get moving. and, i have learned to have the courage that it takes to get moving without having a clue in hell as to what lies ahead. there’s no need to think about what i think should be happening. for now is the time to live in the present. to take it as it comes. to embrace everything. to realize what is happening – and then to live life in the middle of that. staying true to who i am.
i’m prepared. because i’ve been wandering for 7 years.
so, this lent, i am taking it day by day. doing my best to live in the moment and accept whatever comes, knowing that all will always be well. and i will always be me.