Confession: I am a non-church-going Catholic. Whether we’re talking about Mass or service at my current church home (a United Church of Christ community), I haven’t been regularly to either. In fact, the last service I attended, was for someone’s funeral. You can say I have slacked off, a bit or a lot. Regardless of my attendance, there are still two practices I hold true to: daily prayer and participating in the Lenten Season.
The Lenten Season, or Lent, for short, is the time of year that starts on Ash Wednesday and ends the Thursday before Easter Sunday. I won’t bore you with my very layman description. Let big sister Google guide you from here. What’s most important when speaking of Lent is the fasting portion of the season. For 40 days and 40 nights “believers” and me fast from something, anything: meat, candy, swearing, pop (yes, I’m from the Midwest, and we say pop), you name it.
Every year, with careful consideration, I think of something I want to give up for 40 days. Whatever it is, it’s usually a challenge that I hope will help transform my relationship with and view of the proposed thing. One year I gave up fast food, and I haven’t had a burger from any of the major food chains in years.
During the last few seasons, I’ve actually tried to choose things to add, as opposed to give up. I have challenged myself to blog daily. Another year it was journaling. This year, it’s 40 days of meditation. I love to meditate and understand the benefits, but find it hard sometimes to set aside time to sit still and be quiet. Each day until Good Friday, I will set aside 10-15 minutes to be mindful, slow down and breathe. I’m only a few days in, and already this morning I started bargaining with myself about when I could do it, instead of meditating right then and there.
Creating Habits One Challenge at a Time
The beautiful thing is, whether it’s Lent or just another day in the year, the present is always a good day to challenge yourself to be your best. Six weeks of anything can change your outlook and form a habit that will change your life. Consistency is key to reaching goals and retaining routines. You don’t have to be of a particular faith or any faith at all; it just takes practice. We live in a society where we deny ourselves very little. So for those of us who have a hard time giving something up, try adding to your life. Especially if you find that something is lacking. Fill the void.
Don’t let fear push you to stagnation. What is something in your life that needs some work? Are you late a lot? Try being on time for 40 days straight. Your friends and family will thank you. Are you hard on yourself? Try 40 days of affirmations. Tire easily? Set an earlier bedtime and create nighttime routines to get you back on track. Moving or recently moved? Pack or unpack a box every day. Want to be healthier? Set aside 30 minutes for exercise each day or commit to at least one healthy meal a day. It doesn’t stop there, try something fun! Has your dinner menu become redundant? Challenge yourself to make a new recipe each week. The possibilities are endless.
So while you think of your next challenge, I’ll be searching for the best meditation music to go along with my new daily practice! Om.