Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

I’ve realized that Easter is this Sunday, and I’m within the seven days countdown to assessing how well I’ve done with giving up “Separation” for Lent.  Today, I paused to take within myself the experiences of my interactions with numerous people, including a co-worker, my toddler, and my puppy. Not that I can really know what it’s like to think and feel from within their skin, but I imagined what it might feel like.

It’s a fairly enlightening exercise, pretending what it may be like to be somebody else. Trying to imagine the experience of what it would be like to hold different thoughts, different feelings, and even different values-weightings on those thoughts, feelings and experiences. For example, I don’t personally relish the idea of playing with poo, but to my little puppy, it was the most fascinating thing in the world. While I shooed her away from it and cleaned it up, I replaced my disgust with the curious peek into what it may be like to have her senses, and her way of enjoying them.

I’m describing this as a very mental process, but I’ve felt it equally in my mind and my heart. I’ve been working for a long time on how to balance my empathy and desire to understand others with a need to maintain my own boundaries and identity, so this has been a project to learn new ways to strike that balance.

I don’t feel prepared to objectively rate how far I’ve come in the past few weeks. Yet come Sunday, I imagine I’ll have a good idea.

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We have a four and a half month old puppy, who is as affectionate and enthusiastic as a puppy can be. She can also be quite insistent that others be as affectionate and enthusiastic, barking or whining quite sharply to make her point.

Now, I had been intending to teach her to not make such a fuss to get attention, and to be a little more patient, and to help her be less noisy. What I ended up teaching her is that if she starts barking and whining when she sees me, soon I’ll run her around on the porch playing exciting games like “let’s run really fast” and “chase that ball!!!” And she’s been teaching me to try to pre-emptively play with her so she doesn’t fuss.

Today I finally caught on with what was happening, and already she’s starting to learn better. But to train my puppy, I had to train myself first.

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It’s time to give a bit of a status update for my Lent resolution of giving up “Separation”, or the idea that the experiences I have of other people can be completely “separate” from my own life as a human being.

Today, there was a bit of a traffic snarl in trying to leave work. I had to take a detour, and on the way home, there were more “snarls”, which reminded me what an obstructed time it was in the morning to start with. It was just a day of jams and being in each others’ way. Inevitably, there were drivers who were trying to weave in, jut out, and otherwise “beat” the traffic game, as though it were a competition.

I had a curious experience in all of this. Moreso than normal, I had a deep appreciation for the frustration these dangerous drivers were feeling that “drove” them to drive so unsafely. I felt myself wishing them all the best, and lending my lovingkindness to prevent them from experiencing any accidents or injuries as a result of the difficult time they were having. I recognized that we are all sharing one road, and the accident that impacts one/two vehicles, impacts us all.

I realize it can be considered a fairly “mundane” epiphany, but then again, my focus is squarely on the everyday experiences we have as regular human beings. One of the most everyday of the everyday is the dangerous tedium of the commute, and it was in this everyday experience I felt a unity with the others sharing my road.

I figure, you might have some relative idea of what this might mean to your own life, so I wanted to share. Truly, all my best to you, for we are sharing one road, and I wish for it to be smooth for us all.

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For Lent, I’m giving up the concept that can be broadly called “Separation”. That is, I’m going to try to recognize when I start feeling that another person, idea, circumstance, or somesuch is “other than” and “wholly separate from” my own self, my own life, my own experiences, my own world.

I am going to try to catch myself in those moments, and gently try to reconnect my perspective to that of a shared ecosystem, where what impacts one portion will naturally have an effect on the whole. I’m not entirely sure what this is going to mean in practice, but I’ll bet it’s going to surprise me.

I am curious to see what hidden habits I might have been indulging in, that could surprise me now that I’m looking…

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I’ve never been Catholic, but I observe Lent every year. I figure I’m not too good for a good idea, whatever the source.

Each year, I try to think of something I should be working on anyway. Then once I’ve decided, I commit to trying for a long-term commitment, not just until Easter.

So this year I gave up something I’m allergic to as a “deliberate shopping choice”. I won’t be ‘freaky’ about it if there’s a little in something that’s my best option.  Also, if I’m feeling good and I’m offered food containing it, I’ll probably indulge.

Why the prewritten exceptions?  I know I’m not ready to give it up for long-term serious, so why pretend, even to myself?

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Today’s Ash Wednesday.  I’m not from a Catholic tradition, but I had Catholic friends and I believe strongly in using what’s in front of me, so I’ve been observing the key points of Lent.  I figure that most religious traditions have elements that can really be beneficial to apply in our lives — the trick is whether we can use them, rather than being used by them.  In this particular case, since I can benefit from the goals of Lent without being burdened by possible side-effects of guilt and self-doubt, I figure it’s a good thing.

So, each year I’d pick something new that I needed to give up to become a happier, healthier, more spiritually sound person… and then would try to remember not to pick it back up again after Easter.  The year I broke my addiction to coffee was the hardest until I moved to non-physical things, like giving up complaining.  I tell you, changing behaviors and thoughts was harder than changing what I ate or how I goofed off!

This year, I’m trying something different, the kind of opposite of “giving something up”.  It’s not that there’s nothing else for me to work on having/doing less of, it’s that I’m already working on all of those so it would be “cheating” in my mind to use them for my Lent work.  So this year I’m sacrificing self-sacrifice.

It’s become far too easy for me to deny myself things.  I was raised in that as a virtue, and I’ve got a decently steady habit of saying, “no, thank you”, to the point that I actually feel better from it — like scratching a mosquito bite.  So I think this year, for forty days I’m going to try saying, “yes, thank you” to whatever good things come my way.

I figure, I spend so much of my thoughts and prayers hoping for good things to come, it’s like a responsibility to say “yes, thank you” when they show up.  So I need to get into that habit.  Wish me luck!

(and thank you!)

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