Natural Lent

Yesterday the Catholic Christian liturgical season of Lent began with Ash Wednesday, and will continue until Easter Sunday on April 4.  Other Protestant Christian denominations also celebrate Lent, with varying degrees of intensity. In the past, Lent involved mostly personal sacrifice and penitence, but in recent years many have tried to reframe it as a time of spiritual introspection or even environmental action. (Check out the carbon fast advocated by Anglican bishops.)

Many of us (myself included) have long since given up the idea of giving up things for Lent, but the idea of setting aside an extended period of time for focusing on one’s spiritual life is worth exploring. For those who celebrate traditional Christian Lent, by all means continue to do so! It is not my intent to detract from that practice, but rather to offer ideas that are accessible to all, regardless of one’s religion. Natural spirituality is a human thing, an Earth thing, an if-you-live-on-this-planet sort of thing.  It can stand alone, or exist side by side or be integrated with traditional (or non-traditional) religion. It is entirely up to you.

The word Lent itself derives from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “spring” and originally had no religious connotations at all. Spring is an excellent time for a conscious focus on natural spirituality, given the transitional, liminal nature of the season. Setting aside a time in autumn or even deep winter would also work, and have a completely different feel to it. Consider the following ideas, and if one (or more) speak to you, give them a try. Feel free to share your experiences as the season progresses.

Choose a time frame. I suggest a few weeks at least, to allow for extended reflection.  Try to bookend the time with a natural marker. Perhaps a month could be noted by moon phases (new moon to new moon, or full to full).  Using the equinox (March 20) as a beginning or ending marker is very appropriate. Another way to approach it is to take a very personal approach. How about beginning when the first crocus blooms in your area and ending when the last one fades?  You could choose any natural marker that is personal to you, such as the flowering of a tree in your yard.  The point is to have a set beginning and end based on some sort of timetable drawn from Nature.

Choose a practice (or several).  I strongly advocate something daily, even if it is very brief. You could spend more time on weekends or days off if you choose, but a daily check-in is something to strive for. What will you do? It depends on your personal life. Choose something that works with the realities of your daily round. Consider the possiblities… A meditative walk.  Silent contemplation outdoors. Reading Thoreau. Writing poetry. Observing and journaling the seasonal changes in your own backyard. Bird watching. Gazing at the night sky. Pondering the melting snow. Contemplative gardening. Watching the dawn or sunset. Eating seasonal food.  Mix and match as your life allows.

Make it work. Be gentle with yourself. Deciding to meditate for an hour at dawn outdoors may not be realistic if you are a busy single parent in a cold climate. Nurturing yourself daily is more imporant than meeting a goal. Allow Nature to inspire, support and enrich you. Don’t get tangled up in thoughts of what you “should” do.

Mark the beginning and the end of your time.  For an extended time like Natural Lent, it helps to create a small ceremony to mark the beginning and end. This doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple cup of tea, sipped mindfully, can serve the purpose. So can lighting a candle. Or reading a poem aloud. Again, make it personal, and choose what works for you.

Nature is the Great Source. We are Nature, and Nature is us. Celebrating a personal season like Natural Lent can be a spiritual homecoming of sorts, an awakening to the miracle of all Life. Find the Sacred all around, and let it speak to your heart.

Green Blessings.

Photo Credit: photographer spsmiler at wikimedia commons from http://www.creativecommons.org/

Note: This post was inspired by my cyber-friend, blogger “plaidshoes.” Check out her post here.

About Rebecca

Natural spirituality writer, deep thinker, mom of 3, adjunct professor, resident of Earth
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7 Responses to Natural Lent

  1. Debra She Who Seeks says:

    Historically, it makes sense for people to practice fasting in the Spring. That's when food supplies are at their lowest — last year's stored harvest is probably nearly gone, and this year's crops are just about to be planted. Anything that stretches the food supply out a little longer would have promoted survival in those days.

  2. Rebecca Hecking says:

    Very true. Good point, Debra. :-)

    Even nowadays, some practice a spring cleanse, eating lightly or not at all for a few days for health reasons, if not spiritual ones. Christian practices were frequently adapted from pre-christian ones, and given a Christian gloss. It doesn't take much to scratch the surface to find the origins. (but that's another post- lol)

  3. CE Webster says:

    I enjoyed your article. I totally agree that we must take time to meditate.

  4. 九份 says:

    Drive carefully. It is not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.............................................

  5. Rebecca Hecking says:

    Thanks, CE. I appreciate the kind words.

    As for the next comment, with the name I am unable to read or reproduce here, what exactly do you mean by this? At first glance, it sounds almost like a veiled threat. Please clarify.

  6. Debra She Who Seeks says:

    It sounds like one of those goofy sayings that churches often put on their curbside signs in an attempt to be witty while making people think about spiritual things.

  7. Rebecca Hecking says:

    You're right. It does sound almost bumper-stickerish.

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