A journalist called me about some retreats for the Lent and Easter time. After I told her about a few nice ones in Christian monasteries, she asked, ” How about some Easter breaks in holistic places - you know with yoga and a spa and stuff.” I told her that the season of Lent and the Easter celebrations were Christian and so people going on them were interested in that spiritual or religious practice. I don't know what she will write about, but it got me thinking about the Lent and Easter times for those who are not Christians or at least are not interested in attending religious retreats let alone churches. Is there some understanding from the Christian traditions for these seasons that helps us or not? As to Christian Lent, it is all about examining the heart and coming to terms, what we can call reconciliation with God, with the downside of the past year - what we did wrong and wished we had done differently. One way or the other, we all carry loads of emotional baggage and the Lent season is a good to time to unload some of it. It clears the mind, settles us down, and prepares us for the freshness of spring and a renewed life in a new beginning. Maybe a new renewal of life in any case must always begin with a reconciliation of ourselves with how we have been and with the sincere hope of doing better in the coming year. In any case, the time of Lent, which heralds spring, seems a good time to take stock on what we find dark and sad in us and get rid of it by bringing it into the open and seeing it for what it is - a time of our experiences in living which is now past. In acknowledging them, we can move on. A Christian during Lent does the same thing- examines the soul, confesses the vices, makes amends to self and God, hopes to do better, and then gets on with preparing for the great day of Easter. But Lent also is about giving up something connected to our pleasure- usually some food - especially popular is promising for 40 days not to eat chocolate. So we give something up we like as a form of repentance - a way of pleasing God and the Universe- and improving our health. Recent science tells us worms, rats and monkeys live longer if they eat less calories and that fasting from time to time is good for the immune system. So cutting down on certain foods, especially sugar and fats, during Lent is good, whether you are Christian or not. It is more powerful if you have a spiritual motivation - like adding regular prayers or meditation or just a short period of daily stillness. Lent is a time set aside for healing and health - so perhaps I should have told the journalist about a few spa places where luxurious rest was available. Then again, why not do the Christian thing or, if not, take a leaf out of their spiritual season and do your own Lent season? Either way it gets you ready for the celebration that is spring. For a Christian it is a preparation for the glory of the resurrection and the new life of salvation in Christ-Jesus that takes place at Easter. Altogether a special time of paying attention to spiritual needs. A preparation for renewing ourselves so that like the flowers that open and the trees that shade us with new leaves, we too are ready to bloom again - more fully this time, more our true selves, and more in tune with God, nature and others.
Blessings to you. - Stafford