Monday, February 23, 2009

Preparing for Lent

I love Lent. I didn’t realize I did, but I do. And we’re not even quite there yet.

I need this quiet time. I need to focus, with as much clear-heartedness as I can, on God and what roots me. I’m going back to my mindfulness post of two days ago—that’s where I need to go digging.

It’s not about punishment, penance, guilt, giving something up for the sake of depriving yourself. It’s about stripping everything down, so that you are holding nothing between yourself and God. (Taking off the fig leaves, if you will.) It’s about remembering who we are, who God is. It’s about knowing that we hunger for nothing, more than the bread of life.

When I was a kid, I gave up chocolate. But I didn’t know what I was talking about. Later, I took on a practice, instead—usually a prayer journal. This blog has, in its own way, become that.

Fasting from excess would be a great idea—but I don’t know that I have any, right now. I still don’t eat much; I almost never even want things like desserts. My body is still laying low, still tired to the bone. I don’t overspend. The only thing I really waste time on is the internet. It’s tricky, because there is community there, and I value interacting with my friends. But I need to recognize when I’m actively engaging, and when I’m clicking “refresh” on Crackbook status updates just because I’m bored.

What I’m really after is mindfulness. Being alive to the life all around me. Being present to the people and things that speak to me, touch me, ask for my attention. Living with an open heart.

I’m already on the edges of this, and I really want to grasp it.

I can see the thought process going, “You can’t go online now; it’s the middle of the day. Go talk to somebody, instead.” So the only thing to do there, is specifically delineate the time. I’m already wanting to.

There’s something also appealing, about fasting from something that I need. Jesus went to the desert for 40 days. Obviously, I can’t not eat or drink for six weeks. I need to support my body's healing. I need to drink enough water; I need to eat healthy food. I need to wear adequate clothing when I go outside.

[Fast from shooting myself… oh, don’t tempt me.]

If I had a waterproof stopwatch, I'd take it into the shower. God knows I use too much water. But that's a grey area too, because the hot water on my skin soothes my aches, and helps me. When I was well, I could bounce in and out. Now I turn it on, climb in, and melt against the wall until I'm together enough to wash.

I don’t know exactly what it would mean, to fast from a necessary thing. But the idea just popped into my head, of spending one day a week in the Tenderloin, or the Haight, or the Mission. Not necessarily finding a place to volunteer, although it could grow into that. But just being there, doing my own little “street retreat,” watching and listening, talking to people when they talk to me. Seeing how to live, and find joy, with less than the basics. Finding out, from them, what is real.

I really want to do both of these things—restrict my online time, and go live in the world. This is the kind of Lent that makes sense to me. It’s all about exploring.

I’m also thinking about structuring prayer. I notice myself praying, when I write these. Or when I’m in chapel, or church, when people are singing and the music washes through me. Or when I light a candle for a friend. I don’t set aside time, to sit and talk with God. It comes in the course of life. I wonder what would happen, if I consciously held that door open more?

Jane, your book came the other day. Reading that could be a practice, too.


Mimi said...

Absolutely! May your path be illumined this Lent.

it's margaret said...

Mindful....taking the fig leaves off--dang girl. I'm going to quote you!

Kirstin said...

Aw, thanks!

I imagine you preaching with your hair on fire. :-)

it's margaret said...

and when I told the vestry that I had suppressed the urge to dye my hair bright red and spike it, they said that I had made a wise decision....really true--just the other day.... so, I'm in the closet with the fire thang....

Kirstin said...

You should see my grin right now.

FranIAm said...

Mmmmm- what a beautiful post. I love all that you say here and you say it with your usual heart.

I love Lent too - it is a challenge, but it is a gift.

Prayers for you my friend!

Jane R said...

Mindfulness. Exactly.

Thanks for buying the book :-).

Kirstin said...

You're welcome! :-)