So this is from Rev. Janet Kirkland Stark, Melrose Institute at Park Nicollet.
Today, thousands are celebrating the worldwide Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday -- a day of decadence prior to Ash Wednesday...the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. I am struck by the dichotomy in these two days. It reminds me a bit of all or nothing/black and white thinking: be completely bad and then you will have to petition for the next 40 days to get out of jail free. Although a bit irreverent and extreme...we work with a population that lives on the edges of extreme.
Lent is known as a scared time within the liturgical year of the Christian tradition where one participates in both personal and corporate "spiritual spring cleaning." The 40 days of Lent symbolize Jesus' wilderness journey: who he was, what he taught and what gifts his life, death and resurrection brought to people. Christians practice Lent thru spiritual fasting, prayer and charity. The purpose of fasting or letting something go is to awaken our spiritual hunger or need for God. Prayer focuses our hearts, minds and spirits on our connection to God. Charity is the practice of filling the empty space of what was "let go" with something that brings greater life and spirit.
Most religions have some form of this practice; all with the intention of awakening humanity to our spiritual selves. And like any spiritual practice, it can be harmful when not understood. People end up trading in their self and soul for a false ideal.
As I prepare to create time for people to participate in Ash Wednesday reflection, I find myself afraid. Afraid because our patients already live a lief of lent, living in the wilderness of their extremes. Their hunger and thirst is not just physical and mental ... it is spiritual as well. They long for a sustaining love and connection that meets them in the deepest part of their being, their soul, and says ... You are loved; you are enough; just as you are. letting go of something may only reinforced ED's black and white thinking and their sense of shame for having a disease.
As an alternative, I offer an updated version of Lent for you and your patients. Do something intentional to remind yourself that you are a spiritual being...making space for something else...
- Let go of worry...send blessing to the person or situation instead
- Let of go the need to be busy in every minute...set aside one minute to just breathe.
- Let go of the noise in the morning...drive to work with your radio off
- Let go of one TV program...think of something playful or creative and do it
- Let go of one unrealistic expectation...identify what is real and practice living it
- Let go of needing to KNOW ... be curious...
and wait to be surprised by a stretcher of grace that will find you.