This is another offering in our series on Living Transformation: 10 Essential Values For Living A Transformed Life. Earlier posts in this series can be found here.
A few days ago, I received an email with the following message and it set me on an inquiry. I'm quoting it here with permission from the author:
"In my tradition, we are now in the third week of the season of Lent, which is the 6 1/2 weeks leading up to Easter. Among other things, Lent is a time of year when we can look at the darker side of our experience; the suffering, the loss, the mistakes.
Rather than pretending that these parts of life don't exist, and rather than condemning people as somehow wrong or shameful, Lent acknowledges them, and hopes to find some meaning in them.
Scripture refers to these things as being like the refiner's fire, by which silver is purified. And we understand that if we allow it, God can use situations of suffering or loss or error to purify our hearts. The same effect can often come from choosing austerities, hence the tradition of giving something up for Lent (a sort of voluntary suffering.)
Whether they happen to us by circumstance, or we choose them consciously, these are situations in which we have to let go, whether of habits, security, possessions, health, relationships, our ideas about our future, or our self-image. And this process of letting go can serve to help burn away the false ego that gets in the way of living into our true identity as children of God.
When we find ourselves in a difficult time, one thing we can do is ask, "What am I being called to let go of?" We may or may not be able to see from within the situation how it will lead to our purification. My experience has been that in most cases I don't discover it until later, but if I know to look out for how the fire might be burning away impurities in me, I am more likely not to struggle as hard.
The other effect that the self-examination of Lent can have is that when we discover our own impurities, acknowledge our own mistakes and failings, recognize our own suffering, we become more compassionate with the people around us, and that in and of itself acts as a cleansing of our hearts."
Janet Strickler -- Art of the Ordinary
By any measure, "What am I being asked to let go of?" is a provocative question. At any point in time, we could ask ourselves this question and when we do are likely to uncover a goldmine, for the question nearly always has application, no matter what is happening at the level of life circumstances.
Having grown up as a Methodist, and perhaps because as a child and then a teenager I was not yet in search of wisdom, I never experienced Lent as a time for self-examination.
The extent of my understanding about Lent was limited to understanding Christ and his journey to the cross. I never looked beyond what was written in the Bible or related to Christ's journey as my own. I never used the teaching about his death and resurrection as a way to look at and come to know myself more deeply.
For that matter, Christianity did not invite me to a larger understanding of who I am, who God is and what is my relationship with God. Perhaps that's why my search for the answers to the fundamental questions about Being and God led me away from traditional Christian teachings, ultimately to discover the answers resided within me, not in an externally based theology or institution. I'm not faulting traditional Christian teachings for my failire to find the answers. It just wasn't my path.
Yet from Janet Strickler's message, sourced from her Christian background, comes the idea of using the 40 days of Lent to make one's own journey to the cross, and make it consciously.
While I've been on a conscious journey of transformation for nearly 40 years, I've never framed it as my "journey to the cross." But that's only because my orientation has not been framed in Biblical terms. The truth is, whatever we call it, we're all on this journey anyway, whether we're aware of it or not.
One's personal journey to the cross is another way of viewing the journey of transformation: one's personal version of death and rebirth. It invites our personal facing up and letting go of whatever is between being small and afraid, or being connected to whatever is greater, call it God, Spirit, Universal Mind or Greater Intelligence. Call it what you will.
What if humanity were to take on this journey as a collective letting go? I know this sounds absurd, given the amount of conflict in the world today. To think that humanity could ever act in unison, motivated by a common desire to advance the welfare of every being in the direction of compassion and acceptance, sounds like a pipe dream. That's true, at least in the prevailing paradigm of these times.
This is why the idea of 2012 as a time in which that prevailing paradigm undergoes a dramatic shift is such a compelling idea for these times. Why not now? Have we not already spent 10,000 years, at least, paying homage to the old system of separation? How much longer will we choose the path of suffering?
When we deepen the inquiry, when we cut through our personal stories of denial or pretense, when we stop being noisy, competitive and greedy, when we begin to have an inkling about what is possible for humanity that lies beyond what we already see and already know, when we begin to experience what lies beyond suffering, we're led to a greater truth, as revealed by Christ, Buddha, Muhammad and all the greatest teachers and teachings ever known.
That is the truth of oneness as the sum total of all that is. It is simple, yet it is everything. It is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, excluding nothing. Everything that is, is its expression.
If you think this is just a bunch of New Age blather, check out this video and narrative by astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson about the nature of the universe:
This truth is the destination of one's journey to the cross. This is where the cross leads: to the intersection of heaven and earth; to the intersection of soul, spirit, and heart. It is the cross of our humanity.
This is the great homecoming. To get there we are being called to let go our smallness. For to return home, is to recognize that home is who we are and we are already there. There is no coming or going, except in awareness.
Whether you are Christian or not, consider using this time of Lent as an opportunity to take up your own cross of awareness and consider what you're being asked to let go of at this moment in your life. Let this be your time of "purification," consciously choosing to release what no longer serves you or humanity's highest good.
What self-limiting beliefs do you still hold on to? What identity no longer fits or allows for your maximum growth and transformation? What's between you and your own homecoming? What are you being asked to let go?
I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below. Or come pay a visit to my personal blog and website at Rx For The Soul.
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Blessings on the path.
For more by Dr. Judith Rich, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.