Even though I was not raised Catholic, I always enjoyed the idea of giving something up for Lent. I remember viewing it as a challenge - a redeeming opportunity to absolve myself of my shortcomings and my personal defects. I also believed that it somehow made me more worthy ― that being willing and able to sacrifice something that gives you pleasure or joy is a sign or moral superiority, willpower, and control.
Most of all, I loved the idea that giving up something meant that I wasn’t dependent on it. Though I doubt I have any serious abandonment issues, the thought of needing something always scared me. I would rather have never experienced something good than like in fear that it would go away or be taken away.
Oh how wrong I was. And oh how stuck in a scarcity mentality I was! Though I still struggle with this mindset from time to time, I have come to a very important realization:
Being perfect isn’t the rent I need to pay for taking up space in this world.
You can substitute the word “perfect” with so many others that we try to take on in empty, soul-numbing attempts to “hustle for our worthiness”: in control, disciplined, happy, sad, thin, powerful, subservient, likable, quiet, etc. I am sure that you can come up with quite a list of things that you feel like you have to be in order to feel “legitimate.”
And the reality is that you probably know on a rational level that you - like all other living beings ― are worthy. But my telling you so or your reading about it or knowing it on a conceptual level doesn’t change the felt experience.
For me, taking steps to move from a scarcity and limiting mentality to one of abundance has helped me bridge this gap. To that end, I want to introduce the Anti-Lent practice with you. I know that Lent is ending in a few weeks, but this is a challenge that you can choose to begin any day.
In a nutshell, the Anti-Lent practice is the decision to add something instead of giving something up. Perhaps it is because I am older (and hopefully wiser) now, that I long for and appreciate the opportunities for self-improvement as opposed to self-deprivation.
Forgoing and denying myself things that I plan to continue after 40 days feels contrived and inauthentic at best. On the other hand, using this time to make headway on habits I want to integrate into my lifestyle feels nourishing and directed.
About a year and a half ago, I decided (in November - not during Easter time) to start a daily meditation Anti-Lent practice. I had meditated previously, but my practice was very infrequent. After meditating daily for 40 days, my practice effortlessly continued. Though my practice is sometimes limited to 2 minutes, I have meditated daily since that time.
I am not here to proselytize about the benefits of meditation because each person’s Anti-Lent challenge will look and feel different. And not everyone will choose to stick with their new practices for the long-run. You may also choose to return to a practice. That’s OK, too.
What I can tell you are three key lessons I’ve learned from doing these challenges:
1. Consistency bring about change
It doesn’t matter how short or small the step you take is. You may not notice or feel any difference between one day and the next. But I guarantee you that over time you will look back and be grateful for even the tiniest of steps you took and you will see progress.
2. You DO have time for what is important
I get it. Life is crazy busy sometimes. Or all the time. There are a million distractions and demands pulling our attention in every direction. But always remember that you are the one making choices about how you spend your time. You choose your priorities. As Harry Truman sagely remarked, “Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time.”
3. Accepting where you are is key
It is important to acknowledge your limitations and your strengths. Setting yourself up for failure or self-sabotage isn’t going to prove anything to anybody. Looking at what you can’t do or can’t have only leads to suffering. And taking on an Anti-Lent practice that is a reflection of someone else’s expectations, priorities, or opinions is simply a way to surrender ownership and responsibility for your life.
Remember - if you decide to take on this abundant living challenge, now following through on what you picked one day does not mean that all is lost and you might as well give up. I encourage you to get back on track as soon as you can. Rather than being a rigid task to check of a to-do list, this challenge is an invitation to practice, and to a lifestyle that brings you closer to the person you are and want to be in the world.