03/13/2013 01:57 pm ET Updated May 13, 2013

12 Basic Truths for Lenten Living

The season of Lent portrays the dark night of the soul as a basic element in religious or spiritual experience. Psalm 51 says: "A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." A basic element is that in Lent we are invited to remember that we are dust, and to dust shall we return. In writing these meditations I invoke the spirit of my book "Are You Running with Me, Jesus?" And as I approach my 90th birthday in June, I invite you to join me in a bit of Lenten meditating.

In order to survive, I needed to learn some basic truths. Here they are:

Cultivate simplicity. Learn to communicate in non-verbal ways. When you use words, have them say what you mean. If there is a key to your mystery, let people have it so they can understand you.

Act in fresh, freeing ways. Speak to someone who appears forbidding. Make a telephone call you've been afraiad of. Break a heavy silence. Ask the hard question. Even try to do what is clearly very difficult for you.

Forgive. W hen you don't, the loss of your energy in harboring resentment and hate is incalculable. You need all that energy for loving and creativity.

Risk everything. What is there to save? Will you take it into the grave? Risk and letting go are life giving.

Understand the deep meaning of "the failure of success." What appears as as failure often is the best teacher we have. Strive to be a person free of simplistic labels.

In your imagination walk up the mysterious street you have long wondered or dreamt about. Study its detail. Graduallly delineate shadows, colors, forms, dimensions and patterns. Strive to find perspective and focus.

Remain open and vulnerable. Closing in on oneself involves defense and spells doom, not survival. Don't worry about what other people think. Mosf of them are thinking about themselves.

Give yourself. Nurture love with kindness, spices and gratitude. Don't limit love. Some see it only in erotic terms, others exclusively in familial responsibility. Move from passive, selfish withdrawal to being active and involved.

Reach out for help, ask for it and humbly accept your need. When you perceive someone else in a kind of need, offer help simply, fully and without feeling superior. Survival means bonding, peace requires it.

In a far, future moment, a latter-day earthling or a visitor from outer space may observe remnants of our lives and exclaim: "These were good people. They were our sisters and brothers. We wish we could have known them."

Make a clear decision. A universal question is: How can I get from here to there? Make a decision. Drop the other shoe. Strip and dive into the water. Our lives are so brief. While we're here our lives can either be celebratory, loving, creative and full of spiritual energy OR self-destructive, unfocused, unproductive and lacking fire.


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