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Lent: Practicing the Art of Sacrifice
Ash Wednesday begins today marking the start of Lent for 2017. For Christians, it is a time to give up something of value for something of greater value. Most often, we do the reverse and give up something of value for something of lesser value, such as addictive behaviors to food, drugs and alcohol as well as in relationships where we inappropriately sacrifice ourselves on the altar of another’s dysfunctional needs.
This giving up or sacrifice is an essential key to spiritual growth and to healing. It is the opposite of coveting. It is a payment of sorts that we make that permits us to receive a blessing from the abundant invisible reality. We prepare ourselves to receive through a giving up or payment in some manner, shape or form.
The Meaning of 40
Numbers have meaning beyond their quantitative value of material life. They possess qualitative meaning as well. Religious practices and rituals reflect this. Forty days, the length of Lent, speaks to challenge, hardship and trial. So too, the Biblical Deluge takes place over 40 days and nights.
Imagery and Stopping Exercises to Enhance Lent
Stopping exercises are core practices to train our will to give up or let go of the multitudinous temptations that urge us to experience some gratification that will supposedly lead us to happiness. Stopping exercises give new direction to our will. When we gain conscious control of our will, we take an act of healing.
Here is a sample program. Use any or all of the practices you find valuable.
- Day #1: Set your intention for Lent.
- To start each day: Physically, clean a small area, such as your bathroom or kitchen sink, with the intention of cleansing yourself.
- Stopping: Anytime the urge comes up to engage in the behavior or act that you are giving up, STOP for a moment, recall your intention for Lent, and imaginally (with eyes open or closed), see yourself throwing away or separating from the habit you wish to give up.
- Example #1: If you are giving up cigarette smoking, when the urge arises to smoke, you STOP for a moment and say “Remember, no smoking.” Then, imaginally see yourself throwing the cigarette away. If you do go through with the act to smoking, no judgments, you are building a new muscle of will.
- Example #2: If you are curbing anger, when you catch yourself in anger, STOP for a moment, say “Remember, no anger.” Then, imaginally reverse the anger in anyway you wish. For example, see a great rain quenching a volcano, or see, sense and feel yourself near calm waters.
- Each night, before you go to sleep: Close your eyes and imaginally correct any incident you recall where you were not able to fulfill your intention. Reverse or correct the memory to your satisfaction.