Although I am not Catholic, every year I see the Lenten season as an opportunity to test my willpower and give something up.
The ritual of giving something up for 40 days is quite powerful; even if you are not of the Catholic faith, Lent is a great opportunity for fasting from one of your vices.
Within the last few years I have given up chocolate, red wine, gossiping and television. Although fasting was not easy, I found that it was a great opportunity to reflect on how much I had been partaking in things that were not necessarily good for me, without even thinking about the negative effects these things had been having on my being.
Here are some reasons why a non-Catholic might participate in this time of fasting:
1. To take a break from something that has not been serving you well.
Often a person chooses to give up things such as alcohol, sugar, meat or fast food: things we know are not healthy in large doses. A current trend is giving up an aspect of technology such as texting, Facebook or Twitter, which may take up too much of your time and contribute to procrastination.
2. To revisit those New Year’s goals that may have already gone by the wayside.
Although it has only been about six weeks since New Year’s Day, most New Year’s resolutions are broken within the first few weeks. This can be your second chance to give up something that you see as being negative in some way.
3. To have support from a global community in fasting from something.
Knowing that people around the globe are participating in Lent and giving something up, you may feel a sense of global support. We are social beings, and knowing that others are sharing in this journey can offer us a bit of support.
4. To do something that is good for your spirit.
Anyone who has ever tried to give something up knows that it is not an easy task. Noticing the difficulty that we all experience can give you a time to reflect on your humanity. It can be a growing time for your spirit, to expand in this way.
This year I am giving up a bit of technology. I am taking 40 days off from my way of making contact with my cyberspace community—I am stopping the chatter of Facebook. Although I enjoy all the status updates and photos that are posted, sometimes it takes too much of my time; I find it to be a distraction from staying present to my surroundings and getting things done.
So, for 40 days, I will go without this social network and see what opens up for me.
Maybe there is something you have known you would like to take a breather from. Even if you are not Catholic, why not challenge yourself during the next 40 days to do without it?
Think about what it might be and go for it. Why not give it a try—and expand yourself for the coming spring with a renewal of your spirit?
Marla McMahon, PsyD, is a mom of two boys and a Clinical Psychologist. In her private practice in Sacramento, California, she works within a mind-body model with patients of all ages, in areas of depression, anxiety and stress reduction using mindfulness-based therapy. In her spare time, Marla enjoys being outside as much as possible and drives the distance to be near the ocean. She also enjoys paddle boarding and hiking, and she is a dedicated yogi and meditator.
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