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– typical Lenten for-swearing and goals

Next week is Lent, a very important Christian holiday that begins on Ash Wednesday and continues until Holy Thursday or the day before Easter.  Traditionally, in western denominations of Christianity, it is viewed as a period of time during which Christians pray and do penance, in order to cleanse themselves and feel closer to God.  Additionally, the crucial aspect of selflessness is involved, in which Christians practice almsgiving or other acts of community service in order to help others.  While there is a lot more to Lent religiously, spiritually and culturally, I have come to understand Lent as a time of meditation, reflection and empowerment.

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– my high school!!!

I believe the beauty of religion and spiritualty is that it ties people from different backgrounds together through shared but not identical teachings and beliefs.  These shared experiences should be treasured because they are representative, as well as, insightful of humanity and the human experience.  For example, my experience with Catholicism and Lent are not what one would call traditional.  Technically, my family is Catholic.  However, my sister and I were raised to be spiritual, and not necessarily observant to the rules of the Catholic Church.  Despite four years in an all-girls Catholic High School, my greatest lessons were not religious but more humanistic.  By humanistic, I mean, I learned how important it is to be confident in who you are and your beliefs.


At first, growing up, I ignored Lent all together, and looked forward to painting Easter eggs, and getting huge baskets of chocolate.  As I grew up, I began to observe Lent as a dietary cleanse, to get rid of any unwanted substances in my body and maybe lose a couple of pounds in the bargain.  These past few years, I have begun to see Lent as a way of growing closer to myself, reflecting on how my actions affect others and what I want to be in the future.

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– what’s your something new?

This year, I want to hone my Lenten experience with more than just self-denial and discipline.  Instead of just removing sweets or caffeine or alcohol from my diet, I want to make it a time of motivation and focus.  So I plan to get out of the comfort of my daily routine and go to a new place as often as possible, at least two times a week.  It is so easy to get situated in a schedule that fits your work, school or personal schedule, but does not really leave room to expand.  For some people, this could mean trying new foods, or taking a different route to work.  For me, it means relocating myself during my free hours and meeting new people, whether it be at a café or a networking event.  I intend to use Lent as a means of self-discovery, unrestricted by the bounds of “well I usually” in order to gain a space to assess who I want to be in my life going forward.  I want to deny myself the “comfort zone” and be open and aware to life in its fullest.

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I also want to practice the rule of “pay it forward”.  Who are we without each other?  I sometimes forget, in the bustle of life, how reliant I am on others and them on me.  This Lent, I want to stop and actually see how I can re-distribute my energy to make someone’s day a little easier, a little lighter.  And I bet, it will be good for me too.

How do you celebrate or observe Lent?  What does it mean to you?  If you are not religious, is there a time that you designate to self-reflect?  What is an important way for you to renew yourself and empower yourself?