Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On the way to grace

"This is how a human being can change.
There is a worm

addicted to eating grape leaves.
Suddenly, he wakes up,
call it grace, whatever,
wakes him,
and he is no longer a worm.

He is the entire vineyard,

and the orchard too,
the fruit, the trunks,

a growing wisdom and joy

that does not need to devour."
-- Rumi, from A Year with Rumi

Last night my husband asked what I was planning to give up for Lent this year, and I ended up embarking on a whole explanation of how that process has worked in my life over the years -- and that it's not just about giving up in the sense of sacrifice. For example, one year I gave up worrying (best thing I ever did for Lent!)

One of the things I realized in talking about what Lent means for me (thanks to a question from him) is that the disciplines -- both the taking on and the giving up -- I've taken on over the years have made a significant difference for me; i.e., the ones I cared about and carefully followed through on, the really meaningful ones, actually sort of "stuck" -- and those altered habits and patterns continue over time to bring me into a fuller awareness of the grace that is my life.

Which means Lent brings with it an enormous capacity/opportunity to make some significant changes in my life. So this morning I decided to sit down and list some possible changes I might want to take on for Lent, keeping in mind that these are things I really want to fix, ways that Lent could actually make a difference. I even took pencil and paper into meditation with me, so I could jot down whatever occurred to me.



When the meditation period finally drew to its natural close, some 45 minutes after I started, I had 40 things on the list. One for each day of Lent, oddly enough -- and trust me, that was NOT the goal of this exercise! So here's the question: do I give up one (or take one on, whichever is appropriate) each day, and that's it? Or do I start with the easy ones and work my way up, trying to keep on with all the previous ones as I go?

You have to understand: I don't see this as a negative: repeat after me -- this is an OPPORTUNITY! Even if, for today, it's only been an opportunity to notice (and write down) all the shoulds my brain shoots at me in a given day -- which in itself has value. IT'S ALL GOOD!!!

I'm not sure yet exactly how to proceed -- and that's okay, too. I'll take the day to let this percolate, figure out where it all needs to go. As the Compassionate Eye blog said a day or two ago, "When we stop thinking, all the guidance we need flows from our center, and all the necessary circumstances come to us in our world, right on schedule: decisions make themselves."

But right now I need to head off to Pilates class and then the Ash Wednesday Service. Darn: I had hoped I'd know what I was giving up by the time the service started. Oh, well: perhaps that's the first thing to give up on my way to grace -- my need for perfection! Or maybe I just need to thank that perfectionist in me for offering up all these wonderful opportunities for growth...


Maureen said...

I often wonder if rather than always seeing Lent as this dark period in the desert, of sacrifice, of doing without, we might somehow view it more joyously, as going into a desert in bloom, a place where we newly discover what we are capable of giving (alms, for example?). It's another kind of transformation.

This year, particularly, when so many people have lost so much, I would like to not deny or give up but give.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Great post -- and very perceptive!

I also love Maureen's suggestion - to not deny or give up, but to give.