I'm going to give up consumer irresponsibility. I'm going to give up spiritual disconnection. I'm going to give up separating myself from how my actions impact the environment. I'm going to give up wasteful habits.
Instead, I am going to educate myself about the products that I buy, then try to shift away from those that have a negative impact on the world, either socially or environmentally. I'm going to try to reconnect to the divine, not necessarily through religion, but through spirituality. I'm going to look into natural, organic products that nourish and cleanse not only me and my space, but also the earth (or at least cause the least harm possible). I'm going to start recycling more, driving less (if distance and weather cooperate), making it a point to turn off lights and appliances when not in use, and generally being a better citizen.
What brought this about? Well, two posts, really. The first was this one by goddessfrida, and the other was written by tyrell. They may seem very different on first glance, but they all boil down to one truth and question: how to celebrate the season.
I was raised Catholic, but never particularly strict. We all tried to give things up, but someone (usually Mom) would break first and indulge in whatever sacrifice she'd made. This was usually the signal among us to break ranks, say "Oh, the hell with it," and go back to doing whatever it was we weren't supposed to do. Even the "no meat on Fridays" thing wasn't particularly enforced - there would always be a Friday during Lent where my mother would forget, feed us meat, and then get upset.
So the tradition of giving something up was never really ingrained in me from a young age. In fact, as I grew older, I came to resent it - it seemed like just another punishment, yet another reminder about how Jesus died for you, and how you were supposed to remember that sacrifice and how you had a hand in making it come into being. Sure, you may not have been born then, but he died for your sins. Giving things up for Lent was not supposed to be an easy thing; it was supposed to be something that you would miss enough to cause you some amount of discomfort. After all, Christ suffered death for you. The least you could do to show your devotion was squirm for 40 days while your non-Catholic friends enjoyed their ice cream.
Then came college, and with it my first experience with Wicca. I didn't really practice, but I had friends who did, and I was fascinated by it. It was far from what I'd been told it was, neither hokey fluff or dark, secretive rituals. Instead, it was a beautiful self-led practice that seemed a lot more connected with the divine than any church I had ever been to. There were no guilt trips, no rights and wrongs, no one telling you what to do, when to stand, when to sing, and why God was unhappy with you today. I was fascinated by the fact that the feminine aspect of the divine had equal standing with the masculine; it was The Lord and The Lady, father and mother. Even though Mary is important in the Catholic faith, she never had equal standing with either her Son or her God. I also had an appreciation for the Wiccan connection with the seasons and nature. Holidays that celebrated the beginning and ending of seasons, and by extension the cycle of life itself, seemed a better way for me to connect with Higher Powers than through just the two major Church days of Easter and Christmas. To this day, I still have great respect and admiration for Wicca and those who practice it. There have even been times when I have considered studying it more deeply and applying more of its principles to my life.
But I don't think I'm ready to convert. It isn't a guilt thing, it isn't a fear thing, and it isn't a matter of my thinking that Wicca is "bad" or the "wrong path". I just don't think it's the right path for me. The God that I have come to know in quiet contemplation is not the fiery, punitive, soul-damning God of the conservative Christians. Instead, the God I have found is all-loving and all-accepting. My God's only rule is, "Love yourself and others, and do as you will, provided that you cause no harm." Too big to be encompassed by simply one religious interpretation, my God is content to be worshiped and called upon in any guise or incarnation, be it Yahweh, Krishna, Kanzeon Bosatsu/Kannon, Allah, or Christ. I think that people should worship God in the way they feel the most comfortable, and for me, it is the incarnation of Christ that works best. (Although I admit that Kanzeon Bosatsu/Kannon is a close second.)
In light of all this, I want to do something for Lent that celebrates spring and the earth, but also calls to mind the sacrifice of Christ. (Or, come to think of it, Kanzeon Bosatsu. Funny how that works, eh?) I believe that the goals stated above will help me with this - by actually looking into what I buy and what I do, I will be forced to contemplate not only my living habits as a Westerner, but also look into ways that I can improve myself, break wasteful habits, and trace both the past and future impact of my decisions. It will help me to analyze not only who I am, but what my priorities are beyond my career. It could end up making both myself and my earth a little healthier. The way I look at it, it really is a win-win situation.
That being said, I'd like to open up the floor to my readers. I know you all come from very spiritually diverse backgrounds, and I'd like to ask you all for your input. If you have any rituals, mantras, parables or suggestions you would like to share, I would be most appreciative. Also, if you know of anyone who might be able to offer advice, don't be afraid to steer them my way.
Thanks, and may Our Creator Bless You.