No, not lentils...Lent.
Today's Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the 40 day Lenton season. So you'll be seeing lots o' people with smudges on their foreheads. I'm not Catholic or anything but in years past I've considered getting ashes. Although I'm the farthest thing from a religious person (I like to think of myself as more faith based than religious - too many bad, conservative connotations) I find certain ceremonies and observations of the church to be quiet refreshing and inspiring. It's always been my thing to seek out the church when I feel weak or scared, there is comfort in the familiar. The first thing I do when I move to a new town is seek out a church...and eventually I get all misty eyed and weepy. I realize that one of my struggles with San Francisco was my inability to find a church where I felt at home.
I never really observed Lent as a child. I always saw it as something observed by more liturgical sects (re: Catholic and other Orthodox churches). As I grow older and as my spiritual practice evolves, I now find myself drawn to practices and traditions that once seemed silly or unneccesary. Take fasting, for instance. I've always been drawn to the idea of fasting for periods of time. Nearly all religions incorporate fasting as a spiritual practice...Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Lent. What is it about fasting that makes it such a universal act of spirituality? On a physiological level, fasting is often used as a cleansing mechanism. The thought is that you clean the body of toxins and renew it - essentially starting off with a clean slate - an opportunity to begin anew - let our old body fall away. (If you want a really good fasting tonic mix 32 oz. of water with a pinch of cayenne pepper, half the juice of a lemon, and a teaspoon of honey- mix and repeat for as long as you fast - oy! that'll clean you out.) On an emotional/psychological level, fasting is an act of empathy and compassion, an opportunity to experience the suffering (on a very manageable level) of those without. The pangs of hunger, the desire for certain foods, is all supposed to remind us of what we do have and be thankful for it. Personally, I don't see fasting in such "heavy" terms...for me it's basically an opportunity to focus on other things - things beside food.
So, why am I writing about this anyway? Well, in years past I've given up something relatively innocous and easy for Lent - white sugar, eggs, chocolate. This year I've decided to give up all animal based products for Lent. Basically, I'm becoming a vegan again for the next 40 days. I've had small pangs of guilt ever since I walked away from veganism about a 1.5 years ago. As most of you know, I LOVED being a vegan. It made sense to me and made me feel that my life style was more in line with my personal values. Going back to being an omnivoure was the right decision for me but I still miss being a vegan. So, for the next 40 days I'm going to avoid all dairy, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, honey, etc... No new purchases of leather stuff (bags, shoes, belts) or wool sweaters.
I've been toying with the idea of going back to veganism probably for the last 7 or 8 months. I think I'm using this Lent as an experiment to see how my body reacts. If all goes well, I might just stay vegan. I must admit though, I really enjoy non-vegan shoes (leather).
Oh dear, it always comes back to the shoes, doesn't it.