Even if you are not Catholic, you are probably familiar with the concept of Lent. In Catholicism, this is a period of time that serves as preparation for Easter. During this time, Catholics are called to fast, pray, and give alms. Even if you are not Christian and do not celebrate Easter, this can be a very good time to reflect, focus on self-improvement, and deepen your sense of spirituality.
Here are seven exercises that can help you achieve this:
1. Explore a new spiritual practice.
Are there any ways you could make your spirituality part of your everyday life? You could try incorporating practices like walking meditation, lighting devotional candles, or making offerings of food, water, or incense into your daily life. These do not need to be time-consuming or elaborate -- the focus should be on adding small, sustainable rituals to your regular routine.
2. Give up something.
Everyone has a secret vice. For some, it is rich food or alcohol. For others, it might be shopping, spending too much time in front of the television, or even gossiping. During Lent, it is traditional to give up eating meat. You do not have to do that specifically, but you can examine your lifestyle and see what you can cut back on. This can help you live more sustainably, and keep your vices from having control over you.
3. Take on a creative devotion.
What does your spirituality mean to you? For each day of Lent, take a photo, write a poem, or create a piece of artwork that expresses this. It is okay if you are not a great photographer, poet, or artist. The focus here is to express and deepen your spiritual connection to the world.
4. Focus on charity.
Part of traditional Lenten observances involves almsgiving. You do not have to give money to a church in order to be charitable. Look at the issues that concern you most (civil rights, the environment, or world health, for example) and take the time to learn more about them. Make changes in your lifestyle to reduce your impact, and donate to charities that support the victims of these issues.
5. Become your higher self.
Meditate on your ideal self. What is this person like? Do not focus on the house they live in, the money they have, or the clothes they wear. What do they do? How do they treat others? What do they do to make the world a better place? Write these things down and turn them into practices that you can add to your own life.
6. Create a sacred space.
If you do not have an area for prayer or meditation or even a simple altar, now is a wonderful time to create one. Chose a place that is peaceful, uncluttered, and safe. Place a small table and a comfortable chair or cushion there. Decorate the table with a cloth, candle, incense, crystals, fresh flowers, and any other objects that you find relaxing, meditative, or representative of your spirituality.
Maintain this space. Go back to it every day to dust, remove dead or wilting flowers, change their water, or place fresh ones. Light the candle and incense regularly. Use this spot as a sanctuary when you need to clear and refresh yourself or connect with the spirits around you.
7. Create a ritual for peace.
The world is full of strife and hardship. One of the best spiritual practices you can cultivate is one that helps brings peace to others, without the expectation of recognition or reward for yourself. You can create your own ritual from scratch, or follow this one.
Begin with one blue candle, and one white one. Dress each with white lavender oil, anointing them in a clockwise direction from the center out. Place the candles on either side of an incense burner with jasmine incense. Light the white candle, incense, and blue candle.
As they burn, sit and picture the world. Visualize a soft, blue light surrounding the entire globe, bringing calm, peace, healing, and relief from pain. Do not worry about how these things will happen, just know that they will. Say...
Let peace come to all places.
Let relief and solace come to all people.
From north to south, and east to west,
Let love and healing touch every mind and heart.
If you like, you can call on your guardian angels, spirits, or deities to help you. When you feel ready, snuff the candles. Repeat this ritual regularly, as often as you are able.
Lent is a sacred time that Catholics use to connect with and deepen their spirituality. Even if you are not Catholic, you can follow this example in your own life. These small practices and rituals will allow you to improve yourself, the world around you, and your relationship with your spirituality.