Today was the first day of Lent or what’s also known as Ash Wednesday. For those unfamiliar with Lent, it’s a six week period of fasting, moderation, and self-discipline. It’s used as a time to reflect and let go of things that may be separating us from the Lord.
Growing up I remember my grandma would give up a variety of things during the Lenten season like chocolate, Coca Cola, and coffee. When I decided to start celebrating Lent, I gave up similar things too like sugar, swearing, and soda. This year I’ve decided that instead of giving things up, I’ll replace them with healthier alternatives or habits.
Often times deciding to take the first step can be the most difficult part about putting an end to a bad habit. Today I took my first step towards saying goodbye to stress and hello to mindfulness. I attended my first Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class. It is a legit 8-week class, a part of the university’s wellness incentive program, with homework assignments and textbook reading. I haven’t read a textbook in almost ten months so this is definitely going to be a challenge. I also never really learned how to not be busy; I’m always focused on the next task. So at the end of class when the instructor asked us to pick a slip of paper from a manila envelope and mentioned that the paper would contain our meditation assignment for the week, I was very apprehensive. My assignment was titled Non-striving.
“Almost everything we do, we do for a purpose, to get something or somewhere. But in meditation, this attitude can be a real obstacle.” The tendency to have “driven-ness” in our culture and society has enabled us to enjoy unprecedented standards of living, comfort, and security. However, “dirven-ness” has resulted in extraordinary levels of unsatisfactory, stress and other associated problems, and we can inevitably bring this tendency into our meditation practice. Within this context, the attitude of “non-striving” is best understood as not straining or focusing for a result. Loosening up expectations of our meditation practice can be both challenging and liberating.
This is perfect for me. Instead of setting such high expectations for my meditation practice and for myself, I need to start being mindful of the present moment. Tomorrow isn’t promised, but it could be the someday that we’ve been waiting for. Today I abandon my old habits and take up new, more positive ones. What new habits will you take up this week?