Tuesday, February 28, 2012


“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”  ― Thich Nhat Hanh
Although I have been a convinced Quaker for 20 years now, I was raised Catholic and am still drawn to observing (in my own way) the various seasons of the liturgical calendar. Which is why I've been searching for what I should "give up" during this season of Lent. When I was younger, I gave up anything I could think of that would have as little impact on my life as possible. Although, I have to say, giving up candy can be difficult for a kid! I think peas were on the list one year also. The word Lent, though, comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lengcten and means spring or springtime. The concept of spring-cleaning is also said to have emerged from the practice of Lent. This was the time of year when folks cleaned house—physically and spiritually. I'm almost inclined to ignore the spiritual cleaning (too hard) and focus instead on just the house cleaning (not much fun), but just as New Year's is the so-called designated time for making resolutions, Lent is a good time for self reflection. I tend to ignore making a New Year's resolution, but I went ahead this year and decided to be less lazy: Lazy about exercising, lazy about getting things done, lazy about watching how much junk (i.e. cookies & ice cream) I ate, lazy about taking care of myself. I've been going to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier and get more done during "normal business hours" (we tended to go to bed at 2 a.m.). I've tried to do something with my hair first thing, instead of looking in the mirror at 4pm and thinking, oh, my gosh, what socket did I plug my finger into!? I've tried to be more focused and driven, setting schedules and goals so I don't constantly go to bed each night wondering what I accomplished that day. I'm doing a (hard for me) exercise video designed to make me look like I did when I was 25 (I wish!). But this new attempt (notice I said attempt) at organization and structure is creating a busyness that isn't exactly getting more done—although I have to admit I haven't quite got it under control yet—but is making any much needed quiet time nearly impossible. I'm tired. My mind is constantly whirring. Thich Nhat Hanh says to make everything you do a prayer—even washing the dishes. But I don't think he means to substitute quiet meditation for praying on the run or only with your hands in a sink of soapy water. Instead, he meant to make every act a prayer. That sentiment was one of the reasons we got rid of most electrical appliances all those years ago. Rick felt that if I was going to make bread, then I should be kneading the dough by hand so I could really be in the moment, kneading all my love into it, creating a physical prayer (the bread) for my family. When I washed the dishes it should be with gratitude that I had fed my family a good meal, not grumbling about it being a distasteful chore and taking up too much time. In mindfulness, everything is sacred. Easier said than done, though. Grumbling is what I do best.

So Lent is really a good time to take a look at ourselves and see if there's something we need to give up in order to live a more conscious life. Of course, that can be done at any old time, but sometimes we all need a reminder. Personally, I needed to find the middle ground between my resolution to be less lazy (lose that weight, get more gigs, remember to brush my hair, practice more, turn down that ice cream cone, quit procrastinating, etc.) and the feeling that it was all being done against my will. After a week of trying to think this through, I came to the conclusion that I need to give up the feeling that all those "less lazy" things were distasteful. After all, I was the one who thought they needed getting done. Maybe, just maybe, if I did them more mindfully I'd enjoy them and wouldn't feel so overwhelmed. Unfortunately, that means I still have to do exercise and enjoy it, too. And continue to watch Rick eat ice cream cones and be happy that I can't. Or won't. Or however that decision should be worded.

(Mindfully, I hope) making pasta dough
photo by Erica Jackofsky
Okay, so how do I get around to the issue of food? Well, I grabbed Vianna La Place's cookbook, Unplugged Kitchen: A Return to the Simple, Authentic Joys of Cooking, off the shelf this morning. Right in the beginning of the book she says "Cooking is a living, breathing act that defies codification or regimentation . . . Cooking, above all, requires responsiveness and being in the moment." I took that as a sign I was on the right track. As Ram Dass says, be here now.

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