Happy March! Although we are not skunks, bees, snakes, groundhogs, bears or bats, we know a thing or two about hibernation around here. Over the last few weeks, my hubby and I have spent HOURS on the couch in our basement recovering from a variety of ailments. When I pursued that cute football player in high school, I didn’t account for those years of football resulting in a couple of knee replacement surgeries 32 and 40 years later. Although he’s known since summer he needed this surgery, he purposely scheduled it for the middle of February during “hibernation” season. In addition to playing nursemaid, I’ve been struggling with a lingering cough for weeks, so I was 100% supportive of multiple seasons of Outlander (along with packs of prednisone all around.) Warning, after all these hours with Jamie and Claire, we may both speak with a bit of Scottish lilt. Luckily, he is out of knees, so this should be our last round for the foreseeable future.
Yeah, we definitely “ken” how to party at Chez Johnson 🙂
For many of us, the transition of February into March does feel a little like waking up from hibernation. One of the things I love most about living in the Mid Atlantic is our four distinct seasons. Here in Alexandria, we are just beginning to see the tiny green shoots of daffodils breaking through the soil with the promise of the yellow, white and orange blooms to come. The days are finally getting longer and, even on cold days, the sun feels a bit stronger than it did a few weeks ago. While I love all four seasons, there is something particularly life giving and hopeful about the return of spring each year.
In my faith tradition, this is also the time of year we observe Lent. This year, we begin Lent with Ash Wednesday on March 2. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter. The word is traced etymologically to an Old English word lencten (related to “lengthen,” referring to the lengthening of days) that simply referred to the season of spring. Lent is seen as a time of spiritual renewal, a sort of “spiritual spring,” a chance for new beginnings. I’ve long been drawn to this tradition of Lent and have written about it numerous times. If you’d like to read some of those old posts, you can find those HERE.
Whether you are a follower of Christian traditions or not, spring is a lovely time to consider what in our lives wants to grow and what we might need to let go of after a long winter. As Sarah Bessey says in her most recent post, during Lent
we are turning away from the things that hurt us and others and turning toward the things that help us love ourself, God, and our neighbor. And we do it on purpose and we do it together. That is kind of it, friends. We’re simply turning away from what damages and consumes us, twists us away from our truest self in the image of God, and also turning towards what brings life and goodness and flourishing. On purpose and together.
Isn’t that lovely? As I think about my own relationship with Lent over the years, it seems my observance has fallen into one of two categories: a season of reflection or a season of action.
A Season of Reflection
One of the things I love most about the enneagram is the way it invites each of us to consider our own unique path to growth. For many of us, this season might be about subtraction. Slowing down, becoming quiet, looking within. Saying no to things that no longer serve us or something we need to put on pause. While each of us is different, those of us who lead with enneagram 2, 3, 7 or 8 (and sometimes 1) might particularly benefit from a more contemplative, internal focus instead of our usual external focus. A few practices that come to mind might include:
- journaling, perhaps using questions for self reflection (contact me if you want journaling prompts)
- stepping back from a few obligations- let others take the lead
- taking a break from “the noise”- whatever keeps you from listening to Spirit and your self
- saying no to yourself in whatever way “gluttony” shows up- FOMO, food, shopping, social media, screens, helping, productivity
- take care of your body differently- perhaps resting more often
- give up a bad habit
A Season of Action
For others of us, this might be our time to move forward. To take action, to begin. This season might be about addition. What do we need to say YES to? Where do we need to engage the world, get involved, do the work, get off the bench? While a season of reflection is about the BEING of life, a season of action is about the DOING. Again, we are all different, but those of us who lead with enneagram 4, 5, 6 or 9 (and sometimes 1) might particularly benefit from a more action-oriented, external focus. How do I engage the world and connect? How do I take the next right step? How do I take action and serve in a world broken by war and division? Some practices that come to mind here might include:
- adding a spiritual practice that is new for you- meditate, read, write, pray, worship more consistently
- cleaning out the clutter that has accumulated – 40 bags donated or thrown away in 40 days
- make art every day for 40 days
- organize an act of service that can be completed in 40 days
- reach out to someone with a word of encouragement every day- a text, call, or card
- take care of your body differently- perhaps getting more exercise
- build a good habit
Here is one caveat- you don’t HAVE to do anything. Despite the brokenness and sorrow in the world around us, and it is considerable, YOU are not broken or in need of “fixing.” We are each fully loved by our Creator, right this minute, exactly as we are. AND we are invited to once again acknowledge this nature of growing things, to engage the sacred rhythms of the seasons by beginning again- whatever that might mean for each of us. To start over or to take a much needed break. This might be a time to add or a time to subtract. A time for joy or a time to mourn. We retreat and then we engage once again. BOTH are needed. Both are necessary- just like winter for the bears or the daffodil bulbs. This is life; the nature of growing things. It’s not about finally getting it right, but perhaps finally seeing it right.
Welcome to the dance!
I’d love to hear what, if any, practices you hope to embrace this Lenten or spring season.