The art of a mindful Lent

By Naomi Walton

Decluttering has become a new trend in many blogs and books, and some households. There are a number of methods; KonMari method of keeping only “what brings you joy”, minimalist methods of keeping only what is used, or recycling a number of items each day over a month.

Less clutter, less stress, less mess to clean up. More living space, simplicity, feeling relaxed in our homes. I see the appeal in decluttering.

We have a similar practice over the season of Lent. To sacrifice something not needed, repent of our “mess” and sin, give to others, make room in our life to be more connected with God.

No wonder Lent lasts 40 days! (Or 46 including Sundays). We need this long to declutter and connect. If it were easier, we’d start any ol’ Monday to be more deeply connected and renewed in our faith.

The “rules” of Lent have varied among different groups, and over time. A common practice is to give something up. It’s concrete. The rules are simple. We know what to do. On the other hand, building connection and relationship is less clear. And by nature of our being, simply saying we will connect with God doesn’t mean we know what steps to take, despite our best intentions.

The Pope’s message for Lent in 2017 is about renewal. Renewing our conversion. Going deeper. Real love, intimacy and connection.

The Pope’s prayer for Lent in 2017: “May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion.”

His message is based on the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31. The Pope draws out that all people are a gift, sin blinds us, and the word (Bible) is a gift.

I gladly acknowledge I would like to be more deeply connected with the Living God. However, my scheming brain sets out to set up the perfect step-by-step plan of how to be totally connected to God in 40 days. But where to start?

We can start with our approach.

The particular practices we embark on during Lent can be done mindfully. Meaning we become more settled in the here and now rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. We connect our mind and body to the same experience.

Mindfulness is another recent popular activity, but we as Catholics have a tradition of faith rooted in the practice of mindfulness. Adoration: sitting and being in the moment with Jesus.

So much of the Bible talks about this act of mindfulness: “be still and know that I am God”, Psalm 46:10. Even physical symbols, such as candles, help ground us to our senses and what is around us.

More broadly, mindfulness includes reducing worry by focusing on what is in front of us rather than tomorrow’s to-do list or yesterday’s mistake.

Have you ever got to the bottom of your tea/coffee and not remembered drinking it? Try noticing every sip, how it feels in your body, the warmth, the enjoyment. That’s a mindful cuppa.

Adding mindfulness to Lent is similar. Whatever activities we use to engage in Lent, we can do so with more awareness – giving us a sense of being intentional and connected.

A mindful prayer may look like thanking God for what we have, for what is around us. Mindfully reading the bible may look like reading one line and letting it sink in rather than rushing through the words.

The art of a mindful Lent is about adding quality over quantity to our lives. Yes we are busy. Yes we need to be disciplined to participate in Lenten practices.

Mindfulness isn’t about doing more, but rather taking time to really experience what we already do. Experiencing a deeper conversion may start with listening to what God wishes to teach us during everyday moments.