I’m currently trying to train my body and spirit to expect the unexpected when it comes to weather in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sitting outside on dead grass in shorts and a t-shirt the last week of January is throwing me off. I’m sure there is more winter ahead, but you can’t help but get spring fever with weather like this. It makes a person want to clean the house, purge unnecessary belongings and wear capris. For most people, spring represents a time for regrowth and a sense of newness but because I was raised in a catholic family, springtime was also a preparation for the Easter holiday and Lenten season.
The Lenten Season
In the Catholic church, the month before Easter Sunday is traditionally practiced and represented by Lent; a period of reconciliation, service, fasting, and repentance. Starting with Ash Wednesday, you’ll start hearing a bunch of Catholic kids ask each other, “what are you giving up this year?” The normal answers range from sweets, Facebook, curse words to alcohol. All “good” intentions to remove indulgences that we think are “bad” habits that need to be broken. As I grew up and became more driven by a healthy lifestyle, giving up the donuts that I barely had once a month didn’t seem like enough of a sacrifice for the big man upstairs and let’s be honest, the best drinking holiday is during lent so giving up alcohol was not an honest option that I could maintain. I have to pay my respects to St. Patrick! It was around that time that my parents recommended taking a different approach to this tradition and it has changed my entire perspective on lent ever since.
Give, Not Give Up
My parents recommended that we try to add things to our life during this month instead of giving up a proclaimed “bad” habit in effort to make sacrifices. We started simple and added things like eating more vegetables, reading a bible verse each day, or making it to church every Sunday. We realized with this new practice that lent was an enjoyable time that brought us closer as a family. As an adult, the practice just grew until I wanted to help others during this month in addition to improving myself. In her book about giving, Cami Walker quotes, “By giving, you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life. Giving opens space for you to receive.” This adorable book explains her healing journey through MS thanks to the radical decision she made to change her focus from sickness to giving. She promotes giving things like compliments, time, talents, self-love, or small donations to improve the lives of everyone around her which in doing so, improved her own health issues. Being in school for most of my life, monetary gifts were not always an option but thanks to a few clubs and organizations at Rowan University where I attended college, I fell in love with volunteering and group service projects. Volunteering your time is just as valuable as donating money in this day in age and it perfectly fits with the spring theme of inspiring new beginnings and growth. There is no better time to start volunteering locally or donating to an online cause.
Ideas For Donating Or Volunteering:
Register for a foundation based run/bike to support a cause.
Become a “Big” for your local Big Brother Big Sisters Foundation.
Cook for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House near you.
Make a small contribution to one of the many touching stories on YouCaring.com
Currently following my best friend's Dad during his journey of fighting Pancreatic Cancer. Sending prayers & healing thoughts to the Cassera family!
Start a Little Free Library for your neighborhood.
Research gardening charities to help plant new beds.
Things To “Give Up”
If you are a very regimented person that absolutely MUST give up something, why not try removing some of these popular yet destructive psychological habits that we use daily without realizing it.
Give up Guilt- In his book on surrendering emotions, Dr. David Hawkins describes guilt as, “a form of fear that is truly self-invalidation of our worth” (2). Through self-punishment and neglect we believe that we are helping to ourselves. To reduce guilt, fill your internal dialogue with gratitude and the welfare of others. Become less concerned with the aftermath of past decisions and remove the fear that they will create am undesirable future. Re-program guilt in your mind with forgiveness. I want to forgive myself for not running today, for eating more sweets that my body would prefer, and for watching TV when my brain would benefit more from a book. I truly trust that despite a hiccup here or there, I will make positive choices for the sake of health and happiness when a crucial moment arises.
Give Up Anger- Anger is a binding and crippling emotion. Anger towards other people in the past continues to connect us to that person and holds them in our life no matter how much you’ve convinced yourself that you moved on. Be grateful for the ability to live without that person and any growth you’ve experienced since. Chronic resentment can re-emerge as psychosomatic illnesses like migraines, hypertension, and arthritis-like pains (2). Use this spring to reduce the built up and suppressed anger in life to instead search for comfort or ease.
Give Up Negative Self-Talk- You can absolutely achieve the same level of motivation from love and support as you can from guilt and fear. Try a month full of positive, but constructive self-talk when you speak about yourself or others in your mind. We are exposed to so much negativity in today’s world if not in person, certainly online. So why not have one guaranteed form of positivity that you can control!
Give Up Criticizing Others- I am no stranger to the art of judgement. It’s easy to judge the people around you, online, and the person you see most in the mirror. I feel that this passage accurately describes a deep-rooted feeling that causes us to judge others, “If we have not allowed ourselves to experience our true self then we display resentment toward those who have. We resent their aliveness in the area in which we feel disabled.” Criticizing and defining others in your mind prevents room in the brain from learning more about that person. It will not fill those holes in our own consciousness, only action will!
A Season for Growth
You don’t need to be a certain religion to participate in this seasonal motivation of encouraging positivity, health or renewal. Everyone feels the urge to upgrade and prepare for spring. I use this time of year for fulfilling the need to alter myself but with a healthy, uplifting spirit instead of discipline and neglect. I posted this article early to give you enough time to read one or both of the books referenced below. They deliver very different themes but are inspiring and enlightening. Pay it forward this spring…. give, not give up!
- Hawkins, David. Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender. Hay House inc. Carlsbad, CA. Print.
- Walker, Cami. 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life. Da Capo Press. Philadephia, PA. 2009. Print.