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Lent: Your 40 Day Makeover

by Dr. Kathleen Hall

It Takes 40 Days to Change a Habit

The Lent season begins in February every year. Lent is the 40 days before Easter. It has been considered a spiritually sacred time throughout history and an opportunity for changing habits that may be stopping you from living your Best Life, your authentic life.

Lent can be a life-changing experience. I invite you to join me in a 40-day makeover this year.

My Personal Lent Experience

Each Lent, our family, met on Ash Wednesday to choose what we were going to practice for the 40 days of Lent. As a child, I had a bad temper. I spent these 40 days exploring my anger and who and what made me go off. I am a member of a tribe of women who have met weekly for over 18 years. Each Lent we gather to discuss what habit we would like to transform and support each other during these 40 days.

Each of Us is Called To Enter Into Our Own Wilderness

Lent is not limited by a religion but can be about taking 40 days out of your busy overbooked life to focus on something you want to change or create. Reflect on the choices you have made in life and the ones you are making now. Are your choices leading you to your calling, joy, authentic life, or are they leading you further away from happiness?

This is a beautiful time of year. It is about SLOWING DOWN! The 40 days of Lent can create a pattern that transforms you and leads you into living your authentic life-the life you were created to live. Bathe your SELF in awareness and clarity. It takes 6 weeks to change a habit. 40 DAYS! I invite you to create this family ritual with your partner, family or coworkers.

HABIT vs. PRACTICE

A “habit” is an unmindful action. It is something you often do, without ever deciding to do it. That lack of “deciding to do it” each time is what makes it a habit. You are MINDLESSLY doing actions.

A “practice” is a mindful action. It is something done intentionally. You are aware and decide to do it yourself. You are MINDFULLY doing actions in your life. You are CHOOSING MINDFULLY, NOT REACTING MINDLESSLY, HABITUALLY.

MOST PEOPLE LIVE LIVES OF QUIET DESPERATION LIVING HABITUALLY, MINDLESSLY. Most of us have lived, allowing our precious lives and countless opportunities to slip away. It’s All About Awareness.

I have had Taoist and Buddhist teachers throughout my life, along with many Christian monks and nuns. One of the basic tenants of spiritual and emotional cultivation is developing the awareness to know the difference between habits that are crippling your life and choosing healthy practices that create mental and physical health.

AWARENESS IS THE PATH TO COURAGE

There is so much suffering buried in our old habitsIt is too painful for many of us to look at ourselves in the mirror/ awareness is the courage to look at the naked you.

Let’s talk about a few things that may be buried under your habits.

  1. FEAR 
  • “Whatever causes you to feel fearful, that’s where you need to go.”
  • Most people unknowingly create their lives around their fears. I realized this when I worked in the financial world on Wall Street.
  • I drew my circle and put in the middle the 5 things I was most afraid of (being poor/having no money, power, beauty (weight-skin-hair), status, and intelligence/education). It’s not that you conquer these fears, it is that you become aware of these fears. You can deal with them powerfully, not in fear and anxiety. Fear is excellent information.
  1. ANGER
  • My life was being driven by anger. Explore your anger. Don’t hate yourself for your anger, don’t be shamed by your anger. Anger is powerful, and it is there for a reason. It is our most powerful emotion and can cause more harm or redemption and justice-depending on you.
  • We are taught the evil of anger and that it is a sin in western theologies. I was shocked when I heard my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh treat anger as positive and necessary.
  • In his book Anger, Thich Nhat Hanh invites us to treat our anger like a baby who needs love and care. This book changed my life and can transform yours too.
  1. SHAME
  • Toxic shame is seeded in your childhood messages: Parents can send unhelpful, harmful messages:
    • “That was a dumb decision.”
    • “You are lazy, just like your mother.”
    • “Don’t get your hopes up. You could never be a doctor.”
  • Disapproval and disappointment can make you feel painfully vulnerable, inadequate, even unworthy of love or positive attention. Abuse, neglect, and emotionally distant parenting can create shame in you. Parents who cannot meet your physical or emotional needs can make you feel not loved. 
  1.  SECRETS – secrets kill, truth heals 
  • Family secrets like pregnancies, abortions, rapes, sexual molestation, physical violence – so many of us women live with our own secrets and those of other women.
  1. ADDICTIONS – CRAVINGS & ATTACHMENTS
  • As my Buddhist friends would say, Cravings and Attachments and your dependence on these may keep your attention and focus. 
  • WHAT ARE YOU SELF-MEDICATING ON?
    • TECH/ phone, computer, iPad
    • Tv, emails, texts
    • Social media (FB-Instagram-Pinterest-Tik Tok)
    • Food
    • Alcohol-drugs-smoking-vaping
  1. INTIMACY
  • What keeps you from connecting with others? Dean Ornish says, “Isolation Kills, Community Heals!”

 A Few 40 Day Lent Makeover Tips

  1.  WRITE IT OUT – Journal about these habits.
  2. CALM – Meditate/ relaxation/ CALM
  1. TIME
  • How are you investing your time/your future? 
  • Kairos and Chronos/God’s Time vs. Human calendar time/ How are you investing your time. 
  • Give up overscheduling. Create space for leisure and nourishment. Walk outside/ absorb nature. Take a drink of water or tea in beautiful china. Play or hug your pet. Do some yoga stretches. Meditate for 5 minutes.  
  1. TECHNOLOGY CLEANSE
  • Each day, make a commitment to stop using the Internet, Facebook or emails for an hour each day. Take this time to nourish yourself and your family. You will learn to listen to your inner voice and be a better present listener to others. What a gift!
  1. THE CLUTTER IN YOUR LIFE
  • Examine the clutter in your life. 
  • Cupboards, drawers, closets, your car, digital clutter/your emails, your relationships. Clear the clutter, and you clear your mind. Research shows clutter causes anxiety, depression, and isolation. 
  1. WHAT’S ROTTEN IN YOUR LIFE? 
  • Get rid of what’s rotten in your life. What has become rotten in your life? Not just your refrigerator. How about Relationships that need cleaned up or thrown out? Counseling or dissolution? Work-personal-neighbors?
  • Some relationships need healing. Tell those you know that are in wounded relationships that you are going through this journey to wholeness.
  1.     ORGANIZE
  • Each day, discover new ways to organize your life. 
  • Get a daily calendar that you like and use it daily to keep yourself organized. Don’t forget to schedule in space for yoga stretches, short meditations, healthy snacks, drinking water throughout the day. 
  • Go to the grocery store once a week with a complete list. 
  • Set a timer one hour before you leave work so you can clean off your desk. 
  • Organize a drawer or closet each week and see how great you feel.
  1. SLEEP HYGIENE
  • Set your alarm and choose a time you will be in bed each night and be there. Put a book by your bed or listen to a guided imagery download. Both of these will create peace and health in your mind, body, and soul. After 40 days, you will wonder why you ever stayed up to watch the late shows. Remember you can always tape them and watch them in the early evening.
  1. READ
  • Reading reduces stress and nourishes your body, mind, and soul. Read for at least 30 minutes a day for the next 40 days. Learn about an inspirational person who has changed our world, read a powerful novel, or travel to a distant land and visit cultures through reading.
  1. MOVE YOUR BODY-MOVE YOUR MIND
  • Each day, find some small way to get your body moving. Do Zumba dancing one day, yoga the next, tai chi the next, a walk the next, and so on. Be creative in how you move your body. After 40 days, you will feel like a new person.

11. FOOD

  • Choose to eat mindfully and include more fruit or vegetables in your meals. Add one fruit and one vegetable a day for the 40 days. Reduce your meat intake during this special time. Explore meatless products and fish options during these 40 days. Take a minute to look at your plate and give respect and gratitude for your food. This practice will create health, and after 40 days, the way you experience, food will change.
  1. FAMILY NIGHT
  • One night a week, gather the family to play a game, paint, do a puzzle, read a story and discuss what it means to each of you. This will imprint precious memories on your entire family.
  1. SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR
  • Find a spiritual director or some person to direct you in spiritual guidance. I am a certified spiritual director and there are many around. You may want to explore a director in a spirituality or faith you are interested in pursuing.
  1. VIRTUE AND VALUE CALENDAR
  • You can explore virtues and goals for 40 days. Write the word of a virtue or practice in each of the 40 days on your daily calendar. Explore that word with family or friends on that day. On my forty-day calendar, I have written words such as suffering, pride, discipline, fear, anger, grief, surrender, etc.

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