Lent and the idea of spiritual spring cleaning has always fascinated me.
Even as a child I was fascinated by my Catholic friends who gave things up for Lent.
I marveled at their dedication to their faith even though I didn’t understand why they did what they did.
One of my friends gave up ice cream one year, her favorite treat.
While that may not sound like a big deal, this is a young woman who, at sixteen years old, downed an entire six scoop, six topping sundae at the now defunct Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour and was ready for more.
So what does that have to do with spiritual spring cleaning?
Pretty much everything.
Who practices spiritual spring cleaning?
For those who think that this is merely a Christian practice, think again.
Several traditions practice some form of spiritual cleansing.
Native Americans have vision quests.
Hindus celebrate the Holi festival which welcomes spring and the triumph of good over evil through sacrifice and devotion.
Muslims observe Ramadan.
Buddhists, Jews, Taoism and Jainism followers fast for various reasons and holidays as do other groups around the world.
You can learn more by reading about Fasting Around the World.
It’s amazing how many embrace this practice.
How does fasting work?
Fasting means different things to different people.
For most Catholics, it means that they refrain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent and often give up something they enjoy the rest of the year.
Some give up candy or chocolate, others a favorite treat.
One year my husband and I gave up red meat.
Coincidentally, that is the year I figured out I would probably never be a vegetarian.
For most Muslims, fasting during Ramadan means no eating or drinking, including water, from sun up to sun down.
My son played high school soccer with several Muslim players.
Even with a dispensation because of their sport, all chose to fast despite sweltering August heat.
It was impressive.
What are the benefits?
The point of fasting from a spiritual viewpoint is that it cleanses and clears the body, mind and spirit so that each person can be closer to the Divine.
While the medical benefits of fasting are debatable, nearly every culture has some form as a spiritual practice because of the emotional and psychological benefits.
When I started dating my husband, who was raised Catholic, I fasted for the first time.
That was in 1992.
Like him, I gave up meat on Friday.
That year, I also gave up Cheetos, my favorite snack and breakfast most days.
I was in my 20’s so I make no apologies. lol
While that may not sound like anything special, at the time I was eating at least one bag of that cheesy goodness every day, so it truly was a sacrifice, especially since no one was making me do it.
The interesting thing was that I had some on Easter Sunday, and while I enjoyed them, their appeal wasn’t near what it was before Lent.
The next year, I gave up Diet Coke, and in 1994 I gave up cigarettes.
I truly believe that the practice of the years before helped me successfully get those cigarettes out of my life because it was one of the most difficult things I ever did and is still one of my proudest accomplishments.
Everything I gave up lost its power over my life, and three decades later I am still in awe of the power of it.
Taking Spiritual Spring Cleaning to the next level
In recent years, several people I know have taken the concept of fasting and eliminating certain foods to the next level.
In addition to fasting, they add a component to their practice.
They may start decluttering, giving away things they no longer use and throwing away things that are cluttering up their personal space.
Some choose to volunteer more or make something for charity if they knit, crochet or sew.
That way, they clear their space and are doing something for others as well.
They clear their living space while cleaning up their body, and many report feeling better than they have in years.
I know this feeling intimately.
Clearing both your body and your living space is empowering and freeing in ways you almost can’t explain to people who have yet to try it.
You get physically lighter as you get emotionally and spiritually clearer, and it’s an amazing rush of joy and adrenaline.
Is any of this necessary?
So many people belittle the practice of fasting and decluttering, and I understand why.
On the surface, it seems so trivial.
There are so many bigger problems in this world than giving up candy for Lent or any one person’s spiritual spring cleaning.
That may be true, but each of us is responsible for how we live and behave on this planet.
What if changing the world does start with something as simple as giving up candy for six weeks?
What if it teaches you to appreciate people who go without the things you take for granted on a daily basis in this world live their lives?
I know what it is to struggle, but I have no idea what it’s like to go without the basics of life.
Abstaining gives me a tiny glimpse into that and hopefully makes me a kinder and more compassionate person.
One of my favorite quotes is that if you want to change some things in your life, you have to change some things in your life, but if you don’t know where to begin to do that, how do you begin to do that?
Begin at the beginning
Did you know that ancient Christians fasted every day of Lent?
They only ate one small meal per day.
If that is what you are called to do, then go for it as long as it doesn’t negatively affect your health.
But you might consider another way.
It’s something the Pope suggests we try instead.
He wants people to give up indifference and to connect with other human beings instead.
Whatever you think about the Catholic church or the Pope, I think that is a wonderful idea.
When “we” get to know “them”, things change.
We learn to appreciate one another even when we don’t or can’t understand each other’s lives fully.
We learn what really helps and what doesn’t.
Isn’t that amazing?
We evolve and change because we look at the world differently.
We see people and places for what they are, not what people tell us we should think about them.
Lent, then, becomes an evolution of who you are and who you want to be in the world.
Can that level of spiritual spring cleaning all start from giving up a bag of Cheetos per day?
Well, it did for me, and that’s why I have a mad and wild love affair with Lent every year.
Your Spiritual Spring Cleaning Challenge
What can you give up that could start your on your own journey of spiritual spring cleaning?
I challenge you to pick something and see how it goes.
Pick something to add to your day, like writing a note to people who have touched your life, sending an email or a card to a loved one, or just smiling at people more if you’re out of your home on a daily basis.
If you choose clearing your personal space, sign up below for the Whole Home Reset.
It’s a step by step plan to get your home how you want it to be at a pace that works for you.
Put kindness into the world every day of Lent and beyond and see where it takes you.
It might surprise you in the best of ways.
Also, be sure to join our Moving Toward Better Facebook Page, where we connect daily to live our best life and letting the rest go.
As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.