Tag: Lent

In-Between Times

In-Between Times

transitions, Lent, transformation“Sometimes we are living in the ‘in-between-times’ when we’re no longer who we used to be, but haven’t yet arrived at our next stage ”.   ~ Marian Williamson

As the snow begins to melt after last week’s storm, and the calendar flips from February to March, I am reminded of the torment and the power of the in-between times. March in North Carolina is an in-between time. It can be cold (35) and rainy like it is today or sunny and warm (75) as it promises to be tomorrow. It’s neither here, nor there, and there’s no certainty about what to expect. It’s difficult to plan and dressing is a layered affair.

Despite the ups and downs of the weather, the birds know what’s on the horizon. They are already in full spring song. They have awakened from winter survival mode and the drive to mate and procreate has set them in motion. As they prepare for new life their song reveals the joy of new re-birth and the new beginning that lies on the horizon.

Life is a series of transitions. No sooner do we land in a place we’d like to stay, than it is time to move on. Something shifts or changes and we are called upon, once again, to adapt and change. Sometimes we are grateful for the change and sometimes we are terrified by it. Either way, the in-between time is one of not quite knowing who we are, what to do or what to expect.

Transitions come in all sizes, from the large life-altering external events such as marriage, birth, and death and the internal shifts of puberty and menopause, to day to day shifts in interest and focus, such as tiring of one hobby and searching for a new one, or finishing one book and looking for another. In all cases, the in-between times trigger an uneasiness, a restlessness and an uncertainty about what to do and what is next.

When we can step back from our discomfort and see the in-between time, as a period of gestation, of fertility, of alert waiting, just as the birds surely must wait and prepare for a mate and birth of their young, we can perhaps avoid falling into the trap of self-loathing, fear, anxiety and despair that too often moves in to fill the gap.  To elevate our viewpoint to one of open expectation, standing open to everything and afraid of nothing, ready and alert to the next challenge or adventure, is to understand and accept that transitions are a part of life, the driving force within and behind our inherent drive to create.

It’s no coincidence that major religions incorporate traditions that include the symbols of birth, death, and re-birth into their yearly liturgical calendars.  In the Christian tradition, for example, the season of Easter celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and takes place in unison with the re-birth of nature. The season of Lent is a period of preparation, symbolic, if you will, of the in-between time.  (The word “Lent” is short for “Lenten” which refers to the forty days before Easter and comes from the Old Enlish word “lencten” meaning “springtime or spring”.)

One can see how important the “in-between” time is to the process of transition and transformation within the Christian tradition when seen through the eyes of the Lenten season. For forty days and forty nights, Christians are admonished to fast and pray, and essentially to wait with an open heart for new life.  One need not be a practicing Christian to understand and see the value of taking time out from focusing on everyday demands, from having to have all of the answers and knowing exactly what is coming, to prepare oneself, to realign priorities, assess values and activities, to pare down and create space for a new beginning.

We are a culture that thrives on activity and production. In-between times of non-activity and non-production are perhaps even more important to the final outcome. After all, if we are not ready and prepared, waiting openly and expectantly, creating space within and without, but are instead buried in activity or anxious mental gymnastics, how can we hear or see what is right in front of us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Full Circle – Day #4

Coming Full Circle – Day #4

Wisdom
The Storyteller – A Wise Old Sage by Holly Sierra
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My family moved from a quaint little town not far from Erie, PA, to a small paper mill town on the Androscoggin River in Maine. My father, an electrical engineer,  was perhaps, taking a step up the corporate ladder. Just shy of my third birthday, my mother, my two older sisters and I traveled by sleeper car to our new home. The change was a shock for most of my family, which at that time included five children and my grandfather in addition to my parents and various pets.

I was the youngest and it was my innocent good fortune that I did not carry any preconceived ideas into this beautiful, untarnished part of our country. Indeed, it was magical to me. I loved the snow, the crisp, fresh air, the people, the endless woods and giant rocks. Nature was my refuge, a means to escape into a world that I understood and that fed my soul. I was mostly invisible in my family and in the house,  and so I found a freedom of expression in the great outdoors, where I could connect deeply with my life force.

Raised in the Episcopal Church, we attended weekly services at the local parish. Many of my friends were Catholic, and while my immediate family paid little attention to Lent in a practical  sense, it became a tradition/ritual that I took on each year with heartfelt commitment.  During Lent of my third year, I decided to give up sucking my thumb, and as a symbolic gesture of that commitment, I gave my favorite blanket to my “younger” cousin. The first night, as I drifted off, I was aware of the absence of my usual comforts, but I held fast to my decision.

To my dismay I awoke the next morning with my thumb in my mouth. I had faltered, let myself down…and it was in my sleep! Oh, no!  In spite of my disappointment, I continued on.  I made it through my very first Lent  without any further mishap.

I bring this story up for a reason. I remembered yesterday that it is Lent. As you probably know, Lent is a forty day period of time during which many Christians prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter. It is a time of fasting, prayer, repentance, moderation and the focused practice of a spiritual discipline.  While I long ago gave up following the Christian Liturgical calendar, it strikes me that my life has come full circle, that there is some sort of serendipity involved in my recent dietary undertaking at precisely this time of year.

Spirituality has been a central focus throughout my life, though I shoved it aside during my thirties and forties. At mid-life, and particularly over the last several years since the accident,  I find I turn more and more to spiritual teachers, to prayer and meditation, to the larger spiritual force that lives both within and without; I turn there for strength, guidance and understanding.

I no longer live within the structure of the Christian tradition. I find it too limiting, too often off-center, but I will always be drawn to, and see the value in many of the religious traditions, practices and theologies. They have deep, symbolic meaning in a world that has lost sight of its existence and power.

A period of fasting is a century old practice in most religions, and my experiences over the past week have reminded me of its value. Food is a life-giving substance, without which we could not survive. In our world of abundance, we have lost touch with this, both in a very real sense and a symbolical one. It is a gift of the earth that nurtures, restores and fills us, something for which we should be grateful.  When we take it for granted, become numb or indifferent to its connection to our life force,  we run the risk of forgetting that we are mere mortals. In the process we not only overlook the gift of abundance, we disrespect and overlook another very important gift – our body, and all of the abundant blessings it provides.

We are not just our mind, or our heart, or  our soul, just as we are not only our body. We are all of those things, and as we strive to respect and care for each, we  care for the other.

Lent is a reminder. Fasting is a reminder.  Each helps one gain a new perspective or awaken an old one we may have forgotten. Taking a step back from, or outside of, our day-to-day viewpoint  offers us an opportunity to get things back in balance. We need those opportunities. We need to provide them for ourselves when we can.

Dorothy  3/15/2014 copyright

Day #1 – I’m a Coward

Day #2 – The Morning after the Night Before

Day #3 – There are No Words

Day #4 – Coming Full Circle

Day #5 & #6 – Hyped Up and Nowhere to Go

Day #7 – The Body, Mind, Spirit Connection