Lent is almost over. My practice: daily meditation and daily stretching (physical), daily flossing, daily Lent-specific reading. And facebook only once a day, instead of whenever I get bored. This resulted in me obsessively checking my email instead, to scratch the itch for distraction. Monkey mind is powerful.
St. Benedict emphasizes socialization and moderation of religious practice, and I’ve become a fan of his. In the past, I’ve enjoyed my suffering, maybe a little too much. Zen Buddhism attracted me, what with their cutting off their hands to prove their devotion to enlightenment.
Moderation seems more challenging to me now. It aint that hard to meditate for 20 minutes (I even do guided meditations, so a voice talks me through the work), to do three yoga poses, to make yourself floss. But it’s not easy, either. Not day after day after day. And it’s a lot better for you than avoiding chocolate. Chocolate is good for me. So is flossing. Root canal retail value (don’t see that on “Price is Right,” do you?): $1500.
During Lent, I noticed my insanity a little sooner. Sometimes I remembered to take some deep breaths or make a joke or accept that I was grouchy, rather than mentally griping about how I didn’t like the way I felt. Sometimes I noticed that most of what I think about is what I want to do in the future, and how great it will be when all that stuff is done, although that isn’t true. Maybe I could think about how happy I was with what I had already done, or how happy I am with so much of my life?
Sometimes I just noticed I was unsettled, and then watched a reality show on Netflix so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. (I recommend “Kell on Earth” and “All on the Line.”) But I definitely made progress in forward bends. That is undeniable.
Our Maundy Thursday this year, no one quite knew what to expect, which is especially hard on us liturgical types. We are used to knowing every word of the service, every turn, every gesture and posture, from way back. Some of us learned the liturgy in utero.
This year we met in our parish hall, which, oddly, is above ground (my church is rather fancy), and we sat at long tables. Instead of all looking at the altar, we craned around to look at the priests in different spots, prayers, lessons, sermon. We did our usual footwashing. I got a priest again this year. (Score.)
After communion was brought around to us, we called time out on liturgy and ate dinner together: hummus and pita and dates and grapes and cucumber slices. I always go to church alone, and sit alone. Plenty of chatting before and after, but during the service, I’m alone. I like it that way. I like to be able to concentrate.
But this time, since it was dinner, I sat with friends. We talked about our cats and our families. Christians eating together became hyper ritualized and deep. Years ago and one church ago, we used to have a Seder reenactment, that is, a Seder in first century style, with interruptions to relate the Seder to the one Jesus knew. My old pal Al (old of age), he of the huge, gorgeous Italian nose and the lingering Bronx accent and danger of telling too much of what he really thought, would drink wine without a bit of Lutheran shyness, and missing him, I would say the only thing our lovely dinner lacked was booze to loosen lips (well… I love haroset and that meal taught me to love horseradish). Next year with wine.
When we had eaten, they sent us into the sanctuary, chanting, and we finished up with kneeling and singing and stripping the altar. Because they sent us in the side door (very sneaky) we all sat up front, and mostly we sat together, instead of spreading out as we usually would.
I sat for a while after the service. During Lent, it’s normal to sit in church and not do anything. Everyone will leave you alone. It’s a good time to process everything that hurts, or has hurt, in the last year. Not obsess about it, or wallow in it, but just let it be there and give it its time.
Benedict would have been happy. After I left the sanctuary, I saw folks were still cleaning up from dinner. I helped stack chairs and fold tables. Steadying work. Practice. Chairs that will just have to be unstacked, and restacked, for singers and meals and meetings and classes. Chairs we’ll sit in tonight to eat chocolate.