Weekly Reflection - 3/29/2022
St. Mary's Reflection: Marla Perkins, Music Associate
A Lenten Cycle
This Lent I have given up my car. I bicycle mainly, walk, and use transit with a few necessary exceptions. While allied with goals of weight loss and concrete environmental action, this practice also began alongside a deeply needed mind reset. Vacation was neither an option nor a solution, these needs had to be met in my everyday life.
A wheel repeatedly circles its hub around to and past its beginning, so too the cycle of season or life. A spinning wheel touching the ground has new movement as it is propelled forward, enabling a journey. Lent is a time in our church year when we circle around the hub, the foundation of Jesus whose life, death, and meaning we contemplate. Life is the ground we touch, spiraling us forward on a journey. Of 60-70 Lents in one’s life, no two can be the same because we age, have new experiences, hopefully growing each year.
Giving up my car wakened my senses and soul as I cycled or walked through the lush greenery of Golden Gate Park, taking in colorful flowers, quiet, bird songs, fresh ocean air brushing my face, a misty morning pond with resident heron and tai chi practitioner. Subtlety and nuance permeated everything. Focus improved as I navigated streets safely and paid attention. Organization and discipline were required to carry out this practice. I was inspired by David Goggins, ultra-athlete and former Navy SEAL, to remember that I have more capacity than that to which I limit myself. Using my mind I could go further that I thought, go beyond my natural choices for comfort.
Combined with work, prayer, reading, etc. this practice has moved me out of a state perhaps such as psychoanalyst Jean-Guihelm Xerri describes in La Vie Profonde: La Sante Spirituelle au Quotidien: acedie. Acedia is like a kind of spiritual sluggishness. It was once known as the eighth deadly sin. The early Desert Fathers found that acedia was remedied over time with physical work, patience, perseverance, stability, and living each day as if it were your last. There has probably been an epidemic of acedie during the recent sluggish and overwhelming covid years.
Lent is a potent time of inner examination, growing, and practicing for spiritual health, to use Xerri’s term. We cultivate and grow the garden of our souls not just for Easter, but for our lives. We ponder not only Jesus’s death but also the inevitability of our own, and the afterlife of both. We are practicing for life and practicing for our death. When we bring our scattered forces into purpose during Lent, we are cultivating meaning and purpose for our lives and circumstances. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Victor Frankl has described the necessity of meaning to our lives, even in the bleakest of circumstances. Without cultivating meaning, we don’t survive very well.
Our Lenten practices are practices for living, strengthening us for the challenges, the unexplainable, the suffering which life can throw at us and others. The practice of our spiritual health and faith builds an antidote to helplessness and meaninglessness.
Each Lent we spiral a little closer to God, to the eternal love at the center of the cycles of our lives.