The ultimate cleanse...
A few years back, I was neck deep in the yoga underworld. I call it underworld because few people get so engrossed in it, that you practice rigorously for hours a day, to achieve an athleticism that compares to circus acts and contortionists.
This isn't to say I ever achieved that much athleticism, but I'll be honest, I had some pretty cool moves. Of course, all that changed after the injury...
But let's get back on course: when I was part of this world, cleanses were the 'thing' to do. Many of them involved an extreme decrease in calorie intake, while consuming foods that promoted, well, cleansing - as in - going to the bathroom.
And even today, many sing the praises of cleanses. They mention how it changed their palette towards foods that are good for them, as they stopped craving the foods that were 'bad' for them.
I can see the validity in this, to a certain degree. Of course, I do not condone doing ridiculously long cleanses that put your brain functionality and health at risk. But I have dieted, which for me, might as well have been called cleanses - and they certainly helped change the way I eat. The moment I lose the discipline, I gain weight. So eliminating certain foods for a certain period of time, does serve to change what I would generally desire.
Fast forward to today - almost a week into the Catholic period of Lent, and this is precisely what I am doing now - but on a spiritual level.
In case you don't already know, Lent is a time where Catholics fast, pray, and abstain from certain activities, in order to prepare our hearts and souls for the day of Jesus' resurrection: Easter!
For Catholics, Easter is THE most joyful holiday of all the Liturgical calendar. Even more so than Christmas. Unfortunately, most might not know this from the way many Catholics celebrate these two holidays.
And I think it is because many Catholics have forgotten to, or rather blandly participate in the most important aspect of this holiday: the spiritual cleanse that must precede it.
Lent is a time of sacrifice, as we discipline our desires in order to purify and make room for God's grace in our hearts. It is a walk in the desert, as Jesus did before His crucifixion.
When we walk that desert with Jesus; a desert full of temptation and negation of the whims of our bodies, we come to fully appreciate what Jesus has done for us. And with a spiritual cleanse, comes a mental clarity of who Jesus really is - and should be: the center of our lives.
Without the cleanse, Easter is more of a, "Thanks, Jesus - You know, for dying and all. I'm sure glad you resurrected! Phew! So... anyway, we're gonna look for eggs now..."
With the cleanse, you LIVE the resurrection with Jesus. You are grateful because you feel it and know that as you participated in at least a portion of His suffering, you also participate in His glory. It is an experience of gratitude. Beyond words.
Now, I'm not talking from my high horse here. For years, I treated Lent like, ok, I need to give up something...umm...let's see... ok: chocolate! And I would falter once in while, forget to pray. Forget what week we were on... and before I knew it, it was Easter. One more Lent come and gone. Now to get ready for Mother's Day...
It wasn't until a couple years ago that I finally started listening to Jesus' calling for a more intentional Lent. Of course, it came at the cost of a pretty scary incident.
But it was through this test of faith, that I grew in faith. Because just as I experienced the ugly, I experienced the beauty - the glory - of God's mercy and love. And it was just a split second of it. And I knew it was worth pursuing.
Since then, every year is about a different ailment of the soul that I have come to realize I have. It is fascinating! Because I feel as if God reveals it to me just a little before Ash Wednesday - and throughout Lent, I go through this process of cleansing my mind, my soul, of the clutter of addictions, vices, bad habits, bad though patterns, so as to make room for His grace, so that through His grace, we can heal that issue...
Am I a Saint? Of course not! But why not try? Isn't that worth trying?
He is calling all of us to be Saints. He wants us to cleanse ourselves of the things that don't serve our souls. The music, movies, habits and thoughts that deplete rather than fill us.
Yes, you could start a spiritual cleanse anytime, but what better time than when an entire faith family is participating? Around the same time Jesus would have walked that desert?
In a culture where we celebrate excellence in sports and academics - why do we settle for mediocrity in the spiritual life?
In a time where we wonder and ask endlessly how humanity can act so callous and careless towards one another, why do we negate the need for us to be holy people, rather than just leave it to the monks in the mountains?
Let's strife to be spiritual athletes - gladiators - for God and all humanity. Change our palette towards holiness. Discipline our desires. So that all year long, we can have room for God's grace to work in our lives. No emotional clutter.
Only then will our minds be well enough to do God's work in helping one another and make the world a better place.
To enter the arena, and fight the good fight: the fight for good, against evil.