As a ceremonialist and a shaman, the patterns of how the various celebrations overlap around the world are also of interest to me. Most of the Christian celebrations, for example, are defined by the sun and the solar calendar, with the exception of Easter and its surrounding observations. Easter is a combination of solar and lunar, in a leap of calisthenics of which any Olympic gymnast would be proud. In 325 AD/CE, The Church decided Easter would be observed the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. Ok, well, technically, in 325, The Church decreed that the observance of Easter should be separated from the Jewish calendar (mostly because their lunar calendar didn’t take a solar event, the Equinox, into account), and while we’re at it, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone observed it at the same time? Figuring out how to do that actually took a lot of trial and error and lasted a few centuries.
Now that we have that cleared up (ha!), what I really wanted to talk about is Lent. Lent is the 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Good Friday (also formalized in 325). This year, Lent is observed 3/6-4/18. At this point, the three of you still reading are probably wondering why I’m talking about Christian holidays. It’s because Lent is actually an opportunity to get out of ourselves, to release ourselves from the bond of the negative ego. If we want to evolve as spiritual beings, the thing that gets in our way is always going to be the ego. As a ceremonialist, I believe strongly that if a bunch of people are focusing on the same thing or putting their energies into the same thing, that’s going to be a powerful effort. As of 2013 the BBC reported that were 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. I have no idea how may of them are practicing, but even if it’s only a quarter, that’s some powerful juju. Why not hop onto that energy stream to help you reach your goals?
All of the polarity in the Universe, all of the temptation and resistance and distraction that we experience, exists within us. When we get down to our core, our true self, what we struggle with most of all is ego. As we move up through the operating systems the Hindi call the chakras, the third chakra is the first we come to that contains polarity within it – there is the small still voice, which always tells you the truth, and there is the loud committee, which, in giving you nothing but fear-based information, lies. This is the negative ego, that part of you that says “You are not enough. There is not enough. There will never be enough.” The third chakra is our main operating system in the world until we learn something else, and we have to find our way past the loud shouting of the ego to get to the truth.
At your core, you are happy and perfect. Everything else that you experience is illusion, a construct of the ego, designed to keep you from the perfect realization of your Divine self. If that sounds pointless and stupid to you, think of it this way — without something to choose against, this would not be a free will universe; without an uncomfortable option, we would not be able to have an experiential understanding of the beauty and perfection of being our true selves; without resistance, without struggle, we would not grow.
In 2014, I embarked on a practice for the Lenten season, walking a Labyrinth every day, and contemplating a theme. A Labyrinth is a form of walking meditation with three phases – release, contemplation, and inspiration/receiving. Any form of meditation that uses these three phases would be appropriate, if you wanted to adapt my 40 day practice as your own. Another option, if you wish to use the shared energy for your on daily practice, is to ask yourself what your opposite of ego is. Wake up every morning and list out your attachments, on paper, consciously releasing each one. Instead of making knee-jerk or instinctual actions, think about who it is you want to be, and take thoughtful action instead, considering the ramifications of your choices. Make sure you are meditating every day, even if it’s just to spend 10 minutes letting the noise in your head be as important to you as a radio station in the next room. Journal your progress, and see what happens.