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An Easter JourneyMarch 21, 2016
Easter is coming, a holy season for many Faiths. Every spring is a season of hope, and Easter is the very symbol of hope. It is often preceded by days of fasting and prayer. A Seventh Day Adventist friend of mine jokingly told me his knees were getting sore during lent. Members of the Baha'i Faith are just ending their 19 day fasting period and celebrating a new year on March 21st, the Spring Equinox. Whatever our beliefs may be, this is a good time to take the gifts of this season to heart - to step back from the normal world of things and activities and reflect on our lives. The Book of Mormon speaks of the power of agency, one of God's greatest gifts to us. It is the ability and privilege God gives people to choose and act for themselves. Even if we believe in free will, we usually don't tap its full power. Here are some ways to energize that important virtue.
First, think about a change that would enrich your life. Set your intention. Do you want to have more love and unity in a relationship? Do you want to express your creativity? Grow a new garden? Give up stress and anxiety?
Then, make a sacrifice. Lent or fasting reminds us to ask, what am I ready and willing to give up to live a true spiritual life, to be genuinely happy? For some it is lazy self-indulgence in habits that do not serve us, whether watching too much TV or self-medicating with harmful substances, from sugar to alcohol. For others it is overdoing, taking on so much that we never give ourselves a chance to enjoy the beauty around us or really enjoy life. Some need to give up the habit of self-pity and habitual disappointment with what life brings. For others, it is constant criticism and negativity toward others for their failings, especially the people we are closest to. Sacrifice means giving up the important for something more important. I have found it is nearly impossible to stop doing something, even when I really want to give it up. It is much better to start doing do something new to replace the old habit.
Researchers tell us that it takes 21 to 66 days to establish a new habit. Say, you wanted to give up arguing with your spouse. Your new habit might be simply zipping your lip when a negative reaction starts to come. I think it's better to ask a question. Don't get furious, get curious. "What gives you that idea?" or "Tell me more." If your goal is to add more love and gentleness to your relationship, stop making demands and make simple, positive requests. "Would you be willing to…?" If a home is filled with words like "lazy", "stupid", "useless", or curse words, that is the behavior we are supporting. Replace those words with words of appreciation. Asking for respect, helpfulness, or kindness is a magnet attracting that behavior. Threats carry little weight, especially since they are rarely carried out, but requests appealing to a child's or adult's better nature often hit the mark. Instead of gossiping in a judgmental, negative way about people, find good things to say about them. If you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all.
The Baha'i Writings says, "I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love." 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." What an amazing idea, that as we let in the awareness that we are perfectly loved, fear cannot remain.
Choosing is the soul work you came here to do. This Easter, focus on hope that you can create a better life. You have the wings to soar, so don't be grounded by old habits. Have the courage to lift yourself up, and trust the winds of Grace.