Finding a good Lenten fast can be a struggle. You can stick to the basics — no meat on Fridays, no sweets, maybe no beer — but you may not feel a connection to the fast other than the discipline it requires. Plus, you have to eat a lot of Filet-o-Fish sandwiches, which is no one’s idea of a good time.
Fasting can definitely be an avenue to reflection and growth, but if you’re looking to make more targeted changes in your life, it may not exactly fit the bill. If you’re seeking a more direct link between your Lenten sacrifice and changes you want to make in your life, perhaps you need to turn this process on its head.
Rather than trying to remove something from your life to make way for something better, try focusing on what that better thing is and reflect on how to realign your life to make that happen. Instead of fasting, “feast” on a goal or change and let the random junk of daily life find its way to the curb.
These “feasts” do not have to be life-long commitments to improvement; they can be time-limited experiments in alternative living, if you wish. If something would add true value and fulfillment to your life, what would it look like to go head first in that direction? Can you do it during Lent this year and make a few meaningful discoveries?
Here are a few “feasts” to get you started.
Feast on abundance
Each of us probably has something in our lives that we have a lot of and yet still end up acquiring more. Do you have unread books on your shelf but still buy new ones? Do you watch Netflix nightly while your DVD collection gathers dust? Does your closet contain more clothes than air? Is your pantry filled with ingredients used once or impulse buys from the grocery store?
For 40 days, draw only from your accumulated abundance. Challenge yourself to watch all the movies you own or cook with the neglected ingredients in your cabinet. Start working through the backlog and see what you find. Perhaps you’ll see that you already have enough and learn to find contentment and plenty where you hadn’t before.
Feast on gratitude
If you’ve never kept a gratitude journal, now’s the time to try. Start an email conversation with yourself and at three times during the day (morning, lunch, and bedtime), email yourself two or three things you’re grateful for. These items of gratitude do not have to come through deep reflection, but rather can simply be what you see when you look around.
Right now, I am grateful that I was able to afford this laptop and the power bill that keeps it running. If it can work for Oprah, it can work for you.
Feast on learning
Starting something new can be scary, particularly if your inner critic is actively telling you that you don’t know what you’re doing. And maybe you have no idea what you’re doing. But for 40 days, give yourself permission to let go of that feeling.
Commit to throwing yourself into the deep end of something new. It can be something you’ve always wanted to do but never found the time or a foreign world you’d like to learn more about. For instance, you could participate in a daily letter-writing challenge or take a free online class on a subject that’s always interested you. You could spend time working on your photography, home brewing or join a local sports team.
You may make mistakes or occasionally look foolish, but in 40 days you’ll learn if you want more or if it’s time to try something else. And you’ll have something to show for your efforts.
This Lent, keep the sweets and the coffee and experiment with intentional life realignment. At the very least, you’re going to learn something, and hopefully create within yourself a desire to go further down the path to fulfillment.
Originally published Feb. 19, 2018.