One of my best friends is a big NHL fan. She has had season’s tickets to the Canucks for several years, runs her office hockey pool, and rarely misses Hockey Night in Canada. Like a great many other hockey fans across the country, she was saddened and angered by the dispute between the players and owners. She wondered how this void in her weekly routine could be filled. As it turned out, though, she quickly adapted. Instead of watching hockey on television, she began to take her son to watch local Junior level games, and found that what is lacking in the players’ talent and experience levels is more than made up for by their intensity and enthusiasm. She also found that not watching television as frequently or reading the sports section of the newspaper as often freed up more time to become active herself. She is training for a five kilometre run, and often goes with her family to the local school playground to shoot some basketball after supper.
Obviously this is change on a small scale, apparently not very significant. But I think that the lesson my friend learned about discovering new joy in one’s life by the act of letting go of old habits can be applied on a great many levels. Change is often frightening and frequently painful, but it is also a source of great personal renewal and freedom.
One thing I am beginning to believe more and more strongly as I grow older is that all belief systems have important messages for humanity. It doesn’t matter what names those belief systems go by, whether they be Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Paganism, Existentialism or Science – there is no monopoly on truth. One doesn’t have to be a Buddhist to find value in the belief that we need to be more mindful and to avoid illusory attachments, just as one doesn’t have to be a confirmed rationalist to see beauty in linear algebra or Einstein’s theory of relativity. In fact, being a rigid rationalist is actually opposed to the picture of the universe – both wildly random and richly and intricately patterned – that modern physics (with such concepts as chaos theory and string theory) is developing. If anything, the underlying force that drives the cosmos seems to be closer to the trickster figure so prominent in First Nations’ spirituality.
Likewise, I believe that there is no need to be Catholic / Christian to find the truth in the tradition of Lent, which is now upon us. Easter is a time of powerful, cathartic energies. The energy to create and to destroy. An opportunity to make positive changes in our lives, and to break through psychic barriers to our well being. Perhaps what we choose to discard will be a physical addiction, or an addiction to a negative emotion, such as anger, resentment, guilt or irrational fear. Perhaps we will find the strength we need to finally silence the harsh inner critic who is always telling us that we are not good enough to succeed, and not strong enough to shape change or accept change. Perhaps it will be something as simple as turning off the television more frequently, or eating in a more conscious way.
Lent, as it leads us toward Spring, is a time when we have the ability to smash the negative chains and cycles that hold us prisoner, to decide what is important and healthful in our lives, and discard some of the toxic clutter that contaminates us.