A friend of mine posted on Ash Wednesday what she was giving up for her spiritual faith this season.
Interestingly, she is pagan.
That got me wondering: Why shouldn’t we all consider using the energy of the Lenten Season to make sacrifices, regardless of our religion? And if you really must give something up, how do you get the most bang for your buck?
In the Bible, Mosaic law required that the Israelites give one-tenth of the produce of their land and livestock, the tithe, to support the priesthood (Leviticus 27:30-33). Today, many Christians donate a tithe, or ten percent of their income, to support their church, the pastor’s needs, and missionary work.
What about those of us who are spiritual, but have less religious accruements to support? Some people spring clean, cull through their tangible belongings and donate the excess to charity. Others go meatless (or, in my friend’s case, beer-less), or even fast as spiritual payment for their normal daily bounty. Personally, I prefer to honor the Earth Mother.
It’s gotten harder to stay connected to the Divine. Our current civilization, with all its tantalizing and distracting technologies, has left us unconnected with the natural world. That is unfortunate. Giving reverence to trees, springs, plants and animals, reinforces our own spirituality by reminding us of the interconnectedness of all beings. We share a bond with all other living beings in the very biochemical structure of our bodies.
Taking that idea a step further, we can then accept the Earth herself, Gaia, as divine. If we take the plants and the animals as our cousins, if we acknowledge that mountains, trees, rocks, minerals, rivers, and oceans are all alive and living beings, if we take these beliefs and act on them—even if it’s only in conjunction with Lent–what are the implications? Both ecologists and stewardship conservationists agree we much seek to diminish the disrespectful and despoiling effects of our own species on the welfare of the environment.
That’s a fine idea, but where does one single, over-worked, under-paid human start? And, oh by the way, what does this have to do with Lent?
If the world is Divine, we must treat it with greater respect, not as an object but as Deity. When we need it for our purposes, we must heed the example of the indigenous peoples and ask permission, make an offering, and give thanks.
Starting simply: Gardeners can make an offering and invoke the blessing of the Earth Mother when beginning their spring garden. Prepare the garden bed, but before planting the seeds or herbs, offer a libation of milk and a bit of honeycomb to the Goddess in the center of the garden. Add a few stones with plant associations, such as tree agate, green calcite, apache tears or menalite.
An easy Earth offering you can make year-round is to recycle the ashes from fireplaces and bonfires, adding them to your gardens, shrubs, and fruit trees. Ash adds potassium to the soil and will enhance the blooming and fruiting process of plants and trees.
Another mundane chore easily transformed into offering is yard work. Mowing the lawn can be meditative and provides a great opportunity to work on mantras for transformation. Plus, the clippings are high in nitrogen, which is essential to the growth of all things green. The same recycling idea goes for cleaning up around pine trees. If you have blueberries, azaleas, or rhododendrons, mulch them with pine needles. The needles raise the acidity of the soil, enabling acid-loving shrubs to thrive. Other tree leaves can be used as mulch or to enhance compost.
Don’t have a yard or a garden? Give up your plastic water bottles. Buy a refillable aluminum bottle and refill it. Put away all paper plates and silverware and eat off of regular plates. Hand wash those dishes and use the time to meditate! If you don’t already participate in a recycling program, start now, and continue to participate from now on—diligently.
The list of things you—individually—can do that are both sacrifices for Lent and offerings to Mother Gaia are only limited by your imagination. Replace your existing bulbs with FL or LED. Install low-flow shower heads. Quit smoking.
Changing behavior and giving things up isn’t easy. And your actions alone are not enough to see positive change. But think of the impact if you convince your friends to make changes. And they convince their friends….
Starting this Lent, vow to complete your daily rituals with mindfulness and give offerings to Mother Earth. A green tithing, so to speak. It doesn’t require gold, or even ten percent of your salary. You will nourish and renew yourself and your planet—body, mind and spirit.
Will you commit to making a sacrifice, and a spiritual offering, for Mother Gaia? What actions will you take toward living more sustainably?