Charles Fillmore, a New Thought pioneer, in his book Keep A True Lent, writes about the deeper spiritual meaning of Lent, and how it shows up for people in New Thought understanding. The deeper interpretation of Lent reveals fasting as a process that transforms us into malleable vessels ready for service to humanity, rather than living in the illusion of separation.
Lent began with the early Christian church in the first century. Lent comes from the word Lenten, or lengthen, which is also used as spring or new season. Its intent is to ready the person for service to God by fasting from the luxuries of life. Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. Many penitents from various religions had ash placed upon their forehead as a sign to repent to the power of God by turning their attention away from the world. The ash is produced from burning palm fronds and the ash reminds us that we come from the earth and will return to the earth. Also, it symbolizes the purification of fire in the process of redemption. Lent duplicates the 40 day period leading up to Easter from the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness.
As the story goes, Jesus spends 40 days in the desert and battles the wild beasts. The beasts are not lions, tigers and bears, but the beasts of thoughts that burden our minds. Consider the beasts as they relate to our thought systems. What might you fear upon encountering a wild beast? To be attacked, of course! So it is with our thoughts of lack that seek to attack, while heavily burdening the mind. The beast eats too much and can turn on you in the blink of an eye.
Ever notice in life when you trie to give up a material want, desire or addiction, the “what you resist persists” law comes into play. But when looking at belief systems that cause suffering from attachment, then, and only then, does it get easier to “give something up”, something that never belonged to us in the first place. All suffering begins with thoughts. It is only when we give energy to thoughts that separate us from Truth, and hold those thoughts as limiting and secret in the mind, that we temporarily lose sight of the Mind of God.
We hear that the body is the temple of God, but the body returns to earth or ash, right? The temple is not built in the physical realm, but is built with the building blocks of consciousness or awareness. However, our minds are riddled with belief systems that stand in the way of constructing the temple. Beliefs or rules give our world the color and flavor used by our perception to make sense of an otherwise seemingly hostile world. These rules can help us, or cause us tremendous pain. It is in evaluating these rules that allows us the freedom to weed out any rule that would hinder or harm our spiritual evolution. We cannot observe these rules for what they truly are while being so mentally occupied with the worldly noise of everyday life. We must fast from the world to go deeper.
Mental fasting is the commitment, for a period of time, to truly observe thoughts and examine them for their value and relevance toward growing in awareness. During a time of fasting, we look at the origins of beliefs and how they affect our lives. One thing about beliefs is they are obtained from people we find credible or worthy of our praise, and quite possibly may be detrimental to our spiritual growth. Many beliefs were installed in us as children without our awareness, approval or appreciation. The news media may find a seat for beliefs that keep us in fear- a state of mind that’s not very wise to in making decisions.
When we sit in observation of thought, better known as meditation, we first fast from thoughts of judgment rooted in criticism and condemnation of ourselves and others. In this initial phase, we calm the mind to have deeper thoughts and thought patterns surface for scrutiny in the light of Higher Mind. Anything that stands in opposition to Truth will come into consciousness when sitting quiet. Just as the Sun opens the wings of a new butterfly with its warmth, all ideas contrary to the illumination of the Holy Spirit will be healed, but only with our permission. In this place of healing we can feast on brotherly love and wholeness of mind.
Lent is a time to reflect upon our beliefs, and make ready those we desire to lay on the "altar" for healing. We determine which beliefs stand in the way of Peace, and choose to lay them down on the altar. The death and resurrection in the Easter meaning is the transformation of our thoughts of lack into ones of abundance and joy. In the story of Easter, Jesus, who symbolizes the mind, lays down the body and all thoughts of lack on the cross to die, and ascends into heaven, which we know is within us. This is the resurrection of our minds, back to our natural state of love.
If you are new to the idea that belief systems may be keeping you from enjoying a deeper sense Love, then you may find it necessary in the beginning to go into longer periods of Lent in order to do some deferred, heavy mental and emotional housekeeping. Once you’ve done some of the grittier, messier work, this process becomes a much quicker and easier process. You can begin to identify thoughts, notice them, and if they are not in Love, lay them on the altar for transformation. The resurrection is not once a year, but rather an ongoing process of surrendering whatever belief that blocks the flow of Love. During times of emotional upset, this surrender may be many times in a day. It is this ongoing process of the Lenten-spring season that renews us, allowing Spirit to channel us into the service of those that still suffer from not remembering who they are- a bright, powerful representation of Love in the world. Ask your meta-physician if fasting from harmful beliefs is right for you.