Ash Wednesday has always been a challenging day for me on the religious calendar. I’ve never fully known what to do with it. So, I’m revisiting it yet again from my feminine vantage point and imagining what sort of holy day I might make it for myself.
Ash Wednesday, for the Christian tradition, is the very beginning of Lent – the time of entering the “wilderness” of our own inner landscape. The person seeking to become baptized on Easter used to spend these 40 days in intense self-examination, prayer, and self-denial with a focus on Jesus and his sacrifice of self-giving.
I get it. As a 12-step person, in times past I’ve done my personal inventory, looked at where I’ve hurt myself and others, shared these stark truths with a trusted person and with my Higher Power, asked for forgiveness or offered apologies where they were due and asked for a fresh start. It has provided that sense of a clean slate and has offered mental and spiritual relief – much like the tradition of Ash Wednesday and Lent.
But as I’ve journeyed further, I find that self-examination and self-denial are not what I generally need and, today, I’ll do something different.
This morning I appropriated the burning of white sage and did a spiritual cleansing. I drew a cross and a spiral on my forehead with the ashes.
More cleansing and renewal for me, today, might be a quiet time with myself this evening before a shower or bath – a look in the mirror to say, “I love all of you, the scars, wrinkles, dimples, contours, gray hair, moles and freckles and I See You. I give thanks for the dear Body who has carried me through the years. I forgive my inner Self for any hurts you’ve caused, the times you’ve stumbled, the way you’ve judged yourself harshly, and your lack of self-love.”
The Ho’oponopono might come in at this point. I might say to myself and to the Divine, “I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.” That’s the point at which I would step into the shower, hot tub or bath and allow myself to soak in the cleansing waters – waters that wash away hurt, exhaustion, self-judgement. I’d take the time to absorb self-compassion, reconnect with my own divinity, and open to the spiritual support always ready for me whenever I allow it.
As I dress myself for bed, I might use oil or lotion to anoint my stiff joints and dry skin. I might drink some warm milk (in my case, almond milk) with cinnamon and nutmeg. And then close my eyes and imagine myself on the great Net of Light which surrounds Mother Earth like a blanket. I picture the golden net holding all that I love, supported by the great beings and ancestors. I send out my own love and light into that Net and, by so doing, I reconnect with the Divine, with myself, with my beloveds in all the worlds. I send love, light, prayers and healing to those who are hurting or in harm’s way. I ask the Net to heal and mend the fractures between us. And I give thanks for this beautiful connection with the Divine.
That’s how I will begin this time of walking towards the spring equinox and the new life of Easter. That is how I will renew my spirit this year.