Lent is probably my favorite season. Outside, snow and rain compete as winter slowly releases its hold on the land. Indoors, deprived of our favorite comfort foods, our days are shaken up. Lent is a time to clean out bodies, minds, homes, and souls as we prepare for the coming of new life.
The late-winter/early-spring season has been a period of deep detoxification in so many cultures for millennia. We’ve just spent months eating the heavy, warming foods of winter; celebrating the Nativity with festival foods; and hygge’d up our lives with thick stews, buttery pastries, and frothy lattes.
But now, the wide, sleeping world is waking up. Our bodies are waking up too. For many of our ancestors Lent was the season to detoxify and clean: to focus on Christ and cut away the excess.
The Lenten fast was a spiritually nurturing opportunity to radically change habits, and refresh all of our systems. Meat, dairy, eggs, and various other indulgences were off the menu completely. Fasting was a daily part of the season, not merely a minor inconvenience for two well separated days.
But in a wider way, Lent extended outside the kitchen and into the slowly thawing world around us.
This Lent, I’m trying to weave together all of the various cleansing and preparation aspects of the Great Fast into season of deep detoxification and rebuilding in our home.
So here’s what Lent looks like in our little ‘brambly yurt’.
We follow the Byzantine fasting tradition, it’s such a lovely, rhythmic flow of stricter and lighter restrictions. We always have something to look forward to in the week – whether it’s the days of deep fasting or the easy, indulgent weekends.
In our fast, no meat, dairy, or eggs are consumed throughout the season. We also avoid sugar (except natural sugars) unless it’s a feast day or birthday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays during the fast, we’re permitted oil and wine at our meals. On the weekends, we get oil, wine, and fish.
Every day feels fresh and new. Everyday is interesting!
We also fast until noon on the weekdays (all day on Fridays), and focus on simple, sustaining, and whole-food based meals. No super processed vegan fare for us.
Fasting like this encourages us to slow down our days. Meals are more refreshing, and a little slower when they come less often throughout the day.
Along with my own fasting, I like to make Lent a period of detoxification. Physically speaking, this means I support my fasting body with a nourishing, detoxifying tea. This year, I’m blending nettles, chamomile, red raspberry leaf, milk thistle seeds, and burdock root into a gently cleansing, nutrient dense detox tea.
I’m also adding some digestive bitters to my routine, as well as ashwagandha, to keep my overly-enthusiastic stress hormones in line.
But detoxifying isn’t just a physical process. Lent is a season that reminds us of the unity between body and spirit. As I detoxify my body with fasting, herbs, and an abundance of water; I’m also detoxifying other cluttered and over-burdened areas of my life.
Some of that takes place in the physical realm. I’m slowly late-winter cleaning my little house. Passing along clothes that don’t speak of the person I am and tools that never became either useful or necessary.
But I’m also detoxifying attitudes. I’m becoming – yet again – more comfortable in my skin. I’m sweeping away the messy thoughts and broken worldviews that pulled my interior life away from itself. Like Lent itself, this is a gradual process. Like Lent itself, the devotion doesn’t end in ease and perfection at Easter. Instead, it shifts, it grows. It becomes something newer and stronger – still requiring dedication, but joyfully looking back at the desert that nurtured it.
Lenten devotions are designed to cleanse, detoxify, heal, and reshape us. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving alter the atmosphere of our lives. I’m tracking my own, tangible progresses, in my journal. But most of the progress is deep and internal. It can’t be tracked, it can only be felt.
Hopefully, when Easter rolls around, I’ll feel it – new light and new life greeting the world from within.