Day 12 — My God, could I use a cup of coffee this morning! It’s Monday morning and I’m struggling to get myself in gear. Sipping on this cup of green tea just isn’t cutting it. It lacks the aroma I love, the taste I enjoy and the kick I could use. At the same time, however, my GI complaints have subsided, my impatience is quelled and I’m not crashing in the middle of the afternoon. So why the change? I gave up coffee for Lent.

“Lent? Run! This guy’s gonna try to sell me on Christianity!”

Wait. No, I’m not.

In fact, I’m not a devote Christian myself. But I do observe Lent and here’s what I love about it. In a nutshell, it’s a “marathon”. While the rest of you make New Year’s resolutions you’ll never keep, I make Lenten commitments I do keep. I succeed because my commitments are not forever, they’re for 40 days. As I said, it’s a marathon.

This is my 5th year making Lenten commitments. They are mostly the same three each year: no alcohol, coffee or wheat products. These three things antagonize my system but they are so enjoyable and so pervasive that I’m not ready to quit forever … not yet. However, I can quit them for 40 days and here’s what I get:

  • First, quitting confirms that I remain in control. It’s a discipline thing. I know that if I can quit for 40 days, I can quit forever.
  • Second, my body really does feel better. My day is more uniformly productive because I’m not waxing and waning on the empty energy of caffeine combined with the hollow energy of GMO starches. My indigestion is gone and my lower half is happy. I’m sleeping better and waking up more refreshed — in spite of this morning!
  • Third, I’m losing the belly fat. True, I can barely see it now after only 12 days, but by day 40 I’ll see it. That’s because it takes 30 days to rotate your gut flora. I won’t try to explain it, Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride does a better job, but changing your gut flora is key to shedding fat.

There is another reason I’m drawn to Lent but it is more difficult to articulate. It’s related to control and discipline but it goes deeper. Self-denial forces me to stop and become mindful. Every time I smell fresh coffee brewing and turn away, every time I am invited to grab a beer and decline, every time I see leftover cookies in the office kitchen and walk past, I am in the moment. It’s a virtual “slap in the face”. It’s an awakening. It’s mindfulness.

No, I don’t meditate. When I try, I end up daydreaming and ignore the chime of the singing bowl that is supposed to pull you back. But I can’t ignore my desires for coffee, beer and cookies. In a sense, these are my singing bowls. Each temptation is a chime I can’t ignore. It snaps me into mindfulness. I confront it, inspect it, reflect on the desire then dismiss it. I remain in a mindful state — at least for a little while — and this gives me broader perspective and patience as I manage the little things at work and at home.

Lent is a Christian observance but you don’t have to be Christian to observe it. Think of it as a marathon for change. Anyone can change anything for 40 days. What you change is up to you but the act of changing is an act of awareness, an act of will, and an act of outcome. In short, it is an act of mindfulness that will change you, at least for a little while and maybe longer. When it’s over, when you take that first sip of coffee or beer or whatever you gave up, you will appreciate it so much more!

Next year, skip the New Year’s Resolution and try making a Lenten Commitment instead.

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