Are you in a Strange and Lonely Place?
Is your Soul longing for an Inner Lent, a way to recognize, name and struggle with your temptations? Overcome the beasts of your inner wilderness.
In the Christian Calendar of worship, we are just over a week into the Season of Lent. But in our souls, Inner Lent comes whenever…every day, every hour.
Someone who had contacted me two weeks ago about wanting to register for A Strange and Lonely Place, just responded that it was too late to begin working with Inner Lent so she would wait until next year. Is that true? Is it too late? Maybe if you cling to the calendar of the Church Fathers, but what if you live in the needs of your soul?
Oh, how I wish I only had to deal with all the imaginations of Lent for seven weeks a year.
Institutionalized Christianity wants us to remember the 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and the three temptations of Christ with docile obedience as an act of worship just for the seven weeks before Easter, but I have taken these New Testament events and shaped them into an intimate wisdom for living every moment.
It is never too late to awaken in your soul a Lenten Consciousness, to strengthen your sense of self for enduring your personal suffering or facing your personal temptations.
You can use the following paragraphs as prompts for contemplating and writing about your own Inner Lent experience. If you want more guidance and to go deeper, consider enrolling in the Imagine Self Academy courses mentioned below. These courses are downloadable and you can have them as a resource for any time you find yourself in your inner wilderness or facing a temptation you want to vanquish.
Let me set the scene, the context for the Inner Lent self-awareness.
A Feeling for Your Purpose
You have sense of self and you know this self has a contribution to make. You are not exactly clear what that contribution is but you know it is something that gives all the ordinary bits of your life purpose. Or maybe right now you do know that for the time being your purpose is to be your child’s mother, to be a partner in a challenging relationship, to collaborate with a group of people to make a difference, to face a life-threatening illness, to master an art or a sport or the most challenging and complex purpose of all, to know yourself. Whatever your sense of purpose, it is a commitment and a devotion that belongs to you and no one else.
A Strange and Lonely Place
Suddenly, in your soul, you find yourself alone and in a strange lonely place. You are in an inner wilderness of no comfort.
How many times have you been in this wilderness? Often I find myself in this lonely place when I wake up at 3AM with thoughts of all I must do, not just to pay my bills and keep my house clean, but to make the contribution I showed up on earth to make. At 3AM, I am all alone and without comfort and then I start to doubt. Or in the middle of the day, when I have just finished an audio for the latest course and I am haunted with the voice that tells me its not good enough and in a flash I am in my inner wilderness all alone and feeling unbearable discomfort knowing the Tempter will appear in a moment.
Deprivation, danger and isolation … you have your own personal experiences and feelings of each of these. Just making a simple list of them can be strengthening.
The Tempter and the Temptations
Let me tell you a secret, since I began working with the mysteries of Inner Lent eight years ago, I have grown to love these visits from the Tempter. Initially, when I find myself in the wilderness, I despair, but then I realize the strangeness is not new and aloneness allows me to know myself. The Tempter soon arrives and I know the routine…I am presented with the same three temptations every time and I get to look into myself and see if I have succumbed or vanquished. Will I do it differently this time?
What I see is always a combination. I’ve succumbed in ways and vanquished in ways. I don’t know when it happened but the visits with the Tempter stopped being a time of guilt, shame and self-hatred, and became a time of self-awareness, self-transcendence and self-compassion. Each visit I get wiser, humbler, and more humanly me.
The Tempting Questions
So here are the tempting questions my friend the Tempter places in my soul:
What stones do you still think you can turn into bread? To answer I must own and release my addictive desires that cannot nourish, satisfy or fulfill me. Will I be able to let go of these and manage the anxiety that comes with self-regulation?
How many leaps off the pinnacles of great ideals do you take, assuming angels will rescue you from crashing on the stones below? These are my ungrounded fantasies of magical support that drive me to expect too much from myself, to fail to prepare, and to wish for winning a practical, moral or spiritual lottery so I don’t have to face the gravity of my earthly limitations. Will I be able to adjust my ambitions to the solid steps of real action?
How often have you felt the power over a situation and been willing to sell your soul to have that feeling remain forever? These are my personal prejudices and the feeling that my way prevails over all others. Will I open up my soul to an interest in the experience and needs of others?
The Inner Lent Program Just for You!
If you would like guidance in finding your self-aware answers, I have put together a course called Inner Lent that brings deepening perspectives, insights and possibilities to inspire your own imagination of your experience of the wilderness and solitude, your challenges with addictive patterns, your challenges with your ungrounded fantasies and your challenges with judgments frozen in time. I take the New Testament images and make them intimate and meaningful for your modern, embodied soul. The wisdom is universal, far beyond church dogma, and the application needs to be deeply and truly personal.
The experience of Inner Lent can occur any day of the year and last for 40 minutes or 40 years. Inner Lent is about your changing, evolving, developing relationship with yourself in the vast and lonely wilderness of modern existence. You do not need to perfect the Inner Lent experience. You can play with it. This year you may want to focus on your addictive temptations. Next year or next week you may want to devote you inner attention to your experience of the wilderness. Or you may want to just explore the whole imagination and get a sense of all the possibilities living in the intimate understanding of the wilderness, fasting in your soul and vanquishing your unique temptations.
THE IMAGINE SELF ACADEMY
There are two Inner Lent courses in the Imagine Self Academy:
Your Inner Temptations — 4 audio lessons, 2 bonus lessons, valuable materials and many prompts for journaling. This course includes A Strange and Lonely Place and an audio on each of the three temptations providing new understanding. The two bonus lessons offer audios that look at the ministering of angels and the 3 ways to vanquish temptation. All content is downloadable. Learn more and register.
Inner Lent, like all the Imagine Self Holy Imaginations, is not about sin and redemption or being a good Christian. It is about the great commandment, “Oh, Human Soul, Know Thyself!” This is a commandment for all human souls, beyond religious beliefs. I find the central festivals of the Christian Calendar quite universal in their ability to guide us to this task of imagining self as an earthly and divine being and the great mystery of becoming fully human.
Although the Holy Imagination courses are designed to be taken in the order of the Christian Festivals, they may be taken in any order and at any time of the year. The order and timing is about your very own inner year!