Lent is a time of spiritual renewal and reflection. It’s a time to take stock of both our faith and our lives, and to take a deeper look at things we might otherwise overlook or take for granted.
Reflection can be a powerful tool during this season of transformation and metanoia. Below you’ll find tips on how to practice reflection and mindfulness.
What is the Purpose of Reflection?
Taking a step back from religious or spiritual reflection, it’s interesting to note that reflection is a tool that’s rising in popularity in today’s classrooms. Essentially, after learning something, students are asked to reflect on what they learned and how they learned it. This helps make the lesson “stick” because instead of learning a lesson and immediately filing it away, students are learning something and then evaluating it.
“Reflection has many facets. For example, reflecting on work enhances its meaning. Reflecting on experiences encourages insight and complex learning,” they write. “In the end, reflecting also means applying what we've learned to contexts beyond the original situations in which we learned something.”
As Costa and Kallick point out, you can practice meaningful reflection in many different aspects of your life. The only question is, what’s the best way to go about it?
Using Meditation to Reflect
There are many ways to practice reflection. One of the most popular methods is meditation, which many associate with yoga. It’s a way to both clear your mind and let it wander.
If you’d like to try meditation, Mindful offers these tips for simple meditation:
- Sit comfortably. Go somewhere quiet and comfortable where you can sit for a while.
- Notice what your legs are doing. Mindful recommends either sitting on a cushion with your legs crossed or sitting in a chair with the bottoms of your feet on the floor.
- Straighten your upper body. You don’t need a ramrod straight posture—your spine naturally curves—but try not to slouch.
- Notice what your arms are doing. Just like with your legs, be mindful of your arms. Place them parallel to your upper body and rest your palms on your legs.
- Soften your gaze. Mindful recommends that you let your chin drop slightly and let your gaze fall. However, “It’s not necessary to close your eyes. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.”
- Feel your breath. Feel the air moving through your body and the rise and fall of your chest.
- Notice when your mind wanders from your breath. After you focus on your breathing for a while, your mind will naturally start to drift. “There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking,” Mindful says. “When you notice your mind wandering gently return your attention to the breath.”
- Be kind about your wandering mind. Don’t feel bad if your mind keeps wandering. Just keep coming back to your breathing.
- When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze. When it feels right, it’s time to end your meditation. Mindful recommends that you “Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.”
While you’re meditating, it may be easier to reflect on the things in your life that are weighing on your mind. Or, it may be that after you’ve finished meditating, your mind is clearer and more able to focus on topics you’d like to reflect on.
Reflection Activities and Ideas
Meditation is just one avenue for reflection—there are other ways to practice it. Going back to education, there are many methods teachers use to encourage reflection in their students.
Those reflection activities are meant for an educational setting. However, you can easily apply them to your spiritual or personal reflections. Here are some ideas to help spark reflection:
- Keep a reflection journal. Different from a daily journal, a reflection journal is a place for you to record your thoughts on a certain subject. Write about your thoughts on something that happened to you that day, or write something you read or watched.
- Brainstorm. Choose a spiritual topic—like a reading from the bible or a quote from your favorite religious leader—and then spend ten minutes jotting down words or phrases about how it made you feel.
- Reflective or personal essays. If you enjoy writing, you might like to try writing a reflective or personal essay. The New York Times has a list of essay prompts you can peruse. It has prompts like “what places do you remember fondly from childhood?” and “what can you learn from other religions?”
Join Us on Our Lenten Challenge Journey
This year we’re inviting everyone to participate in our Lenten Challenge, which offers opportunities for prayer, reflection, and giving throughout the season. You can join at any time by downloading the Lenten Challenge. You’ll receive a 2018 Lent activity calendar, information on the history of Lent, tips for spiritual growth, and more.