Lent is a time of spiritual renewal and reflection. It’s a time to reflect on both our faith and our lives, and an opportunity to pause and 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. Here are some strategies for practicing reflection and mindfulness during Lent.
What Is the Purpose of Reflection?
Reflection has been shown to help us retain the lessons we learn. This is why reflection is a tool that’s rising in popularity in today’s classrooms.
Essentially, after learning something, students were asked to reflect on what they learned and how they learned it. Instead of learning a lesson and immediately filing it away, students are learning something and then evaluating it. This helps make the lesson “stick”.
Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick, authors of Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, explain that a reflection is a complex act.
“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. Meditation allows you to both clear your mind and let it wander. This often results in new insights.
If you’d like to try meditation during the Lenten season, Mindful.org offers these tips for simple meditation:
- Sit comfortably. Go somewhere quiet and comfortable where you can sit for a while.
- Pay attention to your legs. 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, but try not to slouch.
- Intentionally place your arms. 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.
More Reflection Activities and Ideas
Meditation is just one avenue for reflection — there are many other ways to practice it, including those that teachers use to encourage reflection in their students.
Here are some ideas to help encourage 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 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 10 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 the Lenten Challenge
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 2021 Lent activity calendar, information on the history of Lent, tips for spiritual growth, and more.