Lately I’ve stopped using the word “sustainable” as often and have started thinking in terms of
abundance. Where sustainability requires a minimum standard, abundance allows for a re-imagining of what’s possible. Sure, there are limited resources and it can feel like the house is on fire, but we have the tools, in accountable community, to build more than a bunker.
A model of abundance isn’t about sacrifice. It’s about re-appropriation of resources we already have to better serve ourselves and our neighbors.
Thinking in terms of abundance requires that we have a healthy relationship to ourselves and our authentic needs.
The below suggestions are meant to remind us of what we have to work with already, and to give us a jumpstart on re-wiring our brains to be able to think in imaginative terms instead of through the lens of scarcity.
This is also how I’m framing Lent. I didn’t come from a Christian tradition that practiced the season of Lent, so at first it felt like a meaningless exercise in self-flagellation, like we were punishing ourselves for being sinners. But now I see it as a way to reset, as an intentional period of letting go of habits that demean, inhibit, and isolate us in order to let more light in. It’s fitting that this season takes place as the days lengthen into spring. By Easter, we’re ready to fly out of our little chrysalises into the morning sun.
5 Abundance-Minded Activities to Practice During Lent
1 | Establish creative meal solutions that aren’t meat-focused.
Beef is one of the largest agricultural contributors to climate change and deforestation globally. Raising cows is not efficient, not to mention that factory farming is inhumane. Consider giving up all beef and leather products throughout Lent.
Place only the limitations on yourself that you know you are capable of maintaining. You can go full vegetarian or continue to eat fish and poultry depending on your dietary needs.
2 | Shop secondhand, or not at all.
It’s tempting to over-shop as the weather warms up in the Northern Hemisphere – I confess to doing quite a bit of pre-shopping myself. Consider either ceasing all unnecessary/fashion-related purchases or committing to buy only secondhand.
3 | Start and maintain a daily prayer practice.
Even if you don’t identify with a particular religious tradition, creating a habit around meditation, quiet time, and/or prayer has amazing health and psychological effects. Get up just a bit earlier each day to sit in silence, read a prayer from your religious tradition, or do some light stretches. Stay away from podcasts, videos, and other external voices. I’ll be attending a local morning prayer service 2-3 times per week as part of my Lenten practice.
If you’re interested in an Episcopal practice, you can access the Book of Common Prayer online here.
4 | Read a book that inspires ethical exploration.
Read a memoir, guide, or work of theology that challenges and inspires you toward holistic justice. I’ll be reading Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. There are lots of used copies available online.
I also recommend The Autobiography of Malcolm X; The Sacredness of Human Life by David Gushee, a reflection on Christianity’s call for universal human dignity; and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, a bioethics perspective on death.
5 | Be intentional about your relationships.
This one is a bit amorphous compared to the other suggestions because it’s not something you can track as effectively. But I have become convinced, especially over the last few months, that a weekly commitment to seeing friends – meeting for lunch, having a phone call, going on a mini-date with your partner, even taking a walk – does a world of good.
Healthy relationships have a positive impact on mental health and give us the accountability and clarity we need to make good choices. If you’re having trouble making local friends, try a meet-up group, local dance gathering (we have square, contra, and swing dancing in my area), religious service, or community center. Or invite a work acquaintance out for drinks.