Today is Ash Wednesday, the First Day of Lent. So if you see people like me walking about with ash smeared on our foreheads it's not because we haven't washed properly - it's a sign that we've started the season that leads towards Easter.
It's a sober season: the ashes remind us that we're just dust. And it's a season for reflecting on the path our life is taking. Like people of many faiths do sometime each year, we may give up on a luxury or two, so we can take more notice of what's more important, the essentials in life, believing that a bit of self-denial creates space for the spiritual to grow in us.
Of course denial of chocolate, or alcohol or some other pleasure may just get us down, make us even harder to live with than we already are in our piousness. But that's a risk we'll take for the the chance that enlightenment might come.
How does this work? Well, each of us will do it differently. I like T.S. Eliot's words,
- Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Maybe it also means, teach us not to care about the outcome of our reflections, but to learn to trust ourselves to a higher source, a greater spirit, God if you like, who can come to us in the spaces we create as we learn how to sit still.