In the context of my work as a therapist, I spend a good deal of time inviting people to notice what is happening in their experience. I work to support increased awareness around thoughts, emotions and body sensations, knowing that the information they provide is important in clarifying what is needed to support the health and well-being of the person experiencing them. There’s nothing very profound about this practice of noticing, but it can be surprisingly challenging. We, as humans, can get very good at disconnecting from what is happening in our experience. This is an adaptive capability that has usually been helpful—or even necessary—in getting through challenges in life. The difficulty comes, however, when we get so good at not noticing what is happening in our thoughts, feelings and bodies that we don’t have the information required to understand what we need. Then, we tend to ignore our needs, make haphazard guessing about what we need or look to others to tell us what we need. None of these tend to work very well in the long term.
There’s something powerful about being able to see ourselves and our experiences as they really are rather than what we wish they were or what we think they should be. This is not easy work because we don’t always like what we find when we seek this kind of awareness. We might notice things about ourselves that don’t fit with the kind of person we want to be. We might encounter any number of uncomfortable feelings—pain, grief, anger, fear, shame, discouragement... But, as a mentor of mine is fond of saying, we cannot heal what we cannot feel. Being real about who we are and what we are experiencing allows us to work with what is there to facilitate healing.
As I was reflecting on Lent this year, it occurred to me that this holy season invites people of faith to precisely this kind of noticing in the context of God’s grace. Lent asks us to give up the pretense of being more or less than we are in order to be real with ourselves and God about what’s here now—body, mind, heart and spirit. This can be uncomfortable, both in the imperfection and the possibility that we will undoubtedly find. Though we may be surprised by what we discover as we engage in this kind of reflection, God never is. God meets us in these places, inviting us to healing, growth and abundant life. God joins us in the work of transformation as we see and respond to what is present in us.
What will be found when we look more closely at what is here for us now will be different for each person. Some may notice joy, gratitude and hope for what is coming. Others may find that their hearts are heavy with grief, discouragement, or loneliness. May God grant us all grace to be prayerfully present—to the extent that we are able—with whatever we may find, trusting that God will be present with us here. And may we be open to the ways that God is inviting us to respond, whether that is to seek out additional support, to take up a practice, or to let one go.