by Rodney Agnant…

The other day, one of my friends nearly had me on the floor rolling in laughter, because of a meme she sent me about Lent. 

Lent is the Christian season before Easter, and during this season people often “fast” or give up things for a period of 40 days. People often choose to fast from various foods, social media, video games or other things that they usually enjoy.

For this Lent, I had chosen to give up myself. More on that in a moment.

But given what I had chosen for Lent, and the pandemic that has unfolded during this Lenten season, I could not help but burst out in laughter when she sent this meme of a usually-would-be-inspirational sign outside of a church:

I immediately sent this to my Lent buddy who had decided he would also try this crazy idea of giving up ourselves. We even recorded a podcast together called 40 Days Without Me. Within the first few moments of the podcast, you find out that we have no idea what we got ourselves into.

Yet, given the pandemic, it was one of the best things we could have done.

For me, this Lenten practice of giving up myself meant preparing myself to make the greatest contributions I could make to others. To do this, I first learned and practiced taking care of myself: getting regular amounts of sleep, being more mindful of nutrition, exercising regularly, and using my breathing as an anchor to ground myself. These practices supported me in being able to then better contribute to people around me. I then focused on practicing accompaniment, by giving people my full and undivided attention. I learned to look at people with wide eyes, knowing that there was more to them than what I might first see. 

Despite social distancing, I even learned that I could be closer to my friends and family, as silence and open presence in conversations began to create a space for people to talk about their hopes and dreams.

During this season I think back to a Zoom call I had with a friend where my sole goal was to listen, to be fully present, and to acknowledge what I saw to be true about them. I would let the conversation take us wherever this friend wanted to go. At first, she shared her concerns about the pandemic, and her strategies for navigating this circumstance.

But then, we broke into something different altogether. Our conversation shifted: from concerns to considerations… from hesitations to hopes… from what we dread to what we dream.

For a moment, underneath all of the challenges, she and her dreams for the world emerged as an incredible light, shining more brightly and radiantly than it had before.

As I think about this time, I consider how this pandemic calls us to accompany each other in unique ways. 

Let’s continue to listen to each other for the things that we find most challenging. 

Let’s also continue to listen to each other for the things that we most cherish.

During times like these, placing our attention on the things we most cherish, can turn out to be a light and life-giving experience.

Audio: Listen here

4 Replies to “The Light Underneath it All

  1. I really loved reading this piece. I definitely agree listening is an incredibly powerful tool in that it can be a therapeutic process for both the listener and speaker. I love that on the surface it seems so simple, but listening is anything but passive. It can really direct self-reflection and bring happiness/ the light even during times that seem quite dark (now). Thank you for writing this Rodney!

    1. Thank you so much, Sophia!! I greatly appreciate it. Thinking about listening, and continuing to engage with it as a practice continues to humble and inspire me on a regular basis. I hope that this kind reminder can support you in giving people the gift of your presence and time!!

  2. This piece really stuck with me as I also considered how different this Lenten experience was compared to past years. I liked how you said, “For me, this Lenten practice of giving up myself meant preparing myself to make the greatest contributions I could make to others.” This really resonated with me and I admire the way that you were able to have such an empowering experience during Lent even in these uncertain times. It was inspiring to read about how you took it upon yourself to practice self-growth and care in order to be most available for others. What a great message and example to set for others!

    1. Thanks so much Kate!! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on this. Looking back on the post, I also realize how serendipitous it is that the skills I learned for self-growth turned out to be some of the skills needed to transition and be in this period of pandemic.

      I’m so glad that this resonated with you, and I greatly appreciate your acknowledgment here. I hope that reading this piece supports you in being the empowering presence that you likely seek to be in your community!

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