Today I tried something new. I attended Ash Wednesday services with my co-worker, who is Catholic. I have attended Catholic Mass before as a visitor, but never to watch the ceremonies associated with certain holidays, such as Ash Wednesday.
We got there a little late, but found a seat with an excellent view of the proceedings. The first feeling I had was that of respect. Here is a religion that is centuries old, governed by sacred rites and rituals that have their roots in Biblical times. This is a religion that is home to millions of followers. And I was watching one of their most basic rituals.
I marveled as I watched the throngs of people line up in front of the ministers to have the ashes of burned palm fronds wiped on their foreheads, for all to see. Each person, including very small children, were told to turn away from sin. Then they returned to their seats, the mark clearly upon their heads, the ponder about the implications of the day. I researched later and found that the mark on the forehead was to remind the believers to be humble, that the mark itself might remind them of their insignificance and spiritual debt.
The sermon that followed focused on the ensuing 40-day Lent, where believers choose a personal habit or sin to give up for 40 days. The priest encouraged the crowd to eschew gossip and passing judgment on other people. I thought this extremely appropriate as I pondered this week's "Live With" rule to silence the voice of judgment.
It occurred to me that when we are spending time criticizing others or ourselves, we are losing time to develop new ideas or solutions. Adding to this lost time is the death spiral that can occur when you beat yourself up over an idea or an event. Negativity begets negativity, which leaves the mind barren and scorched...hardly a fertile ground for creativity.
So perhaps I should give something up for Lent, even though I'm not Catholic. Maybe I will take the priest's advice to let go of judgment. And allow this unique experience to make some room in my thoughts for positive idea creation.