Instead of giving something up for Lent, try starting something new.

If the purpose of the season is penance, I don't see why it can't just as beneficial to start something new rather than giving something up. Yes, it is true, I'm not a purist when it comes to ritual. I'm also not a fan of penance per se (a bit too transcendentalist for my taste to be technical.) I try to understand these traditions as best I can while trapped in my modern body, brain and context in order to glean something spiritually functional out of them. 

But it seems to me that the purpose of this ritual, covering the self in ashes to make a public sign of regret for things done, might be better served these modern days by the affirmative rather than the negative. The affirmative is already implied - one has regret for actions in the past, therefore has made plans for actions that are counter in the future. Well, it seems to me that we can skip the step of making a public sign of regret. 
Why not just go to the gym more often? Start visiting some elderly community members in your spare time? Volunteer at the local soup kitchen or health clinic? 
I used to smoke a pack of cigarettes per day or more. I tried so many times to quit smoking. I tried patches, pills, potions, and pottery.  I just could not seem to do it.  Then a thought hit me - I had to want to not want to.  You see, I wanted to stop, sure - but I still wanted to continue. Eventually, I did quit and still do not smoke, but I keep going back to the "wanting to not want to" need in the human condition. All too often the outcome of focus on a negative is - well - negative. 
So I chose to "accentuate the positive" as it were - to focus on the affirmative.  So this Lenten season, I encourage you to do likewise if you are where I am regarding the rigidity of traditions and try something new. Instead of giving something up - start something new.
I started working out for 20 minutes a day on my crappy treadmill. What would you start?

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