Lessons from the Great Lent Experiment

As many of you know I decided to celebrate lent this year by giving up coffee and sodas for Lent. I christened my adventure The Great Lent Experiment because I felt like it really was an experiment, only I was the subject and the lab rat! Well, I learned a few things from this little foray into giving up some things I really enjoyed and found a few gifts along the way:

Gift #1: It is possible to survive life without a vanilla double shot latte most mornings.
Gift #2: Pizza tastes just as good without a soda.
Gift #3: Not having to buy lattes or sodas saves me money to buy e-books for my Nook. (my Nook, a subject for another blog!)

Seriously, though, I have gained some insights into my own head that have been interesting to say the least. It also gave me some food for thought about my life overall. The further into this I have gotten I began thinking what the difference is between a habit and an addiction. When I looked up the definitions, it was a surprise to me to find there is a very fine line between the two:

habit: a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance; an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.

addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance; persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.

I guess this fascinates me because what I thought would happen is that I would not go a day without a latte. However, what I discovered is that I did not miss coffee all that much. In fact, I did not coffee miss it at all. As I thought back, I realized that often times I would stop for a latte and not really want one but get one anyway. I realized that I would buy one without thinking too much about it. I know I will drink a latte again but I also know that I will never go back to being a mindless robot about it.

On the other hand, I had a craving for a soda almost from the first moment I decided to give them up. Which is interesting because soda was not something I drank everyday. I did last about 3 weeks before I gave in and had a soda. Even when I go days and not drink one there is still a part of me that feels the desire for one. The desire has never gone away, I just ignore it most of the time. I did make the choice to drink a soda earlier this week but I refuse to drink them again regularly. I am finding with the soda, I have to be more conscious, more aware. I have to choose carefully when I have one, I have to choose with awareness.

The common denominator here is awareness, in order to avoid a habit there has to awareness to avoid the same pattern. In order to not be constantly giving in to an almost compulsive desire, you have to be aware. I have started thinking about my life and wondering what other areas am I operating in an unconscious way, just doing things from routine, without much thought? Areas where I am doing things out of compulsion without thinking? How can I bring a level of awareness to those areas as I have had do with drinking sodas and coffee? I guess the next question is, does it a make a difference, this level of awareness? I say yes, it does, it makes all the difference in the world. It is the difference between being a passive bystander in your own life and taking responsibility for it. In other words, I always have a choice!

If this had happened two years ago, I would not have lasted a day, probably not even an hour. To be honest, this idea of giving something up for time would have been too scary to me, I would not have even attempted it. I have been encouraged by this little experiment of mine. It shows me there has been progress, I feel empowered, more aware of my body, my thoughts and how they can work together. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ways to go here but I feel like I have learned something that goes beyond just coffee and soda. Something that I always intellectually understood but now is very real to me, possibly, the greatest gift of all: I am now an active participant in my own life.

Go figure, who could have known a little thing like giving up coffee and soda could lead to such a shift in perspective? To think all I wanted was try and not drink so much coffee, soda was just sort of an after thought. It just goes to show that sometimes the small things in life are our greatest teachers.

Namaste 🙂

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