Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Lent Season for many Christians worldwide. I was raised in a United Methodist family, yet I never participated in the tradition of "giving something up" for Lent. As a non-Christian who follows Buddhist spirituality and practice, I have realized the decreased level of importance that I personally place on this liturgical season. That said, I recognize the importance of this season for Christians around the world and in my backyard. My Christian friends and colleagues at Vanderbilt Divinity School especially have reminded me about the importance of making sacrifices and taking time to prepare oneself mentally, spiritually, and even physically for the events of life. Cultivating mindfulness has also been a key theme of my own Buddhist practice.
While I won't be making sacrifices or preparations for the death and resurrection of Jesus, Lent for me this year will be a season of heightened awareness, a season that pushes the boundaries of my comfort zones. For the next 40+ days of Lent, I will be a hijabi.
Well, I'm not that uncomfortable with wearing the hijab. In fact, I really do enjoy wearing it for reasons that I have yet to form into words. Right now, this enjoyment is just a feeling. No, not just a feeling, it is a feeling. No need to minimize something because I don't have language for it yet. Feelings have their own power and value and sincerity--yes, we can learn so much about ourselves when we listen to how something feels in our bodies. Anyway, perhaps over the course of these next 40 days, I will be able to articulate this felt love that I have for the hijab.
But maybe this love affair will turn sour. Believe me, I am no pessimist, but I have to leave room for this possibility. I have never worn the hijab for such an extended period of time. I have never worn it in very public places. I have never worn it to the airport. Oh, so much is unknown, and there is so much to look forward to! See, I am an optimist.
And a realist. I know that the hijab is a symbol of Islam, and the last thing that I want to do is offend my Muslim brothers and sisters in any way. So, I discussed this hijabi idea with my friend Tayyibah Taylor, editor-in-chief of Azizah magazine, a vehicle for empowering Muslim women. She was very supportive of this idea, and called it an "experiment." I raised my eyebrows at this word, but perhaps it is fitting. Again, we'll see.
But what are the rules of this new experience? More on that tomorrow. Until then, peaceful steps,