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Today is the first Sunday of Lent — plenty time for folks who gave up chocolate to be sneaking a taste here and there, or daring to debate whether Sundays count, since they’re not included in the official 40 days of Lent.

I’ve never been very good at the ascetic approach to Lent, tending to prefer taking on something new rather than giving something up. This year I adopted the very vague goal of trying to be open to new opportunities or new experiences that I wouldn’t ordinarily try. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to try bungee jumping or something as radical as coffee drinking, but I did decide to stretch both my body and my boundaries by signing up for a yoga class.

Talk about a fish out of water — and a man out of place — it’s far easier for me to dress up and speak to a thousand people than to put on sweats on a Wednesday morning and try to hold a “tree” pose in the company of a half dozen women who chatter about their husbands and have to wonder what in the world I’m doing there. At least I’m not the least flexible one in the group.

Surprisingly, last week the yoga teacher began the session by reminding the class that it was Ash Wednesday, and Lent was beginning. She talked a bit about the significance of 40 day periods in the Bible, and noted that they sometimes show up in other religions, too. It usually takes 40 days of consistent effort to ingrain a new habit, she said, or to shed an old one.

I doubt that I’ll develop a yoga habit much beyond my trial membership, but I expect to learn something new, improve my flexibility, and tighten some muscles I don’t normally use. Then I’ll probably try something else — crocheting, cliff diving, a cooking class?

Whatever comes along, I’ll try to be open to it, and remember that both time and opportunity are gifts of God, too precious to waste.

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