Yep, you read the title correctly.

I’m giving up elevators for Lent.

Originally I had planned on giving up elevators for the second half of Lent (during March and April as a part of my “Year of Giving Up” project) but an ongoing ankle twinge has caused me to take an indefinite hiatus from running. (Don’t worry, I’ll resume “giving up not running” in a couple months and will likely hit the ground running [pun intended] before then.)

Back to elevators.

Why elevators? What does this have to do with Lent?

Christians often give something up for Lent (if you grew up Catholic you’re no doubt familiar with this tradition). It’s a form of fasting, a reminder to pray, and a subtle sacrifice that points us towards the sacrifice we see coming 40 days later (Good Friday).

A few years ago I gave up five miles per hour for Lent.

This was back when I lived in West Michigan and drove a car everywhere. Whatever the speed limit, I would drive five miles under it, a physical reminder to be where I am rather than only focus on getting to wherever I’m going. (And to all the cars who ended up driving a bit slower as they were stuck behind me, I hope they took the hint to enjoy the moment of mindfulness. That’s what all those shaking fists and raised middle fingers meant, right?)

My hope is that my life without elevators will provide a similar physical reminder to be present, to recognize, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, that the miracle isn’t walking on water but walking on the earth. I want to be present in every step, noticing the weight of my feet on the ground as I climb the stairs, discovering peace in every step.

The stairwells of New York will be my modern prayer labyrinth, at least for the next couple months.