Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

It’s a Matter of Routine

March 31, 2020

Most of the world is involved with some amount of “lock down” or “stay at home” orders. Many people are still working, since they are essential to particular services—perhaps water/wastewater treatment facilities or hazardous operations engineering in process plants. Or getting a newspaper or magazine published.

The common thread to many of my incoming emails concerns how to work from home when you’re not used to it. How do you maintain focus? How do you remain productive? How do you stay sane?

I have worked from a home office for more than 20 years. But I have had a routine for going out. Get up, brew coffee, read and write, go to park to run / go to gym to finish workout, go to coffee house for (of course) more coffee and WiFi, go home for lunch, work from home office.

I cannot go to the gym or the coffee house. Although something (my son thinks lightning) knocked out my Internet connection with Comcast saying it won’t fix it until April 18. So, I went to the national coffee house chain, bought a large coffee, and sat in the parking lot in my car to take the load from my mobile phone hotspot I’m using.

In any extraordinary time, whether traveling or death in the family or vacation, I construct a routine to keep me on pace. It may not always involve awakening at 5:30 am, but I will structure my days so that I get in the essentials of reading/writing, coffee, and exercise.

That is how I cope.

The Wise Were Prepared

March 30, 2020

Jesus told a story of 10 young women invited to a wedding who were to watch for the groom to arrive. They were to welcome him with a lighted procession. Five were prepared with extra oil for their lamps just in case something happened. Five brought enough only for the normal waiting period.

Jesus described the first five as wise and the other five as foolish (lifting words and concepts directly from Proverbs).

We cannot know everything that will happen today while we are sitting in our meditation/reading chair in the morning. Let alone tomorrow or next week. But we can have a foundation of relationship with God and a supply of personal and family necessities just in case they may be needed.

Tech people talk about having a “grab bag” of chargers, batteries, cables, backup disk drives, and so forth just in case of fire or earthquake or something else unexpected where you have to run. This is another example of prepared.

When you have prepared yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually, you have laid a foundation for surviving whatever happens with as much peace as is possible.

When you are prepared and able to act with flexibility, then you don’t have to resort to justifying your actions later or constructing an alternate universe of “facts” to explain away your lack of preparation.

I was in Germany at the very outbreak (publicly) in China. I had a feeling that this could be very much like the stories my grandfather told of the Spanish flu (which had nothing to do with Spain) in 1918. Some of our leaders read the book describing public health reactions to that pandemic. They were prepared to act when Corona hit here.

It’s worse than I feared. But keeping in touch with God helps maintain equanimity. I strive to keep what routines that I can given a new house in a new community in a new state and a new way of interacting (or not) socially.

Now, if only I had thought to have some free weights around the house to complete the workout… then I would have been like the wise young women. Stay safe and healthy.

Order From Chaos

March 27, 2020

I began the week surrounded by the chaos of packing in preparation for a move. Today, I am in my new house 300 miles (480 kilometers) away once again surrounded by chaos—the chaos of boxes waiting to be unpacked, trying to find a cup for the morning coffee, finding the normalcy of my old routines in new surroundings.

In the midst of chaos is serenity. This morning I devoted about an hour to meditation (what today they like to call mindfulness). In the quiet at the beginning of a day I find order. And ideas—how to fix something a repairman didn’t finish, how to organize a new office. The ideas don’t swarm like hornets, rather they quietly appear fully ready.

The outer world is almost the opposite of chaos with people withdrawn into their houses. Outside for walks for physical and mental health. Far less than the usual traffic. Beneath the quiet lies the chaos of uncertainty. How long will it take for the virus to run its course? How long for the news media to hype numbers? When will life be “normal”?

Just as God brought order from chaos by speaking a primordial word, we can taste that order by bringing stillness and listening for that same primordial word.

Doing What Is Good or Doing What Looks Good

March 26, 2020

Times of crisis and uncertainty bring out the true colors of leaders. Not only national political leaders, but leaders at every level of every type of organization.

Thomas à Kempis said, A person who cares nothing for praise or blame knows great inward peace….Praise does not make you holier than you are, nor blame more wicked. You are exactly what you are, and cannot ever be any better or worse than that, in the eyes of God. Attend to what is really within you, then, and you will not care what others say of you.

We will discover which leaders are looking for praise and which are the humble servants who do the job well.

Looking inside ourselves, we also discover what are our motivations.

Can we live with the person in the mirror? Do we fall short? If so, there is time to step up and do what is good and not just what looks good. Self awareness is the first step to growth and maturity.

Prepare The Way

March 25, 2020

Last night we were discussing the failure to plan on the part of Bev and me (actually our daughter Heather was discussing our failure) was the source of my stress.

You see, I’m writing this from my new time zone—CDT. Our new house is about 10 minutes from here, and I’m waiting in anticipation of a call from our mover to help him survey the cul-de-sac and determine where to put the large semi rig for unloading. We are completing the move to the outskirts of the Chicago area.

Heather thought we should have planned everything out well in advance. I wasn’t preparing for a move, because I didn’t want to. Bev, on the other hand, has been thinking (obsessing?) for a long time. However, from T0 (asking a realtor about selling our house) to T1 (getting an offer) was less than a week. T3, Two weeks later she found the house she wanted some 300 miles (480 km) away. It took a while for the legal/financial formalities, and at T8 we’re moving.

We had been gradually shedding possessions (reduced by one whole bookcase, but that was far from enough when you think of boxing all the books—probably about 600 lbs. worth). Many times decisions are made suddenly when the time is right. All you can do is prepare for eventualities.

So I’m thinking about this when I open today’s 300 Words A Day from Jon Swanson. His topic—preparing and planning. He is so right. Being prepared for whatever plans with the inevitable changes in plans smooths the way.

So the inevitable visited us from a delay getting the move out finished Monday due to the SleepNumber bed techs who didn’t finish their job to a delay with appliances because the Lowe’s installers didn’t finish the job to a delay when the mover’s truck broke down. But we are prepared, so I can ride it out without a huge rise in blood pressure numbers.

Jon thought about Ezekiel in his piece on preparing. I immediately thought about John the Baptizer who came to prepare the way (song from Jesus Christ, Superstar—Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord—is repeating in my brain).

It seems that in ancient times, no town leaders were so ignorant as to have a straight, smooth road leading to their town inviting invaders to come and get it. But when they were advised the king was coming, they would go out and “straighten” the road and make it smooth for the king’s arrival. That’s preparing the way.

Preparation doesn’t mean that you won’t have work to do. It just means you’ve taken the time to prepare your mind and tools for whatever work must be done. That works for moving—or for business or organizations or personally.

PS—in the middle of this meditation, I received a call from the mover. he thought the mechanic repaired his truck. He started the trip up here and discovered the repairs were not complete. With any luck, move in day it tomorrow. I have time to fix the work of the appliance installers and do my other work.

Starting The Day Mindfully

March 23, 2020

Dietrich BonhoefferThe morning prayer determines the day. Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weakness and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with others, all have their own origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer. Order and distribution of our time become more firm where they originate in prayer.

We have been so busy for the past three weeks with all the financing, closing, packing, and other work required by deciding to move to a smaller house far away, that the entire coved-19 problem is just one more thing to weigh on our minds. It exists among the entire jumble of thoughts churning through the juicer of our minds.

It is stress blended with more stress. And now I have a final appointment with one of my doctors before I move and have to find a new one. This will screw with my blood pressure.

But Bonhoeffer reminds us about starting the day mindfully. He was someone who knew stress. And obviously knew how to handle it.

For myself, I wake up during the past two weeks about two hours early thinking of my immense to-do list. But then I lie in corpse pose (Yoga, look it up) and focus on breathing and then on God while I remain in inner calm. Even so, I arise at my usual 5:30 am refreshed and ready to get going.

Try it; you’ll like it.

Pray Without Ceasing

March 20, 2020

There is a different kind of prayer without ceasing; it is longing. Whatever you may be doing, if you long for the day of everlasting rest do not cease praying. If you do not wish to cease praying, then do not cease your longing. Your persistent longing is your persistent voice. But when love grows cold, the heart grows silent. Burning love is the outcry of the heart! If you are filled with longing all the time, you will keep crying out, and if your love perseveres, your cry will be heard without fail. — Saint Augustine, Source: Augustine’s Expositions of the Psalms

What would it look like if we could follow the Apostle Paul’s advice to pray without ceasing. A Russian peasant took up that challenge. His adventures are chronicled in The Way of the Pilgrim. It is worth reading many times.

There is nothing like the stress of moving compounded by the stress of uncertainty due to covid-19 and whether our moving van will be able to come Monday and load up.

This certainly is one way to test the discipline to pray without ceasing.

A scoffer would reply that every waking thought cannot be prayer. But a scoffer does not understand prayer—beyond words it’s an attitude and, well, a longing deep in the heart. Spiritual writers over these many centuries have taught that peeling potatoes can be prayer.

Besides, a discipline does not imply perfection. God is perfect. We just practice our disciplines in order to walk more closely with God and let some of that perfection rub off on us.

If You Can Keep Your Head When All Around You Others Are Losing Theirs

March 19, 2020

So goes a famous phrase. It is as true today as any time since humans were hunter/gatherers.

On the one hand, some people disappoint me with their responses. News “reporters” pander idle speculation in lieu of facts and call it reporting (a recent comment by the editor of Axios, formerly my favorite go-to news app, now I prefer Morning Brew). Politicians puff themselves up as great leaders while they flounder to juggle all the ramifications of different courses of actions.

Yet, we traveled once more to the Chicago area yesterday to close on the purchase of our new house and to take possession. Once again we met pleasant, professional, and helpful people wherever we went. The only strange thing was no concluding handshake or hug. Some writers think that we’ll never go back to touching. I beg to differ. It’s a human need. As soon as we get past worry, we’ll be back to human normal.

Speaking of leaders, the last of the “good 5” Roman emperors and fervent Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, developed mindfully a humble attitude. He searched out the best and brightest people to help him run his empire. He brought them to Rome, put them in charge, and let them do their thing. His reign experienced years of plagues and disease. He brought Galen, the foremost doctor of the time, to work things out.

American presidents such as George Washington (steeped in the Stoics) and Dwight Eisenhower acted in the same manner.

As to keeping your head—this is the most important thing we can each perform. Spreading calm concern and a helpful attitude rather than spreading worry and panic like the dust that always followed Charlie Brown character Pigpen.

We do that by a regular discipline of meditation, prayer, and returning to spiritual writers and the Bible for inspiration and the reminder that God is. (Thanks for that thought, Jon)

All Is Not Lost

March 18, 2020

Dire predictions of the end of industries, end of the world, end of life as we know it are everywhere throughout my news scan these days.

Yet, here I am about to sign the papers to own a new house 270 miles from where I’ve lived for the past 40+ years. The movers assure me they will be there Monday to load up.

I received a press release about a company buying land to build two more buildings on its site. I figured the company was doing well, but plans to triple size—wow.

I study the “Internet of Things.” This technology forms an integral part of smart cities. There have been some interesting applications over the past few years principally traffic monitoring and flow control. Now, I’m receiving news of focusing smart cities ideas into both fighting this virus outbreak and controlling or preventing future ones. People around the world are pooling talents, knowledge, initiative to solve serious problems to benefit all humans.

I saw a news item from San Francisco about an organization trying to help those who help and at the same time helping those who might lose their jobs and businesses. For $1,000, they buy 50 meals from some of the best restaurants and take them to front-line health care workers. Maybe you, your church, your organization could spearhead something like that for your community.

I had to resign from a community center board due to my move. I returned some materials yesterday and saw how they were handing out box lunches to those in need of a meal. Serving still goes on.

Perhaps extended time at home allows for deeper reading of spiritual writers bringing you closer to living with God. Part of living with God is helping out those in need. Have a neighbor who needs help getting food? Deliver some coffee to someone trying to help? There must be something.

Responses to the Spread of a Virus

March 17, 2020

In my other blog, I’m a well-known writer/analyst about manufacturing—leadership, technology, strategies. That email box is filling with messages from PR people announcing this or that company’s response to the virus. CEOs and Marketing officers are more than willing to be quoted. Everyone wants to be a thought leader.

Reminds me of Prairie Home Companion and stories from Lake Wobegone where all the children are above average.

However, it is important to stop the spread of the virus. Like the flu and other such diseases, 99% of the general population will survive the sickness and a huge percentage of at-risk people who get the virus will not (although hopefully we can keep the number who do get it small).

Be careful of information you take in. Like I do for health and nutrition and fitness, I carefully vet my sources. Most likely similar to you I am amazed at the number of people pandering to fear and feeding false information.

I maintain my spiritual disciplines first. Then my health and nutrition disciplines (it is important to keep the immune system healthy). I know what I can only do what I can control and as to the rest that I can’t—well, I know I must focus on other things.