Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Who Is A Fool?

January 26, 2023

Today’s chapter in Proverbs hit the fools, the lazy, and the “whisperer.” So, I thought, who is a fool? Is there a picture of a fool? How would I know one, really?

Wow, did that ever send me down into a rabbit’s warren of Ecosia searches. That was 12 hours ago. A busy day and several zoom meetings later, here I am after dinner still thinking.

Perhaps I am the fool?

Speaking of fools, I thought about our politicians in the US. A big group of them keep trying to run every detail of our lives. Many of these were youth and adolescents of the 70s.

This 70s song by Jonathan Edwards (Sunshine Go Away Today) appeared on our Sonos speakers

Sunshine, go away today
I don’t feel much like dancing
Some man’s gone, he’s tried to run my life
He don’t know what he’s asking
When he tells me I better get in line
I can’t hear what he’s saying
When I grow up, I’m gonna make it mine
These ain’t dues I been paying

Well, how much does it cost?
I’ll buy it
The time is all we’ve lost
I’ll try it
And he can’t even run his own life
I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine, sunshine

The song is packed with teenage rebellion. On the other hand, I was impacted by the line–he can’t even run his own life I’ll be damed if he’ll run mine.

How often do we, yes we, you and me, try to tell other people how to live yet our own lives leave so much to be desired?

Once again a use for the discipline of pause, breathe, consider, be quiet.

Reading Proverbs Understand the Meaning of the Picture

January 24, 2023

Sometimes the writers of the Proverbs include a saying that is blunt. Do not do this…for this will happen. Sometimes the sayings are little pictures. Sometimes, like Jesus, the stories require work on our part to understand.

Once I quoted from the German writer Thomas Mann, “If everyone swept in front of their house, the whole world would be clean.” An engineer wrote to me and explained how that was impossible. He was thinking of a literal broom. Mann was most likely thinking of what would happen if each of us got ourselves in order first, rather than trying to fix everyone else.

Sometimes, like this one, the story is pretty clear.

“I passed by the field of one who was lazy,
by the vineyard of a stupid person;
and see, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,

and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want, like an armed warrior.”

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Proverbs 24

Avoiding laziness pops up often in the Proverbs. This is a nice little story to illustrate.

Get your 7-8 hours of sleep. Then get up and work on your field–whatever that field may be. I wrote a few days ago about the Japanese theory of ickigai–having a purpose to get out of bed in the morning. Find your purpose and work at it.

When Love Meets

January 19, 2023

When love meets pain, it becomes compassion.

When love meets happiness, it becomes joy.

Joy is an expression of the awakened heart, a quality of enlightenment. When we live in the present, joy often arises for no reason.

Jack Kornfield

When I came across these thoughts, I was compelled by the spirit to pause and consider. I love that thought of “when love meets…” What a powerful picture.

And I thought about how joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit according to the Apostle Paul.

Then I remembered this little folk song from the time when I sold my electric guitar and bought a nylon-stringed acoustic one and sang folk songs. Many from Catholics in the mid-to-late 60s. Like this one written by Sister Miriam Therese Winter, Joy Is Like The Rain.

I saw raindrops on the river, Joy is like the rain.

Bit by bit the river grows, till all at once it overflows.

Joy is like the rain.

Perhaps today I can rest in joy. Care to join me?

That Point Between Urge and Action

January 17, 2023

There are wonderful pictures in the Proverbs:

Better to meet a she-bear robbed of its cubs than to confront a fool immersed in folly. (Chapter 17)

You are scanning your social media feed. As unlikely as this sounds, you see a post from someone that is completely wrong. Using emotion-laden language, they describe an event totally made up. You feel a surge of righteous emotion, even anger. “I’ll set this right” you say to yourself as you begin to type.

Maybe you’ve forgotten about the she-bear. Maybe you remember what the writer of the Proverbs says shortly thereafter:

The beginning of strife is like letting out water; so stop before the quarrel breaks out.

TS Eliot wrote about the point, the still point, where the dance is. He didn’t mean this, exactly, but it fits. There is a moment between typing the response or speaking to the friend and clicking send or giving voice to the thought.

It is that moment that we must become sensitive to. That still point. There, we must become observers of ourselves. Recognizing that we are about to meet folly with folly, we stop.

We cannot control the genesis of our emotions. We must control the response. That is where awareness and tranquility of mind becomes the most important thing. At that moment, we breathe, we see, we become tranquil and quiet. Let it pass.

Repentance, or Making Decisions

January 13, 2023

It’s January 13. How are your New Year’s Resolutions going?

There is no January rush at the community’s fitness center. I have no direct data, only observation–attendance in exercise classes is stable over the past year, again no January rush.

Has no one new decided for a healthy lifestyle this year?

There is a stream within the broader Christian church that emphasizes THE decision. You make one public statement that you wish to follow Jesus (the proper formula is “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior) and that’s it. Complete. Done.

I spent my entire adult life suggesting to people that that is not the end. It is the beginning.

The stories of Jesus tell us he taught repentance–that is a decision to change the direction of your life. His cousin John taught similarly.

A sub-theme of the Proverbs tells us that many decisions we make determine the type of life we will experience.

Every day we face decision points that determine our life.

  • take an ethical shortcut
  • tell a small falsehood
  • help someone with a bulky package while shopping
  • give some money to a charity
  • donate some time to someone who needs support

And finally, a proverb for politicians the world over:

“The righteous hate falsehood,
but the wicked act shamefully and disgracefully.”

Proverbs 13

Bringing Wisdom To Life

January 10, 2023

Today’s reading going through the Hebrew book of the Proverbs during January is Chapter 10—beginning the proverbs of Solomon. He was a son of King David. He was not the first born. Because of rebellion, pride, dysfunctional families, death, Solomon became king upon David’s death.

God visited Solomon and said he would grant a desire. Solomon asked for wisdom. And, indeed, he became known throughout the Middle East for his wisdom.

One would never know it by the way he lived. As befitting a king, he had many wives and many women in the palace not his wives but with whom he could sleep with. He had many offspring. Despite his wisdom, he was unable to raise an upright son and heir.

This is the most ironic book in the Bible. And sad in the sense that at the end of his life Solomon realized that he had not lived according to the wisdom granted him.

His son was full of pride and  in a very short time caused the division of the vast kingdom acquired by his father. It was all chasing the wind, as Solomon said later.

Take a lesson, not only from the words but also from the story behind the words. 

We can read and memorize and even understand the wisdom that comes from God. But as Jesus explained time and again, unless we live out those words, we are lost. 

The Beginner’s Mind

January 9, 2023

Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

All the spiritual traditions of which I’m aware contain a form of the concept of the beginner’s mind.

The quote from Jesus popped up in my current reading. I paused to contemplate.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

I remembered a joke from a boy’s magazine from my early adolescent period. Two farmers were talking one day. One says, “My son went off to university and got a BS and then an MS and now he is getting a Ph.D.” The other replied, “What’s that?” “Well,” said the first farmer, “I guess it’s like this. You know what BS is. MS is More of the Same. And PhD is Piled Higher and Deeper.”

Now, I don’t want to disparage all people who have earned a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) degree. I have friends who earned that degree and are brilliant and useful in their fields. I’m currently listening to the podcasts of Dr. Andrew Huberman who has a PhD in neuroscience yet retains insatiable curiosity about many things.

Yet, I’ve known countless people with advanced degrees without the sense to come in from the rain. Their heads got so choked with what they know that there is no room for learning.

There are many whose heads are so full of what they know that there is no room for learning, no curiosity, they know it all–and they have no degrees. It works in many ways.

Like a child, like a beginner, our minds need to be open and curious ready to take in new experiences and new understanding. I loved taking walks with my grandson when he was a toddler. He would stop and explore many things–bugs, worms, leaves, whatever was there. I hoped he would never lose that attitude toward life.

Keeping Busy With Joy

January 6, 2023

How often it occurs that my eclectic reading and listening habits bring different ideas together. Many (most?) people experience this. It’s so common that the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung had a word for it—synchronicity. 

It happened to me now. We should be busy. Not mindlessly busy (another podcast about mindfulness I heard yesterday, but that’s another topic). But a reason to be busy. And be happy doing it. When you are older.  It may be looking after family. Or gardening. Or writing. Or hopefully your job. Or hobby. 

The Japanese have a word for it—Ikigai (ick—ee—guy). It can be translated as the reason you get up in the morning.

How many men (it seems to occur more often with men) have you known who retire from work in order to do nothing. And they die way too soon. Forty years ago I decided that wouldn’t happen to me. It got me through the pandemic—a reason to get up and do something every day.

In the Proverbs we read (Chapter 6, today’s reading)

“6 Go to the ant, you lazybones;

consider its ways, and be wise.

7 Without having any chief

or officer or ruler,

8 it prepares its food in summer,

and gathers its sustenance in harvest.

9 How long will you lie there, O lazybones?”

Proverbs 6th Chapter

Yesterday I listened to a conversation (called a podcast) with Guy Kawasaki and Héctor García, who wrote Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life with Francesc Miralles. Héctor moved from Spain to Japan as a software engineer and became a best selling writer. They interviewed people in a small village in Okinawa known for its concentration of people over 100 years old. They universally had an ickigai. I have just ordered the book. Just listening to a guy born in Spain, living in Japan, who is also articulate in English was enough to sell me the book.

The Spiritual Disciplines can help us here. Get up, read (study), meditate, and then perform some work of service (small or large). Repeat.

Find your ickigai.

Reading Through Proverbs In January

January 5, 2023

I am in the first week of my annual discipline of reading a chapter from the book of Proverbs every day for the month of January. There are 31 chapters and 31 days. Seems to fit.

Why read this book? The beginning words give us a good reason.

“For learning about wisdom and instruction,

for understanding words of insight,

for gaining instruction in wise dealing,

righteousness, justice, and equity”

Proverbs chapter 1

Or, as Andy Stanley puts it, “Make better decisions; live with fewer regrets.”

Why re-read the book every year? And perhaps read randomly throughout the year? It’s hard to remember all of these thoughts. If we are to hold them in our hearts and minds, we need to refresh ourselves. Like drinking from a fountain of fresh water, one gulp does not last. It’s the continual sipping of water that refreshes.

The human soul needs the continual refreshing of good thoughts. Reflect upon the past year (week? day?) and see where you fell off the path and feel the consequences. Do yourself a favor and spend 15 minutes at the beginning of each day filling your mind with helpful thoughts.

Upon Further Investigation

January 2, 2023

You hear something about someone accompanied with a judgement. It’s not exactly gossip. It’s news with a view. The subtle, or not-so-subtle, intent of the speaker is to influence how you think about the target.

Then you engage in a conversation with them—the target. You listen to their story. They tell you how they felt. Their emotions. How they dealt with whatever the situation was.

Then you understand.

And the judgement had been rushed, but it will stick with the originator. Will they ever change their attitude? Some will; some won’t.

But as s second-hand hearer, I can disregard the judgement and understand.

Some psychologists trying to figure out the human personality will say it depends upon what number you are on the Enneagram or your something-something on the Myers-Briggs Types Indicator.

I think it’s growth. The development of wisdom that comes from reflecting on experience. Some of us grow. Some of us do not.

I’m reading through the 31 chapters of Proverbs, as I do most January’s, to establish a firm orientation for the new year. In the Wisdom of the Proverbs, we learn about the wise and the fool and the scoffer. Read, learn, practice.

For me, fifty-five years of contemplative practice helped with perspective.

May this new year afford you opportunities for growth. May you accept them and emerge the better for it.