Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Wisdom Establishes Tone For the New Year

December 30, 2022

Annual reminder to self (and anyone who listens):

Begin the New Year on the right foot. Not with “resolutions” that will never be kept. Not even for a week. Immerse yourself in Wisdom for 31 days for orientation. There are 31 days in January. The book of Proverbs from the Old Testament has 31 chapters. One chapter a day for a month.

Beginning in Proverbs 8 we begin to see a portrait of Lady Wisdom as God’s agent on our behalf. She takes her stand at the crossroads, near the city gates, crying out (8:1–3). The point is that wisdom is widely available knowledge. God cares for us and wants to keep us out of trouble. So virtue is not a matter of arcane knowledge or obscure teaching. It is accessible to everyone.

From the Life With God Bible, Richard J. Foster, Dallas Willard, et. al.

A few additional thoughts to set the tone for the year—and perhaps a reminder every day:

7 Things Mindful People Do

  • Practice being curious
  • Forgive themselves
  • Hold their emotions lightly
  • Practice compassion
  • Make peace with imperfection
  • Embrace vulnerability
  • Understand all things come and go

Be Like Jesus

December 23, 2022

As Advent comes to an end and we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I’ve been contemplating the stories and legends surrounding Bethlehem and the shepherds and magi and escape to Egypt and all that. And we can speculate (fruitlessly) on what virgin birth means.

Then I asked Why?

Despite Luke going around the area interviewing people and compiling, we are left with sketchy information about what those first 30 years were like.

The birth was important. His ministry was more important–those stories fill the gospels and other writings. His death and resurrection was most important–without the resurrection the world would not have been changed and we wouldn’t be writing much about it.

Because of the resurrection, Jesus became more than a prophet or teacher. It makes his teachings all the more important to infuse into our lives. So, I remembered this list I’ve written about before.

This year I want to be more like Jesus:

  • Hang out with sinners
  • Upset religious people
  • Tell stories that make people think
  • Choose unpopular friends
  • Be kind, loving, and merciful
  • Take naps on boats

Merry Christmas, everyone.

What If You Cannot Start Your Day Perfectly

December 20, 2022

My bed has sensors and a microcontroller and networking. When I get up for the day, I can open the app and learn about my night. How much restful sleep, how much restless. How long it took me to fall asleep. Whether I met my proper circadian rhythm, spent enough time in bed, got enough restful sleep. The little computer runs through a calculation and gives me a “Sleep IQ” number.

My daughter is a therapist who numbers among her clients many people–especially teenagers–with anxiety problems often driven by the need to succeed. This number would push them even further along their spectrum. OMG, I didn’t get a 90. I’m a failure at sleep, too!

Yesterday I wrote about a way to orient yourself to a new day. It is good to have a discipline to help orient yourself to the new day.

But life happens. Sometimes you cannot hit the mark. Maybe you slept late because people came over to visit. Or there was a party. Or that chili you had for dinner talked to you all night.

Or, you have an early appointment. Or, you just feel like crap.

It’s like my Sleep IQ number. Yesterday I was 87; today I’m 60. But I still feel OK. If I look at the numbers one day at a time, I can feel good or let that low number ruin my day.

Or, I can look at a long term, say over a month or two, and realize that if I plotted those points on a graph they are actually pretty consistent.

I can get all worked up over missing a part of my morning routine and let it ruin my day.

Or, I can shrug and say “life happens” and make the best of the rest of the day. We learn to just go with the flow.

The goal is consistency over time. It is not being perfect every day. They tell me that Jesus was perfect every day (but he also lost his temper a few times). No one else has ever been recorded as being perfect every day. It certainly isn’t going to be me that breaks that string.

What has helped me learn this? One is consistent, but far from perfect, meditation practice. Another is Yoga. Another is this rural country boy learning to drive in Chicago rush hour traffic that screams along at about 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour). You learn to slow your body rhythm and go with the flow. Your are better off at the end.

Prepare for the Day

December 19, 2022

Begin your day by finding proper orientation. I find these steps to prepare for a good day an essential daily discipline.

Get full, restful sleep

Awaken without a loud alarm, best is to train yourself to awaken naturally

Rise gently, make bed

(I make a cup of coffee, some say to postpone coffee for an hour)

Find your chair, pillow, sit and meditate / pray

Read something short and positive

Eat breakfast

And, if things happen that you have a bad day–you can return to where you started and at least have a well made bed to return to or your chair to remind you of the morning meditation to help refocus.

How Tied Are You To Your Digital Device?

December 5, 2022

I have an iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air. I could not have accomplished all the soccer referee administrative work I’ve done without these digital devices and the internet. I began with the digital world in manufacturing in 1976. It became a career. I’ve earned a lot of money due to digital.

Yet…

An early adopter of Twitter, I’ve all but quit using it–long before the current controversies. Facebook was a way to connect to cousins and other family I never got to see. But the message streams became so toxic that I only check it to wish people I know a happy birthday.

The “real” world is analog. This usually relates to getting signals (electrical) from the real world. There is no intermediary transformation of analog to digital.

David Sax reflected upon his experiences during the lockdown phases of the pandemic. If you recall, digital became a lifeline. Zoom for meetings or school. FaceTime for communication. Email, Facebook, Twitter, messaging. It all became digital. And digital became toxic.

Sax published his reflections in The Future Is Analog: How to Create a More Human World. Were I an editor or book reviewer, I’d pick at his style or writing. But as someone interested in spiritual formation, I recommend the book. It should open your eyes to the digital desert we’ve wandered into. It shows a way out.

Analog.

Remember baking sourdough bread? Walks in the park? Playing games? Talking with people outside socially spaced to limit the spread of germs?

I still use digital as a tool without which I could not do many of the things I want to do.

And unfortunately, I’ve moved and no longer have communities of Yoga, soccer, and church. But I get outside. See a few people at the fitness center. Meditate. Read real books. Get away from digital.

Story of a Life

November 25, 2022

I’ve seen this poem before, but hat tip to Tim Ferriss for including it in today’s Five Bullet Friday newsletter. Sometimes I’m an even slower learner!

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…It’s a habit…but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is 
my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

— Portia NelsonThere’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

Being Shouted At

November 23, 2022

During those rough early-teen years, my daughter would tell me that I shouted at her. I told her, “Girl, you don’t know what being shouted at is!”

It is true that we do not like being shouted at. I suppose that if we are US Marine Corp recruits and the drill sergeant is in our face, there might be a reason for being shouted at. (I only know from TV and not from personal experience.) I have experience with manufacturing plant managers screaming at me to fix a machine or get production moving. Not pleasant, although sometimes quite motivating.

Have you noticed that you listen more carefully when the speaker speaks quietly? The softly spoken word backed by full diaphragm support effectively communicates its message.

Let us take a look at a typical politician or Christian. How often are they shouting to get your attention? Even in emails the tone is shouting.

I notice people who are nervous or uncertain of their own value often raise their voices. Nassim Taleb notices that people tend to raise their volumes when they are lying.

A good spiritual practice–try speaking softly with full diaphragm support and distinct words. Try it again. Until you perfect it.

Smooth Is Fast

November 17, 2022

I knew a man who never hurried, never raised his voice. He accomplished much.

I knew a man who managed by edict. He was a flurry of energy and orders and forcing others. He accomplished little.

The caption in an old cartoon called Pogo once had one character talking to another, “The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.”

Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.

Easy and Hard

November 11, 2022

Easy is hard; hard is easy.

A movie actor weighed more than 550 lbs. (250 kg). He lost about 300 lbs. Much of that new 250 lb. person was packed with lean muscle.

He related that maintaining the lifestyle that resulted in a 550 lb. person was easy. But living at that size was hard.

Working in the gym was hard. But living in the new body was easy.

Living a life oblivious to the spirit is easy. One can just slide along. But life that way can be hard facing up to relationships and decisions.

Spiritual disciplines (similar to going to the gym) can be hard. But life in the spirit with peace, hope, joy, and the rest is easy.

Can You Do This For The Rest of Your Life?

November 10, 2022

You want to lose weight. You choose a diet. Any one will work.

You want to improve health. You choose a healthy diet and a workout routine. Almost any one will work.

You wish to pursue a spiritual life. You choose to meditate.

Can you do this almost every day for the rest of your life?

Just a few days or weeks will not accomplish the goal. It must become the new you. Every day. For the rest of your life.