Archive for the ‘Habits’ Category

Gluttony Is A Spiritual Problem

July 10, 2018

Gluttony is hypocrisy of the stomach, says John Climacus. And he adds this advice applicable as much today as 1,500 years ago–Control your appetites before they control you.

This is a spiritual problem as much as physical. We can practice diets, complain about heredity, have a hormone imbalance, but the problem is a spiritual imbalance. A long time ago, not having today’s words but with the same insights, they called these emotions demons. Demons were spiritual beings.

The problem with gluttony is that it is never satisfied. John talks of eating the entirety of Egypt and drinking the Nile dry and still not be satisfied.

To overcome gluttony one employs the spiritual discipline of fasting. In this we place the primacy of God’s spirit over the demon of the belly.

Speaking as the demon of gluttony, John with great insight discusses its “children”. Today’s psychologists might say something similar using different words.

“My firstborn son is the servant of Fornication, the second is Hardness of Heart, and the third is Sleepiness. From me flow a stream of Dirty Thoughts, waves of Filth, floods of unknown and unspeakable Impurities. My daughters are Laziness, Talkativeness, Breezy Familiarity, Jesting, Facetiousness, Contradiction, Stubbornness, Contempt, Disobedience, Stolidity of Mind, Captivity, Boastfulness, Audacity, Love of Worldly Things, followed by Impure Prayer, Distracted Thoughts, and sudden and often unexpected Catastrophes, with which is linked that most evil of all my daughters, Namely Despair.”

How much of that describes the times in which we live? Look in a mirror, and see the reflection as if for the first time.

A research paper just came my way ascribing the problems of our times to technology. As in much research about human behavior, there is some truth. I think these ancient sources point to much deeper, spiritual roots.

How Is Your Spiritual Stamina

June 25, 2018

The score is tied. The game is in “stoppage time”, that time allotted by the referee to make up for time lost during the half to assure the players get their full 45 minutes of playing time. This is the end of the match. The players and referee have been running intensely for 90 plus minutes.

We are taught as referees many games are decided in the final two minutes. When the players are tired, one side or one player, may kick in a little extra for the win. If the referee is not fit he won’t be in the proper position to see the play and physical exhaustion leads to mental exhaustion and mistakes are made.

Germany attacks. Sweden makes a fatal error and commits a foul about 20 yards from goal. The German kicker bends the ball precisely around the defense, past the diving goal keeper, and the winning goal is scored.

Spiritual life likewise requires training for the long haul so that we do not falter at the end. A society long ago developed Yoga as a way of training the body so that it could withstand the rigors of prayer and meditation.

We need to be careful what we eat and drink to not overindulge lest it turn our brains into befuddled mush. Eat primarily vegetables with some meat and fruit. Drink wine in moderation.

Get some physical exercise every day. Perhaps just walking briskly. Or running. And add strength training and Yoga.

Don’t make fatal mistakes because of lax training. Keep body, mind, and spirit alert and strong.

Sleep and Waking

May 29, 2018

Those who find themselves living the modern life, something that is pretty much global now, most likely are not getting enough sleep.

Sleep is a time when the body and brain repairs and rejuvenates. Depriving yourself of sufficient sleep deprives your body and mind of the nourishment it needs to function well and with health.

When I turn to the ancient spiritual mentors the problem they ascribe to sleep is not getting enough–it is oversleeping. And then upon waking not being in a proper frame of mind and spirit for the day’s first tasks.

John Climacus says that sleep is a natural state, but that sleeping too late or during prayers (he was writing to a monastic audience–readers seeking spiritual enlightenment) is a habit. A bad habit. One to be overcome.

Ancient peoples ascribed things we call emotions or urges to demons–spiritual beings whose task it is to drive us away from the spiritual path.

John talks of the demon that tempts us to stay in bed when the alarm has sounded to get us up. Other demons (in his language) prevent us from focusing on our morning prayers and meditation.

You would find it difficult to find someone who leads a successful life who goes to bed early and rises late. You may be a “morning” person or a “night owl”, but in reality rising early is merely a habit that can be cultivated. What did Benjamin Franklin tell us, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Your work rhythm may be best earlier or later, but the daily habit of rising early to read, pray, and meditate lays the foundation for success.

Strive to be a Person of Value

July 19, 2017

Strive not to be a successful person; Rather strive to be a person of value.

Do you realize we are now 19 days into the second half of the year?

Six months ago we were awash in Resolutions.

Where did those all go?

Unless you listened to me. For years I have advocated changing our focus from the famous specific goals to what sort of person I wish to become.

Rather than saying “I will lose 15 pounds this year”–which sounds specific but it isn’t, really–let’s just picture in our mind a person who is fit and toned. And then we change one habit that will move us toward our picture.

Or perhaps “I will become a person who is calm and at peace” and we develop habits–one at a time–that will move us in that direction. Perhaps meditating 5-10 minutes every morning. Or searching out a mentor.

Or perhaps “I will be a person of value”.

This is actually a by-product. We know that companies that value customers and employees become a company of value.

The same for us. The more we value others and serve others, the more we are valuable. 

So how has our 2017 worked out so far? Stuff happens, right? But we have the last half of the year to change a habit or two and move toward the sort of person Jesus would love to call a disciple.

[This meditation was interrupted at 6:04 am by the ringing of my mobile phone. I don’t know who gave that guy in India the table of time zone differences, but it was off by a few hours. He wanted to confirm who I was so that I could receive a “free” magazine. That isn’t moving that company toward a company of value in my eyes!)