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The Disciplined Life

by Rev. Sean

Last evening I sat down on a cushion, lit a candle, and did something. Contemplation seems too lofty a word, it could have been prayer, maybe meditation. Mostly I just watched the flame dance, felt my breath, and deepened into the silence. I actually threw my phone across the room (onto the bed), to get away from the notifications, disruptions and if I am totally honest the seduction of its distractions.

Spiritual Discipline, is just that, a discipline. I love discipline, mostly the type of discipline that other people exercise that make my life easier. Being on time. Taking time for self-care. I’m not always a fan of the disciplines that ask ME to be disciplined. To push against my natural inclinations — the stubborn, sometimes lazy, sometimes too skeptical to be curious ones– to do what I know will help me be better in the long run, even if that means sacrificing something pleasurable in the short term.

Discipline changes us. Like drops of water, small and seemingly insignificant, rolling through a plain. With enough time, carve the deepest of valleys. Transforming the base realities of our lives in unrecognizable ways.

It’s the discipline of showing up to worship even if you don’t feel like it. The discipline of showing up for that friend when the relationship has frayed. The discipline of calling someone in, rather than casting them out. The disciplines that take intense effort to start, and even more to maintain, but once we built the habit become second nature. The discipline of being a part of the Church of Humanity.

Discipline gets a bad rap. We think of harsh parenting styles, or the work of the state. We actually took the word all together out of our UU principles which used to read “a free and disciplined search for truth and meaning”. We swapped in responsible in the 80s. But discipline is doesn’t have to be authoritarian. For at its heart it is the cultivation of capacity, through practices within, among and beyond ourselves, that we engage in intentionally, regularity, and with depth. Capacities to live life more fully, more vividly, more relationally.

When I stood up I felt a shift. It was subtle and faded fast. This is no enlightenment story but you probably already knew that. But it was there. I felt a little more here, a little more grounded, a little more alive to myself and the world. As I write this article — I’m making a commitment to myself to sit down on the cushion tonight. Not because there is anything sacred about candles and silence — other the the holiness they evoke within me. But because I know I will be better because I did it. Even if I would much rather finish watching the new season of Grace and Frankie.