Discipline is an ugly word in my vocabulary. You know you have those words that send tremors down your spine or shivers in your soul. That’s one of those words for me.
My mom was a strict parent. A very loving parent, but a strict parent. “Settle down and fly right!” was one of her favorite phrases. I don’t settle well and I still manage to fly pretty straight and narrow, so it never seemed fair. My dad’s favorite line was “Children are meant to be seen and not heard.” Sit still and be quiet was a never-ending commandment. I learned to do it, but not to love it.
My inner rebellious spirit broke free in adulthood and there were many years when I never sat still for more than the time it took to drop dead in my bed and catch a few short hours of rest before another crazy day began.
I remember being encouraged in my late 20s to take a yoga class. “It’s so relaxing,” my friends at work assured me. I was dubious. I had taken up a rigorous weights schedule with some colleagues and pumping iron or a noon soccer game with my work friends was my idea of good exercise. I was sure yoga would be too slow.
I loved it. Not just my body, but my mind responded so well to the time taken in every moment to just be in my own skin. I quickly recommended it to a friend, who took life much more slowly than I. Surely it would mesh so well with her personality. Her response after her first try: “Wow, that’s so boring. You hardly DO anything.”
Maybe she didn’t give it a chance. But more likely, she just didn’t need it like I did. I needed the opportunity for exactly what she found boring – to do nothing. That it was hard for me was what made it exciting. That it actually opened me to something deeper was what kept me going after it stopped being quite so exciting.
Since then I have learned that there are also Christian traditions of slowing down, finding your center in Jesus, and taking time to just be in your own skin. I spent much of my time at seminary in classes on spiritual disciplines. I’m learning not to take “discipline” as a dirty word. And I’ve learned a lot about how to sit still and be quiet – and actually like it.
Are there “dirty words” in your spiritual life? Have you ever tried something you thought you wouldn’t like and found it was deeply meaningful? Is your life busy because it has to be or because there’s something driving you to never sit still?
I can’t wait to hear more of your stories and share mine too! I’ll be writing more about specific disciplines that I practice. Let me know if you want more information about disciplines generally or a specific practice that interests you.