Tag Archives: discipline

Spiritual practices

My heart was a theme during my retreat last month. I sometimes worry that my heart has become too guarded or even closed.

The last seven years have been a time of great loss for me, so I understand my inclination to protect my heart from being broken again. I also know that a broken heart can be the most loving heart if I allow the fissures to heal rather than become deep crevices, if I allow the breaks to be entrances rather than chasms that are impossible to cross.

At the end of the movie Frozen, Elsa declares, “Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.”

I cried as I watched this children’s movie—and not just a few tears trickling from my eyes, but wrenching sobs escaping from my heart. Did Elsa’s insight touch me because my heart is frozen? And what act of true love could thaw my frozen heart?spiritual-practices-love-prayer

Many people have touched my heart with friendship and great acts of generosity and kindness throughout my life. I have been abundantly blessed.

So in an attempt to unthaw my heart and as an act of love, I decided to write a letter every day during February and connect with people who have been loving toward me. Twenty-eight days of love—that is how I have been thinking of February.spiritual-practices-love-prayer

Every morning in prayer, I pay attention to who comes to mind, whose name is planted on my heart that day, and then I write a note.

Two things I learned from this practice:

The first is that praying about the people I love sparks memories and gratitude. Images float into my consciousness, recollections of friends rush in and warm my heart. I am reminded of how blessed I am to be so loved.

The second is a reminder of the benefits of discipline.

Discipline disposes us toward whatever we are practicing. Prayer, meditation, acts of kindness, service, etc., dispose us toward positivity. Starting my day with thoughts of love predisposes me to look for love during the day—and helps me to more quickly identify words and acts that are not loving. Awareness helps me make better choices throughout the day.

Facebook reminded me this week that I started this blog four years ago. Writing daily and posting weekly has been a good discipline for me.

Discerning what to share in my blog helps me see more clearly where God is calling me to grow, especially when I write about a frustration or some old hurt and its residual anger. The discipline of writing also helps me to be more aware of everyday blessings and the many, ordinary ways God touches my life.

What we focus on becomes a bigger part of us.

I want to focus on trust instead of fear and on love instead of hate. I want my words and actions to remind me daily that Jesus’ heart is all love and that I am invited to live that love.spiritual-practices-love-prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Discipline

Throughout November, as I was working on my novel, people commented on the discipline required to write 50,000 words in one month. I agree. It does take discipline to write an average of 1,667 words every day for thirty days.

Fortunately, discipline appeals to me. Personality-wise, I am someone who is comfortable with things being open-ended, in process, which can be somewhat undisciplined. So, I love things that add structure to my life, that give me a framework for actually finishing something.

When my adult faith journey was just beginning, books on discipline attracted me more than any other spiritual books. Fortunately, lots of spiritual writers—both ancient and modern—are pro-discipline, so it was easy to find writings to satisfy my craving and to affirm that discipline matters.

For as long as I can remember, at least some parts of my life have been quite disciplined. Keeping a journal is a discipline I developed early on and have maintained throughout my life. Attending Mass regularly, even daily for most of my adult life, and going on annual retreats are other disciplines. Eating well and exercising are two more.

Almost twenty years ago, three friends and I started a faith-sharing group, and we each committed to praying an hour a day. Although the group no longer exists, I still set aside that hour every morning and show up for prayer.

I used to run for exercise and then switched to walking. When we got Detroit, I started walking her every morning and every evening. Even though we now have a yard for her to play in and get enough exercise, we still take our walks. Through rain, snow, sleet, heat or cold, we walk. In Philadelphia, we walked through hurricanes. Only thunderstorms keep us inside (although the recent very cold temperatures in Michigan have shortened our walks, and I am getting more exercise by shoveling snow).

Some people, commenting on my disciplines, have said they think discipline would be too restrictive for them, but I find the structures created by my disciplines somehow enable me to be freer. It is one of those paradoxes of life.

Disciplines do require sacrifice. Writing my novel in November meant limiting social activities. Making time for prayer and exercise every morning means I don’t get to sleep in. I have to use vacation time to go on retreat. A healthy diet means limited junk food, etc.

But I don’t mind these sacrifices because I think that practicing discipline has given me the gift of fortitude, and fortitude enabled me to make the commitment to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days and to complete the task.