As you may have noticed, I haven’t written in a while. This post has something to do with that.
There are many disciplines that I attempt to commit myself to. Prayer is one. I try to organize my life around fixed hour prayer and am doing alright with it. Not flawless, but alright. There are other activities that I desire to become disciplines. Here are a few:
Exercise (mainly running, with the hope of training for a half marathon than a full)
Working on my business – i. e. selling music.
I have read some good material over the past few years that have helped me understand the importance of discipline. In the writing field (these books apply to songwriters as well), Steven Pressfield reminded me that I have to, at all costs, fight resistance (to writing). So did Anne Lamott, but she was way funnier. I have read many books on discipline from a “spiritual” perspective, but N. T. Wright’s “After You Believe” was one that was very challenging to me. But, here’s the my struggles…
I have found that when I am running long distances (which take up a good amount of time), and when I am reading a ton, my song writing falls apart. Or, I am plowing away at writing, but I write at night and am too tired to pray in the morning. In other words, when I become disciplined in one area, another seems to suffer.
One of the things that I’ve noticed in many books on discipline is that they are narrow in their focus. The writers basically say, whatever you do – write! This is good and agreeable, however, the writers on spiritual disciplines say, whatever you do pray! And this is where the conflict comes in, especially at certain stages of your life. Now, Pressfield would certainly say – don’t blame you stage of life, or your kids, or whatever else! But, Pressfield is talking about writing. I want to write, but I also want to run. And while running might be a resistance to writing, so might writing be a resistance to running. And this is the conclusion that I have come to: I am not seeking to become a disciplined writer, or runner, or whatever else I’m trying to do. I am seeking to become a disciplined person. This article has been the glue that has held the other books that I’ve mentioned together.
The author of the article, Cary Wallace, piloted a program called “Working Artists Initiative” which sought to help artists, who worked full-time jobs, to carve out a minimum of five to ten hours of creative work in their week. Wallace writes,
“I was shocked to discover how much it actually demanded. The problem is this: creation requires firing on all cylinders. If people carved out time on Saturday morning, but were out till three on Friday night, the time was compromised. If they hadn’t been eating well, the time was compromised. If they were distracted by other pressing worries, the time was compromised. Part of an artist’s task is to shut out these distractions and listen only for the voice of their work, and no artist can survive without that species of discipline”.
But what Carey goes on to note is the key,
“There is no such thing, we discovered, as disciplining one corner of a life. There are only disciplined or undisciplined lives”.
And this is what I’m after – a disciplined life.
St. Benedict developed what has become known as “a rule of life”. Ruth Haley Barton in her book “Sacred Rhythms” says,
“St. Benedict’s Rule, like any rule of life, is simply a pattern of attitudes, behaviors and practices that are regular and routine and are intended to produce a certain quality of life and character”.
This is what I’m after – a disciplined life. A “rule of life”.
I am in the process of figuring out what it is that I am “called” to do at this stage in my life, and in the process, I’m attempting to set up a rule of life that will allow me to stop being disciplined in “one corner of life”.
One of the things that Barton encourages is to be realistic about your stage or life. If you attempt to live like a monk but have a full-time job and nine kids, you will only discourage yourself. This quote from Kathleen Norris (which I found in Peterson’s “Eat This Book”) has often encouraged me,
“I have come to believe that the true mystics of the quotidian are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in sere silence, but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self. They may be young parents juggling child-rearing and making a living…[I]f they are wise, they treasure the rare moments of solitude and silence that come their way, and use them not to escape, to distract themselves with television and the like. Instead, they listen for a sign of Godʼs presence and they open their hearts toward prayer”.
-Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian mysteries”
So, that’s where I’m at. I’m in the process of forming a rule of life.
What about you? Do you find that you are disciplined in a corner of your life or overall? What has helped (practices, books, etc.)? What has not?