Tag Archives: spirituality

Discipline

As a part of the MDiv (Master of Divinity – said like this) program, I am required to take a course called “Theology and Practice of Christian Spirituality and Formation”.  It is a class studying the reason for and use of the spiritual disciplines (such as fasting, solitude, silence, the prayer of examen, etc.)

Our first assignment is to practice “spiritual journaling” for 30 days.  I’m in the middle of this assignment right now and it seems to be going okay.  Not much explanation was given as to what a spiritual journal might look like–are entries supposed to be addressed to God?  Do I cover a certain topic every day? What is legitimate content for a spiritual journal? (I wish I had read this book, instead of buying it and putting it on the shelf)–so I assume it’s quite open-ended.  It is a discipline not only as a means of self-reflection and God-reflection, but even in terms of staying focused.  It’s difficult to not veer off into events and frustrations of the day without any further thought or simply making it a book of theological musings.  I don’t know, maybe those are all legitimate forms of spiritual journaling.

After the 30 days of journaling period is over, we have to practice another discipline of our choosing for the next 30 days.  The professor suggested that it would be profitable if it was something I don’t normally do.  I jotted down some options during class today.  This is what the list looked like:

internet

lunch

internet

I had unwittingly written “internet” twice.  Part of me wants to take that as a message from my subconscious that I should give up the internet for 30 days–an internet fast.  That would certainly free up a lot of time.  But what would it look like?  I’d like to think that it would require a complete disconnection–no blogging, no reading of blogs, no twittering or Facebooking–but in the age of email communication cutting oneself off wholesale from the internet would kind of be like fasting from the telephone.  But if I do allow for email, but nothing else, I would be placing myself in a place of “temptation” every time I checked email.

The list I wrote down was essentially a fast list, and by “lunch” I meant doing a 30-day lunch fast.  I have never fasted before, so I have no idea what that would look like.  I presume that instead of eating lunch I should pray or contemplate or practice some other discipline.  I’m inclined to dismiss this option because the studying mind needs sustenance, but perhaps that’s the point: give up control for one meal.   And maybe eat more at breakfast to hold me over.

Another practice which came to mind this morning was lectio divina, which, as I understand it, it a slow, deliberate reading of a verse or passage of scripture, maybe even several times over, and then contemplating it.  I’ll have to do more reading about that.

The discipline I was considering most seriously prior to writing my in-class list was silence.  I thought this might be a challenging and helpful discipline, given my lack of focus and constant drive to distraction.  It would be a way for me to stop and listen and simply be and let God.  The biggest struggle would be not to constantly think about the time or how I am going to report on my practice of this discipline.  Well, my wandering mind would just generally be a problem.

Perhaps I could combine several disciplines: some lectio divina in the middle of a time of silence instead of lunch.  That might work.

My heart is in the country.

What a day.  I had been looking forward to this weekend, especially in the last couple of days of work, when it was decided that we would have Monday off as well, making this a four-day weekend (Tuesday is Remembrance Day in Canada).  I had been invited to sit around with a bunch of other men today–to eat crap and drink stuff good for my heart while watching the football game.  This is not something I do very often at all. Plus: four-day weekend.  We had minimal plans, no major projects: do some school work, clean the garage so the Honda can be parked in there as well.  Maybe go for a walk with the kids.

It was not to be. This morning Dixie woke up dizzy and nauseous.  I’m convinced Dixie has a mild case of that mental illness where you always think you have something wrong with you.  The name escapes me, but I think Dixie has it. Dixie started a new kind of birth control pill this week and we read its side-effects this morning.  It said, among other things, that sudden dizziness and nausea was reason to call our doctor immediately—that it could be a sign of stroke.  After reading that we stopped thinking of any other possibility for Dixie’s illness.

Long story short: Dixie has an inner ear infection.  And she has been bed-ridden for the rest of the day.

This has put a damper on the extra long weekend.

You’re probably thinking, You selfish bastard!  Think of your poor wife! Well, I don’t blame her.  It’s just frustrating that someone in this house manages to get sick on every long weekend.  Or so it seems.  So I was a Grumpy Gus all day.

It didn’t help that it’s Saturday (when I tend towards gloominess anyway) and I didn’t get a chance to shower in the morning.  I hate being Grumpy Gus, but I don’t know how to get out of that funk. Except this: late this  afternoon I was sent on an errand with the children to deliver some foodstuffs to one of Dixie’s readers who has just had a baby.  They live about 12km east of the city in a beautiful house with a veranda overlooking the North Saskatchewan River valley.  The drive out there began to soothe my mind and heart, peaking when we got to their house and I breathed deeply the cool air.  Their house is out in the open, in a field, unencumbered by hills and trees.  How refreshing!  I thought that had done the trick, but, as is often the case, my mood soured upon reentering the city.

I believe I belong in open country, not tucked away deep in a city residential area.  Open country is good for the soul. I’ve wondered if people who live in the country (including small towns) are on average more religious or spiritual than people who live in cities and for some reason I think that’s actually statistically true.  If it is, I wonder if it’s because in the city people are not able to breathe or see very well.  Closed in as cities are with multi-story buildings (if not actual skyscapers) I can’t help but wonder if mental claustrophobia sets in and we switch into survival mode, turn our heads down and let the details of life, sometimes overflowing with the divine, go unnoticed?

I noticed the moon on the drive home from the house in the country.  Whenever I see the moon I am always filled with wonder; something deep inside of me stirs.  I’m not sure what it is—hope, longing, love, a sense of something “other” and bigger than I am—but it doesn’t matter how often I see the moon or how long I stare at it, that feeling never wanes; in fact, it grows.  I assume other people share this indescribable sense upon seeing the night sky.  It is no wonder, then, that in ages past (and probably still in some places) people would worship the moon or the stars (or the gods and goddesses of them)—there is certainly something divine in them.

In major urban areas some people literally never see the night sky—neither the moon nor the stars—because of light pollution (it’s difficult to see the stars under street lamps), towering buildings, the tendency to walk head-down.  I wonder, too, if this has any relation to the (not yet proven, but assumed) difference in urban and rural religiosity/spirituality?

When I go to the country, when I look up at the night sky, something happens in me—almost as if I am healed of a sickness I did not know I had. And if I was never to go into the country and breathe deeply or catch a glimpse of the moon, I would get never get healed of that thing.  I would never be overwhelmed by that something deep inside of me—that sense of something other.

I’m not sure if that’ll even make sense to you.  I need to go back outside and catch a glimpse of the moon, because I just hit the wrong combination of buttons and all the formatting in this post was lost.

Serenity now!