I was talking to Benno a while ago. Here’s some of what we said:
Benno: Can we talk about being disciplined?
“We are taught that being disciplined is about doing the things we don’t want to do, and that it’s unpleasant.”
“I am struggling with what I want vs. what I am willing to do about it…and I realized this morning that being disciplined (for me) has more to do with being thoughtful, and less about denying myself something.”
“A Lenten discipline is about being thoughtful. Not about self-denial. We make choices…we agree to those choices. That is discipline.”
“Throughout the year, we take some things on, and give things up. We make choices, mindfully.”
“I am struggling with the ‘agree to those choices’ part.”
“I am in control. I have made my choice–I can be angry at [the situation], or I can just be myself with an open heart. I have agreed to the choice.
I can also say “No” throughout my day/week/month/year. Or to respond to requests with a suggestion for something I feel would serve the project—or whatever—better.”
“I just have to hold myself to my agreements, like walking more, better, or accept that they aren’t working and make a new agreement with [myself]; if walking’s not what [I] need, what could I do instead?”
This week we read Parshat Re’eh (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 11:26 – 16:17).
.רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם–הַיּוֹם: בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה
Re’eh anochi notein lifneichem hayom brachah u’klalah.
“See, I give you today a blessing and a curse.”
We have choices. The parsha (Torah portion) continues (and I’m just going to translate and sort of paraphrase it):
A blessing if you will listen [for] the connection to God, which I explain to you today. A curse if you do not listen [for] the connection to God and turn away from the Path which I explain to you today…
We can choose what we want to do. We can listen for those connections, or we can ignore them.
But we need to accept our choices and live with the consequences.
The parsha goes on to give 55 mitzvot, which is kind of a lot. Actually, it’s definitely a lot if you think about them as commandments. When I was taking liberties in my translation, I used the word “connections” for mitzvot. You can see where I learned that here.
55 seems like a lot.
Discipline isn’t about being forced to do things we don’t want to do, or not to do things we really want to do. It’s about mindfully making choices and accepting what will come from them. Blessings…or curses.
It’s really 55 opportunities for mindful connection. To yourself, to the community, to God. That’s the practice. That’s why I love being Jewish.
I’m incredibly lucky to have my Episcopalian friend to teach me Torah.
Oh, the title for this post is a pun on “Beino u’veini” which means “between him and me.” I didn’t make the pun and I can’t take credit for it.