Poem – discipline

In order to gain something you need,
you have to give up something you want.

Reading, study, sleep,
TV and the internet
for instance.

Consider the
monkey with his hand in the jar.
He can hold onto what is in the jar,
or pull his hand out
and be free.
He can’t do both.
What are you holding onto?

Time, money, energy
– these are all things we spend.
Are they giving good value for you?

Our minds are like puppies.

Our minds are like puppies. If we don’t train them they will go everywhere. It is like the difference between the German words “fressen” and “essen”. One is like how an animal eats, the other is like how humans eat. Both are satisfying your needs, but one is civilized and under control.

What is helping me gain control of my mind is prayer. Just like how prayer helps me be mindful and focus before a meal, it is helping me before everything else.

God is the potter and I am the clay. Clay is only useful to the potter if it is flexible and pliable. Then it is fired – a hard process on the clay, to be sure. Then it becomes a vessel, able to hold what is necessary.

We all need water but it is the cup that holds it. The cup does not nourish or refresh but it carries what does. Likewise, we are merely vessels for the love of God. We are to carry it to others and share it.

Sure I slip in my routine. I forget how important discipline (being a disciple) is. Then I have to return to my routine, my order, to become civilized again. I repent (return). With some parts of my routine I slip daily, even hourly. I am not fully in alignment.

The mustard seed idea helps me. The fact that I desire to do it means that (a) God wants me to do it and (b) it is possible. So sometimes I jump a few steps ahead, saying if God wills it then I’m already there. Not that I believe it could possibly one day occur but that it is a reality that I just haven’t lived into yet.

You know how you plan to go on a trip, and you pack and prepare for it? You have a goal in mind and you work towards that goal. All your efforts are directed there – you buy your tickets, pack, and read up on the place you are going for ideas of things to do when you get there. You might save up money in the months before the trip. Everything you do is directed towards that goal. You aren’t there yet but you know you are going. Then one day you are there. It didn’t just happen. Any life goal is the same.

Making a fire

Have you ever made a fire? Starting any new good habit is a lot like starting a fire. I don’t mean starting a fire with a fire log and a lighter. I mean starting a fire from scratch.

You have to gather together all the wood, kindling, and your matches. If you are really roughing it, you’ll use a flint. You have to have all the ingredients ready and nearby. Then you have to spend a lot of time getting it started. You’ll have a lot of failures, and maybe a lot of blisters. With a lot of hard work, you’ll have a fire too.

Then you have to keep it going. You have to pay attention to it – feeding it just enough wood at the right time. You can’t put in too much – that will smother the flame. If you put in too little, it will go out.

Starting a new habit or project that is meaningful is exactly the same way. You have to prepare before you even start. You have to work on it every day to get it going. You’ll have a lot of failures along the way, and it may not seem like it will ever get going. If you try to do too much at once, you’ll stall your project just the same as if you put too much wood on the fire. If you get too excited about how you’ve started, you’ll forget that you need to keep feeding the fire to keep it going.

Staying sober with Rumi

In the book “Teachings of Rumi” by Andrew Harvey, there is this following story.

“A self-styled dragon hunter went into the mountains to trap a dragon. He searched all over the mountains and at last discovered the frozen body of an enormous dragon in a cave high up on one of the tallest peaks. The hunter brought the body to Baghdad. He claimed that he had slaughtered it single-handedly and exhibited it on the bank of the Euphrates. Thousands of people turned out to see the Dragon. The heat of the Baghdad sun started to warm up the dragon’s frozen body and it began to stir, slowly awakening from its winter hibernation. People screened and stampeded, and many were killed. The hunter stood frozen in terror and the dragon devoured him in a single gulp.

Your lower self is like that dragon, a savage tyrant. Never believe it’s dead: it’s only frozen. Always keep your dragon in the snow of self-discipline. Never carry it into the heat of the Baghdad sun. Let that dragon of yours stay always dormant. If it’s freed it’ll devour you in one gulp.”

Whatever you did to get sober is whatever you’re going have to keep doing to stay sober. The work isn’t over. Discipline is the only thing that keeps your sobriety going. There is no letting up. The same is true for staying fit. You can’t diet and lose weight and then start eating whatever you want again. It has to be a lifetime change.

Management style from Jesus

If you ever want to know how to deal with people at work, you can’t go wrong with seeing what Jesus has to say about it.

Matthew 18:15-17 (ASV)
15 And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established.
17 And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.

Let’s translate this for the workplace. If your employee is doing something wrong, talk to him privately. Tell him in person what the issue is so that he can fix it.

Don’t send him an email. Don’t chastise him in front of coworkers or customers. Don’t start off by calling a meeting with him, you, and upper management. Do it privately.

Don’t threaten to fire him or write him up or any other form of punishment at this time. This is a time to let him know that his actions are not in line with what is expected by company policy.

Then wait. See how he responds.

If he fails to comply and put his actions in line with company policy, then it is time to call for a meeting with him, you, and upper management.

If that still doesn’t work, get your Human Resources department in, or even hire a professional non-violent conflict resolution expert.

If that still doesn’t achieve the desired result, then take appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including firing him.

The worst thing you can do is have issue with an employee’s behavior or actions and start talking to upper management first, skipping the employee in the discussion, and documenting his actions. The employee does not know that he is doing anything wrong, so he does not have any awareness that he needs to correct it. Meanwhile, he is silently being punished and tracked for his every action. This is unfair, unkind, and unwise. It is, simply, a sign of bad management, but worse, it is the sign of a bad human being on the part of management.

This also works for interoffice conflicts. If you have issue with a coworker, tell them privately. Don’t get your boss involved. Talk to your coworker privately about how their actions affect the workflow. Tell them how you feel when they shirk their responsibility. If they don’t change their ways, then talk to the boss.

Discipline and order

I know someone who got very upset about the idea of having to do prayers. I’d told him about the Jewish idea of having to say 100 blessings a day. He didn’t think this was a good idea. He thought that it sounded oppressive.

But discipline and order are good things. If we impose order upon our lives we can get stronger in many ways. Otherwise we are formless.

If your leg is broken you put a cast on it to make it stronger. The cast gives it a shape to grow into so it doesn’t grow crooked.

If you have a bonsai tree you carefully shape it with wires to make it have a beautiful shape.

If you are pouring concrete you have to put a form down so that the concrete doesn’t go everywhere.

The same is true of tomatoes or of peonies. You have to give them something to grow up against so that they don’t grow wild.

When we impose a discipline to our lives we are making ourselves into disciples. We are making ourselves stronger by making ourselves fit into a particular form or mold, one that we know to be good for us. It isn’t something that we have to do but it is something that we should do.

It is just like with Peter when he was walking out on the water to Jesus, he said “Lord if you command me I will go”. Peter needed to be commanded by Jesus in order to walk on the water.

We too can work miracles if we allow ourselves to be commanded. We allow ourselves to be commanded by adopting order and discipline into our lives. We aren’t giving up control or free will at all. We are strengthening ourselves by allowing order into our lives.

Money, cash, and addiction

I’m really getting into this idea of saving money by using cash. It has only been two weeks into this experiment and the results are pretty amazing.

Before, I’d really get a rise out of spending money. Now I’m getting excited about not spending it.

When I first started I felt like I should carry my whole week’s allowance with me. I thought I might need money on hand, more than I normally did. You know, just in case I had to buy something. Like there would be a random need to buy, like an itch that needed to be scratched.

It is weird. I realize now that money was like a drug for me. I got a high out of using it. I started to get nervous if I didn’t have enough on me.

Now, I hadn’t gone totally cash free in all these years. I normally carried some cash on me even when I used credit cards all the time. It made me feel better to have it. Every now and then the credit card machine wasn’t working. Some places don’t take cards at all. Sometimes it was faster to pay in cash. Sometimes there would be a collection being taken up at work for a gift for a coworker who was leaving or having a baby or both. It is better to tip in cash.

I was always grateful to have it when I needed it. I just didn’t get that I’d be better off using it.

Now I carry a credit card as the backup instead of the default. I’m not quite comfortable going without it yet. Last week I needed it because I went to the dentist for a filling. I’d forgotten that dental insurance isn’t like medical insurance. The bill I got upon leaving was a lot bigger than my usual twenty dollar co-pay. Even with that, I still spent less than I had been spending when I used the credit card all the time.

I don’t know how I’ve been doing it. For the past few years I was spending $300 to $500 a week on my credit card. I paid it off every week. This is a lot of money, especially for a government employee. We get paid in benefits, not in actual money. I didn’t get toys. I bought things that were needed, or so I thought.

The first week I pulled out $300 in cash. I overspent by $40 because of the dentist. So still, pretty good. Far better than $500. This week I pulled out $200 and I’ve only spent half of that. This includes buying groceries. A lot of my money was going to eating out. Now that I’m cooking fresh food I’m not only eating better I’m saving money.

I’d not planned on this additional part to my New Year’s resolution, but I’ll take it.

A change of perspective.

A change of perspective will do you good. Try out different things. Eat at different restaurants. Sit in a different chair. Read a different kind of book.

It is important to have different perspectives. However you see reality isn’t THE reality. It is just your take on it. You will see things from the limitations of your sense organs. Your eyes are different from mine – you might see blues a little better. I might be shorter than you and catch a different angle. Together, if we explain how we see what we are looking at, we will both gain a better understanding of what we see.

Just because someone else sees something differently doesn’t mean that they are wrong and you are right. You are both right, for yourselves. You both have made your decision based on the information that you have. You can both make a more informed decision if you widen your information by sharing.

Don’t be like a small child. The terrible twos are partly called that because children will call out “NO” vehemently when told to do something. They are asserting their independence. They are saying that they are not puppets or pets. They can’t be told what to do. They have their own agendas, and they want to make sure that they are listened to. This is an important phase of growth, but it is important to grow out of too. Don’t say “no” to someone else’s take on something just because it isn’t the way you see it. They might have a piece of the puzzle you are missing.

We are all in this together. Life isn’t about being right and wrong. It is about sharing and listening to each other. It is about dialogue instead of debate. It is about love instead of judgment.

We are all flowers in a garden. Each of us is different on purpose. If we all were the same kind of flower the garden would be very boring. Variety is indeed the spice of life.

We are all instruments in an orchestra. If we were all the same instrument, the song would sound very dull. Be the piccolo or the trombone or the bassoon or the bass drum. Be who you were made to be, and be it to the best of your ability. And in the meantime, learn to appreciate the other instruments for their contribution to the song.

Being jealous of someone else’s success is a waste of your time. The fact that they are successful does not mean that you can’t be successful too. They are successful at being themselves. You are different. Be yourself. Being jealous of someone else is childlike. They haven’t taken away your toy.

I know people who are jealous of people for losing weight. The fact that another person has made the time to exercise and worked up the discipline to eat well does not take away from your ability to do the same. The more time you spend getting mad at another person’s success, the less time you are spending on creating your own. Perhaps you can learn something from the other person’s story that might encourage you. Perhaps you might learn a new way of thinking that will make it easier for you to get healthy.

This all applies to religion as well.

I saw a t-shirt at a New Age shop in Boone, NC with this quote. “There are many paths up the mountain, but at the top, the same bright moon.” I can’t remember the author, and my web search just results in “Asian saying”. I don’t think it matters who said it so much as that it was said. I know plenty of fundamental Christians will freak out over this saying, using the “Jesus is the way…” quote, but they forget that Jesus was all about love, and certainly not about telling everybody off. They also forget that the apostle Paul tells us that in Christ there is no East or West, or male or female or Jew or Gentile, and that Paul himself adapted to the language and customs of whoever he was with.

I like this quote because it seems so simple and so honest. Our goal is God. Keep moving upwards. The closer you get to the top, the more people you are going to see from different faith traditions because the mountain is getting smaller as it goes up. Why do you care how they got there? Are you jealous? Is it “your” God? Or are you concerned for them? Are you afraid that their way might get them lost? Are you so sure of your way? If your way leads you to judge them, then you have a pretty good clue that you are close to falling off the mountain.

There are no shortcuts to success or happiness or enlightenment. They all require an odd balance of hard work and of letting go. I wish you peace on your journey.