when agitated or doubtful….
Discipline is something, or my perceived understanding of this word was formerly something I avoided with great effort. Especially as it related to my spiritual life. I believed discipline was about control, rigidity that could only lead to guilt or an over the top perception of one’s self. Why then does Alcoholics Anonymous tell us that alcoholics are undisciplined, and that the first 11 steps is to create and support an effort to develop and grow into a disciplined spiritual life? And what does discipline have to do with the topic of this month, ‘Pause, when agitated or doubtful” from step 11? A simple answer to the latter is to ‘pause’ is one aspect of practicing spiritual discipline in our newfound spiritual lives. This is not an easy task, and I thought is might be a bit helpful if I looked briefly at the one thing that has always ignited the shadow of my soul with rebellion. And that one thing that I found is my misunderstanding of the word and the practice of discipline. Once I was able to move past these old ideas, I found my effort to practice this one spiritual principle within my daily affairs much easier.
Discipline is no longer a word or thought that brings about agitation and rebellion, as my understanding today is that discipline, in its loving expression, is first and foremost not control, as many addicts believe. Discipline is action that creates a sense of safety, boundaries that allow me to grow and to remain safe at the same time. Imagine the discipline of a small child. As the child grows and learns to walk, new gifts are discovered and loving and safe boundaries, or as some prefer - limits for this growth to take place is the responsibility of the parent(s). This is not to control the child, but to keep the child safe as he/she discovers the new world this wonderful gift has allowed him to discover. Walking out the front door and into the street is not safe, and requires the parents to keep the door closed or locked. Once the child is older and is riding a bike, new sets of discipline or boundaries are put in place. Again, this is to keep the child safe as he grows with his new set of gifts and skills. It is the same with us, as adults. God is our Creator and as we grow spiritually we have our part in creating discipline for ourselves, honoring the boundaries put in place by society; such as arriving at meetings or appointments at the agreed upon time. I hope that you can accept discipline as a practice that supports safe growth, and if you once held the notion that this was about punishment and control, hopefully you will consider another perception, at least as it relates to our spiritual life.
My relationship with God is a relationship. As I grow and experience new gifts, and challenges, my spiritual world gets bigger and new boundaries and practices of discipline are needed to keep me spiritually safe and to support my journey of spiritual growth. How many of us have been deceived in our spiritual journey, into practices that were not in accord with our soul-faith? Many of us are spiritually like children, wanting to manage the spiritual gifts and powers we are given, but not wanting accountability or discipline, although they are what will help keep us from being led off into a path we do not want to venture into. I have longed for spiritual gifts and an intimate connection with God since my earliest recollection, but had no idea how, until I fell into the abyss that led me to my first 12-step meeting and sponsor. As spiritual adults we are disciplined by practicing the principles of the twelve steps and honoring social discipline and boundaries, letting go of the notion that we are exempt from social or spiritual consequences when we decide to do things our own way. I know that the one consequence of not growing spiritually is that one day I will return to my addiction and this will create a block in my conscious contact with God, and I am not willing to pay this high of a price but it gives me the willingness to continue to ’enlargen my spiritual condition.’
To pause, when one is agitated or doubtful required my memorization of this simple statement and reading step 11, ‘upon awakening…’ each morning in Alcoholics Anonymous, as the beginning of practicing daily spiritual discipline. I am not sure who stated the idea that the more blessings or gifts we are given, the more responsibility we are also given. To pause is a powerful and helpful tool and disciplined spiritual principal put into action. Although this may not be something we do often I find it is more what I do not do when practicing pause.
Learning this simple solution as though it were branded into my consciousness so that when the occasion would arise, I could pause. Also, learning that this pause is not defined by time. It may be 5 seconds, enough time to take a deep breathe, or it may be 5 days or weeks, even years. Whatever the timeframe is, I found it helpful to ’see’ the pause as a place, somewhere peaceful with harmony and love, someplace I have experienced in my practice of meditation. In addition, pause is a place of personal consciousness, and in the beginning of incorporating this principle into my daily life, I found the suggestions from AA literature helpful, such as, ‘restraint of pen and tongue.’
I am not sure which comes first, pause, discipline, prayer or meditation, but I know that when I meditate more often, I find more ease in practicing pause, when I am agitated or doubtful, as I have easy access to the peaceful place within to go and be still with God.
I pray that you may find the place of ‘pause’ in your life, within your being and within the power that comes in your relationship with God, and that pausing becomes a principle of many blessings, as discipline has become a principle of safety and growth for continued spiritual growth.
Carol Ann Preston
Remembering Who We Are: a workbook by Carol Ann Preston
www.take12radio.com and the ‘Relationship’ show