Practice and Discipline

I am coming to realize that there is a difference for me between a spiritual practice and a spiritual discipline.  I have tended to use those words interchangeably, particularly when I talk about my gratitude lists.  In the past month, my gratitude lists have been sporadic as I try to settle myself into the rhythm of school.   As I take a moment now to breathe, and wonder whether it has made a difference, it hits me that the lists are my discipline, the form that anchors the spiritual practices of gratitude and attentiveness.

I have been asking my self whether I have been living in shallower layers because I have not been careful to write my lists.  I think, however, that it is the commitment to being attentive which really keeps me working in the deeper layers.  And while it is possible to do so without a particular discipline, having a regular discipline that anchors me into that work of attentiveness does keep me grounded in the deep layers.

A spiritual discipline can become an empty shell of a form it if is not practiced with intention and care.  A spiritual practice can float away and dissipate if it is not anchored by deliberate spiritual practices.

Gratitude List:
1. The recent sunrises from the crest of Mt. Pisgah: magenta, tangerine, aquamarine, violet.  Mist caught in the folds of the foothills.  Wraiths of fog skuthering over golden fields.
2. Safe places.  Creating places of safety, in the outer world, in the inner world.  We make plans to build houses and shelters for people.  I think about what sort of blueprint there might be for us to intentionally build our inner selves into safe and sheltering spaces for those who are frightened or injured or outcast.
3.  The whimsical childish conjecture from my scientist has begun to feel distinctly like real-life physics lessons, and I realize that the wild speculations have been preparation for continued curious pondering about the nature of the world.  Yesterday, it was that the undertow of a previous wave helps the next one to break.  He is figuring out these things on his own through observation even before he learns them in the classroom.  I can only sit back and marvel.  This is a reminder to me as a teacher to always build on my students’ natural awareness as much as possible, and to keep sparking their curiosity.  Even grammar has logical and reasonable patterns.
4. The chuckles and humming of contented children.
5. Flocks of a thousand swallows racing back and forth along the island, filling up on insects before they hop out over ocean for their journey south.  We did not see monarchs or dragonflies this year, but the winds were really strong, and I think they may have been waiting in thickets and woods until the coast is clear (so to speak).

May we walk in Beauty!


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