Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley
Opening Words by Simon Hardy (adapted)
We have made many decisions that
have brought us finally to worship in this virtual space.
May our worship here continually increase
our understanding of ourselves; and
give us confidence that we can improve
our lives and those of others by our behaviour.
Chalice Lighting (you may wish to light a candle in your own home at this point).
words by Julie Nedin
Let this be a light of welcome, of hope and of joy.
You may have had a busy day – you are here.
You may have had a quiet day – you are here.
You may have had a difficult week – you are here.
You may have faced challenges – you are here.
You are here, bring joy or sadness.
Be calm in this moment.
May you find the power in this space to meet concerns head on,
or to feel the freedom to leave them at the door.
Bring yourself to this time of worship,
be you, with us in peace and love.
Spirit of Life and Love,
be with us as we gather for worship,
each in our own place.
Help us to feel a sense of community,
even though we are physically apart.
Help us to care for each other,
in this world in which Covid has not yet gone away,
and the clouds of war hover.
May we keep in touch however we can,
and help each other, however we may.
May we remember that
caution is still needed,
that close contact is still unwise.
Help us to be grateful for the freedoms we have
and to respect the wishes of others.
May we hold in our hearts all those
who are grieving, lost, alone,
victims of violence and war,
suffering in any way, Amen
Reading Discipline from Focus: How One Word A Week Will Transform Your Life by Cleere Cherry Reaves (adapted)
Many times we give ourselves too many excuses. We procrastinate, putting things off, claiming that we will do them later once we are “feeling up to it.” But this only leaves space for the weeds of doubt and dread to grow. Establishing discipline in our lives allows us to maximize our potential.
Discipline is exactly as it sounds – sometimes hard, sometimes annoying, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes tedious. When we discipline ourselves, we force ourselves to go against our nature. Discipline is the heavy door that leads to the freedom we desire. It feels confusing to think that the life we want is on the other side of denying our right now, but that is exactly it. When we live in a disciplined manner, we take on a heavenly perspective, know that what is good for us is often not what feels good to us.
As we begin to walk the narrow road of a disciplined life, we experience the peace, joy, and love God offers. When we misstep, we receive the grace that He lavishes on us… As the… Spirit makes [its] home in our hearts, [it] shows us how to tap into the power inside of us…. Through this process, we come to understand that the risk of going the narrow route is always worth it.
Discipline is the passport to a fruitful life; it is the ticket to sitting on the front row of a miracle.
Alternative Lord’s Prayer
Spirit of Life and Love, here and everywhere,
may we be aware of your presence in our lives.
May our world be blessed.
May our daily needs be met,
and may our shortcomings be forgiven,
as we forgive those of others.
Give us the strength to resist wrong-doing,
the inspiration and guidance to do right,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
We are your hands in the world; help us to grow.
May we have compassion for all living beings,
and receive whatever life brings,
with courage and trust. Amen
Reading Discipline from Inner Beauty, published by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
Discipline comes from inside. It is imposed or assumed for show, it is like putting on a coat. You wear it outside where it is seen, but come inside, where it is hot and you just take it off. In the privacy of your own problems, it just becomes a burden; you want to be free of it. Real discipline is part of you. It is an expression of respect for life, which is why you put the coat on in the first place, but it is also an expression of respect for yourself, which is why you keep it on – even when things are hard.
In fact it is natural to be disciplined, to follow a pattern of existence that has order. Nature has order, happiness and sorrow; though sometimes not understood, they have their set time. Nothing is naturally random. Even death is at the mercy of a system. We just can’t see it. So there is an attraction to the discipline which is why real freedom isn’t always what it appears to be and which is why we eventually get unhappy when we do not embrace a routine.
Prayer by Adam Slate
Spirit of Life, Spirit of Love,
Spirit of Hope, Spirit of Justice,
God known by many different names:
You have given us a day unique from any other.
You have connected us, all of us, with each other, and with the world, in ways that are largely a mystery to us.
You have given us little instruction other than to be present in our own lives, to feel wonder at the creations of the universe, and to love one another.
You have put gifts and challenges in our paths, joys and sorrows, strengths and frailties, some of which we have already encountered, and others we have yet to discover.
On this unique day, may we receive exactly what it is that we need.
Reading Discipline from Inner Beauty, published by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
Discipline requires a tangible goal, an adoption of something larger than yourself, which is guiding your attitude, otherwise how do you know what’s wrong, what to strive for? Nothing’s wrong unless you have the mirror of a system to look into. It may just be the system of a profession or the channelling of a talent. A dancer just wouldn’t wear 4 inch heels; an athlete wouldn’t either and a politician would watch his words. At best, though, it comes from something beyond these – something spiritual which outlives either talent or profession.
When discipline comes from a commitment of the spirit, it brings unbroken safety. It sets off the fire of love with a kind of coolness. It keeps you in the middle of the road. No sudden standstills before the journey is over. In sickness there is safety, because discipline makes you sustain precision when it would be easier just to let go; in happiness there is safety, because discipline stops you spilling too much feeling for others to slip on; in sorrow there is safety because discipline makes you go on walking through the actions which will bring back your joy. In all moods, discipline gently holds you steady. Discipline is mercy. It becomes a voice inside which softens the resistance of weakness and ushers you towards freedom.
Time of Stillness and Reflection by Jo James (adapted)
We are here to approach
and the truthful,
to follow our inner calling,
to invoke our deepest selves
and more than this:
we are here to encounter the divine
the sacred in one another
and to find connection with
the holy in all things.
May we be calm,
in action and in thought,
may we find patience and stillness
as we settle back from our individual pace of task and responsibility
and find instead a gentler pace
which emerges from within us
and emerges from this group.
As we enter in to stillness and
in quiet may we find a gentleness
that reassures us
a grace that is familiar
a tenderness that confirms
that hope is coming,
hope is here…
May we take this gentleness, grace,
tenderness and hope into the coming week.
Musical Interlude A Welsh Wedding by Elizabeth Harley
Yesterday evening, my husband and I discovered a gorgeous programme on BBC iPlayer, called Inside Classical. And we decided to watch the latest episode – a performance in Cardiff by the BBC Symphony Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Ryan Bancroft, the same conductor and orchestra we had enjoyed seeing live at St David’s Cathedral last June. The second half of the programme was them performing Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
But the fascinating part of the programme was watching Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto being played with fire and brilliance by a young Korean pianist, Yeol Eum Son. It was amazing to watch her playing – she used her whole body at times, not just her fingers, which at times danced over the keys so fast they were a blur. And to know all those notes from memory – I was in awe. She was a real treat to watch. I don’t think either of us took our eyes off the screen for the duration of the piece.
I remember when I was learning to play the piano and got so frustrated that my fingers would not do what my brain wanted them to. I found it so hard to translate the notes I was reading in the score to the piano keys beneath my fingers. Which gives me a tiny insight into the discipline which Yeol Eum Son must have to play with such virtuosity. She must do long hours of practice every day, which takes real discipline. As the Brahma Kumaris remark in our second reading, “Real discipline is part of you. It is an expression of respect for life… but it is also an expression of respect for yourself… even when things are hard.”
I did not have the passion for playing the piano that I needed to find the true discipline required to become good at it. But I do have that passion for writing, and so the discipline of writing every day comes easily to me. It is not something that has to be done, a burden to be escaped if possible. It is a daily joy to lose myself in words. I count myself lucky to be working from home, at liberty to organise my day as I will, so that I can fit in an hour’s writing every morning, before I start the day job.
When I began to take my writing seriously, some years back, I decided to start getting up an hour earlier in the morning, so that I would be able to devote one hour a day to it, without short-changing my Unitarian work. And writing for that hour is now an established part of my morning routine. Of course, this worked for me because I am a natural Lark and think my best in the morning, but you may be a natural Owl, and choose to follow your passion when everyone else has gone to bed. It doesn’t matter when you decide on, the important thing is to ring-fence that time, and to allow nothing, short of a clear and present emergency, to disturb it. For me, that is the meaning of true discipline, carving out a regular time to follow what gives you joy.
The words I’m using to describe my routine, “passion”, “devotion” and “joy”, may not be the first thing we think about in the context of being disciplined. I count myself very fortunate, in that I find it quite easy to be disciplined, and thrive on a regular routine. Because I understand that discipline allows me to get more done, to maximise my potential, as Cleere Cherry Reaves wrote in our first reading. Each morning, I begin my day with breakfast, after which I check my e-mails. Then I go back to my bedroom for the rest of the morning routine: writing down the things I’m planning to do in my daily log, then doing my morning sit, followed by my daily Write For Your Life practice, and writing my Morning Pages. As a reward for all that, I get to sit down for an hour in front of my writing laptop and lose myself in the latest work in progress. The only daily habit I really struggle with at present is getting outside and going for a walk.
I’m not sharing this with you to show off, but to demonstrate how happy being disciplined makes me. My morning routine sets me up for the day. During the last few months, when I have spent so much time away from home as part of being President, it has been more difficult to maintain, but I’ve mostly managed it.
Gretchen Rubin, an American author best known for her book, The Happiness Project is, like me, naturally disciplined. But she has recognised that even the most disciplined people have their off times, when they struggle to maintain good habits. And she has written two books about habit formation, called Better than Before and The Four Tendencies. Which helped me to establish the morning routine I spoke about just now, about four and a half years ago.
I blogged about it at the time, writing, “I wanted to find the time to do things which would nourish my soul: a morning sit, carrying on with my novel, which has been sitting half-done on my computer for months, and doing regular piano practice…. Then I had my light bulb moment. I am very much a morning person, a Lark rather than an Owl, so why not get these things done straight after I get up? Excitedly, I wrote myself a timetable…
I shared this idea with a friend, who wrote back, ‘How disciplined it all sounds, but I am sure it is good if it works for you.’ … It may sound unpleasantly regimented, and to some extent it is. However, it does mean that I get to spend two and a quarter hours every morning, nourishing my soul. Two and a quarter whole hours of time spent doing things that I like to do, that make me feel better about myself, that make me feel more connected with the world. To me, it feels like a huge indulgence, rather than a discipline. Then at 9.00 am I feel refreshed, invigorated, and ready to get on with my day. Without the cloud of ‘you ought to fit in X, Y, and Z sometime today’ hanging over my head. It’s done, and I feel so free!”
I can just hear the snorts of disgust as I write this. Because I have lived with many procrastinators, people who put everything off until the last possible minute and would find adopting a regimented routine like the one I’ve just described anathema. Reaves sympathises with this, writing, “When we discipline ourselves, we force ourselves to go against our nature.” And yet, she continues, “Discipline is the heavy door that leads to the freedom we desire.”
I have a particular friend who suffers from ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder which, contrary to popular belief, you do not grow out of, and is widespread, if infrequently diagnosed, in adults. The NHS website provides a list of symptoms, which include, “continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones; poor organisational skills; inability to focus or prioritise.” My friend describes feeling overwhelmed by a list of tasks, and her response to this is often to ignore them, in the hope that they will go away.
I have recently (last December) started to keep a bullet journal. Which is a way of storing all the information you need to enjoy a satisfying life, one in which you are able to maximise your potential, and find the time to nourish your soul, because you have everything at your fingertips. And yet the inventor of the Bullet Journal Method, Ryder Carroll, suffers from ADHD himself. In the introduction to his book, The Bullet Journal Method: track your past, order your present, plan your future, he explains, “Nothing worked the way my mind worked… The main culprit was my inability to rein in my focus. It wasn’t that I couldn’t focus; I just had a hard time concentrating on the right thing at the right time, being present. My attention would always dart off to the next bright thing. As I cycled through distractions, my responsibilities steadily piled up until they became overwhelming.”
He goes on to write, “The Bullet Journal Method is for anyone struggling to find their place in the digital age. It will help you get organized by providing simple tools and techniques that can inject clarity, direction, and focus into your days.” And adds, “As great as getting organized feels, however, it’s just the surface of something significantly deeper and more valuable.”
Both the Brahma Kumaris and Cleere Cherry Reaves write about discipline in terms of providing freedom. The former write, “In all moods, discipline gently holds you steady. Discipline is mercy. It becomes a voice inside which softens the resistance of weakness and ushers you towards freedom.” And Reaves explains, “Discipline is the heavy door that leads to the freedom we desire. It feels confusing to think that the life we want is on the other side of denying our right now, but that is exactly it. When we live in a disciplined manner, we take on a heavenly perspective, know that what is good for us is often not what feels good to us.”
And Ryder Carroll agrees. He writes, “the methodology… helps us cultivate a better sense of ourselves both in and out of the professional theater. The simple act of pausing to write down the important minutia of one’s life goes far beyond simple organization…. It’s a fusion of philosophies from a variety of traditions that define how to live an intentional life – a life both productive and purposeful.”
Now, this address is not an advert for bullet journalling. I love it because I’m naturally disciplined and it enables me to see my week at a glance. But I was hesitant about suggesting it to my friend. However, she has begun to plan her own journal and is hopeful that it will enable her to be more intentional about her life.
I hope that these words may help to convince you that discipline can be a positive way of living, both spiritual and intentional.
Spirit of Life and Love,
May we learn that being disciplined
Can give us the time to nourish our souls.
May we return to our everyday world refreshed,
may we share the love we feel,
may we look out for each other,
and may we keep up our hearts,
now and in the days to come, Amen
Postlude Lady of Lewesdon Hill by Elizabeth Harley