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Discipline Evokes Devotion

Discipline from a Wisdom perspective is about bringing together heaven and earth. It isn't so much about a set of actions as an attitude that we take to everything we encounter in our lives. Discipline is necessary in making space for love.

The motive is not mastery but devotion. Therefore, discipline begins with God's self-giving love in the depths of our lives. This love compels us to give our deepest selves back to God; this same love enables us to let go of the illusions that stand in our way of doing so. It is the practise of seeing ourselves honestly, but not obsessively. It is daily, ongoing, for a lifetime.

The passions are what stand in the way of us responding to this Love that calls to us. They are a perversion of vision and the destruction of love. The ancients referred to the passions as the loss of reason: reason not as logic, but as that which holds in creative tension our primary instincts, and allows us to act consciously and morally. Passions are not our emotions but the filters we apply to both mind and heart that block out God's love for us. Enneagram compulsions are one way of seeing passions.

Classical Disciplines

The ancients saw purgation as the discipline of putting on the character of reality. It requires us to meditate with patience on long perspectives, on the end of things. In the cell of self-knowledge we compare our actual lives with the vision of God's Love within. Without self-pity we repent and yet still hope for God's vision to be incarnated in our lives. Purging the passions from our life is an ongoing process, since we are always in the process of becoming.

Detachment is one expression of purgation. The classic disciplines of poverty, chastity and obedience can be translated for our times. Simplicity comes when we recognize that things can be enjoyed but can never feed our souls. Humility allows us to see ourselves as an ordinary bit of Universal Life, important only as part of the All. Passionate disinterestedness invites us to be engaged with life without imposing judgments; fostering a holy indifference to the accidents of life.

The object of mortification, another classical discipline, is to break up attachments and cravings so that a higher center may live and breathe. We could understand the pain of self-observation this way: learning to accept whatever we experience, within or without. This understanding of actively embracing suffering fosters the death of preferences, allowing love within us to flow freely.

Prayer as Practise

Ultimately the Wisdom of Discipline grows from prayer. Prayer allows us to become aware of our illusions before God, and to be reborn in relation to God. Prayer includes all of the above in the practise of embracing reality. We are guided by devotion and a felt dependence on God's grace. Nothing is too repulsive to keep from prayer, and God's Love runs deeper than any depravity we observe in ourselves.

I understand discipline pretty well as keeping promises, to myself and others. But the Wisdom of Discipline shows me that the object is God's faithfulness, not my own. Wisdom Discipline moves me towards ever-increasing trust in God's Love, and increasing detachment from my own efforts, even if these efforts seem admirable. Understanding the Enneagramic holy idea for my compulsion as Holy Law and Harmony, I begin to see it's not about trying or stopping, but resting in God's sufficiency.

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