I’ve written a lot about gentleness and discipline, their hand-in-hand relationship, and how necessary that relationship is for practice of all kinds. This week, I have been considering not only their relationship, but the dynamic balance of that relationship.
How at one time, gentleness needs our focus, and at other times, discipline does. Persistence comes from the union of gentleness and discipline. Furthermore, it is persistence that brings resilience, and ultimately all the other benefits of practice.
These qualities are worth the work. They are.
But sometimes figuring out how to get there, how to strike that balance is hard.
Enter our old friend discernment.
Discernment, that quality of being able to choose among “goods,” rather than simply between good and bad or right and wrong, is essential here. That quality of good judgment is essential. It is essential to decide whether it’s time to be really gentle with yourself or time, as my nephew’s mother says, to “suck it up, Princess.”
How do you decide?
It’s okay to say, “Suck it up, Princess.” It’s okay to forego one thing for another thing you want more. It’s okay to take a deep breath and do the hard thing. Gentleness + discipline doesn’t mean you never do or try anything difficult.
Sometimes, you just have to figure it out on the spot. Sometimes you have to go with your gut and hope for the best. Formal discernment is not about those times when you only have a minute to decide. (It is true, though, that practicing formal discernment helps hone your on-the-spot skills.)
I recently had a case in which I was trying desperately to Suck It Up, Princess, but it turned out that what I needed was more gentleness in order to make a better, more life-giving decision. To understand that this gentleness is what would help, I needed prayer, people I trust, understanding my body’s responses, and my own practices of discernment.
Sometimes when you need help, you need your essential helpers. You need to call in the cavalry.
Who are the cavalry?
First and foremost, is prayer. Prayer, however you do it, wherever you do it, is the key to discernment. Whether that is sitting and waiting on the peace that comes from secure and clear connection to your Deepest, Wisest Self or saying the Rosary or going for a bike ride to commune with the natural world…however you do it, prayer is what discernment needs most of all.
And by prayer, I don’t just mean, “talking with God” (or Self, or Brigid, or whomever). I also mean attending to, or “listening for” how you’re being nudged. How are you being led, or pulled, or even shoved?
What is your body’s vote?
Your body gets a vote. Your body responds to these nudges and leadings. You may have butterflies. You may feel a tightness or freedom in your throat. Your face may get warm or your jaw tight.
Your body gets a vote.
Learning how to interpret these body votes is an important part of discernment, and it’s where my Discernment Package begins.
What’s this discernment package thing?
The Discernment Package is a method—three meetings and a recorded lesson—to engage important questions in your life. For example, are you in a situation where it’s not clear whether you need more discipline or more gentleness?
Are you trying to make a decision about work—where, how, whether? Are you trying to decide what joyful physical activity might be best for you? Are you trying to think about how to be in right relationship with another person?
Consider signing up for the Discernment Package if you’re working on any of these things, if you want to know how to interpret your body’s votes on your decisions, or if you’d like to learn methods from several traditions that will help you get where you need to go when you’re stuck on a life question.
Check the links above for more information and, as always, feel free to contact me if you have questions.