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Monday, January 02, 2012

The Undisciplined Disciple

Okay, so it's crept up on me. The rich, decadent holiday food. The 'no time for exercise'. The "I'll just have one more glass of wine." The "okay, just an extra dollop of butter".

Suddenly, here I am with "The post-Thanksgiving Day +10 pounds" clearly evident on this morning's scale.

Here's the truth of it, staring at me in cold, hard numbers: I need to lose weight.



Oh, the diet part is fairly easy. It's the way I normally eat: high protein, "good" carbs in moderation, lots of veggies (could do better on the fruit), low fat, no sugar or caffeine, allowing myself a weekly glass of wine or bourbon (not both), drinking lots of water throughout the day.

No, it's not the diet. It's the exercise.

Just like "it's not the heat, it's the humidity'. 

Well, it's not even the exercise. I love the Wii Fit. That's not the problem. It's the being disciplined about exercise.

I know that in order to drop those ten pounds, I've got to exercise - to a sweat, not just walking with Theo - at least an hour a day, 4-5 times a week.


I'm so disciplined about so many things in my life. I think of the way I eat as a discipline. I try not to eat too much processed food. I try to eat "low and local" on the food chain. I do it, now, without even giving much thought to it.

Is that discipline?

It's the same way with prayer and meditation. It's part of how I live my life. I 'make time' for it but I don't, really, any more. It's just part of my 'routine'. It's just what I do.

It's like I'd never leave the house without showering and brushing and flossing. I don't think I could.

Is that discipline?

I guess what I'm asking is this question: When 'discipline' become so 'routine' that you don't have to think about it any more, is that a 'discipline'?

I guess I'm struggling with the idea about discipline being essentially about willpower, hard work and persistence.

Discipline also has connotations, for me, of a punishment. That comes from my childhood as well as in the religious world of being "disciplined" for a 'sin' of some sort. 

That would be me and exercise, but in the other aspects of my life, I'm pretty 'disciplined' in terms of being a 'disciple' of health and well being - especially in terms of the food I eat (well, with the exception of holidays) and my dedication to certain principals and values like gratitude and generosity and excellence and how that is applied in my life with my family and my work of ministry and activism, as well as prayer and meditation.

Indeed, one of the great compliments I get is when someone asks me to pray for them. That's enough of a compliment - to be asked to hold someone in prayer is an enormous trust -  but what I often get is that the person tells me that I am being asked, specifically, because - as one person wrote just this morning, "you are one of the most earnest pray-ers in the business. I really think you do 'storm heaven'."

It's humbling to admit, but that's true.  I can't think of a higher compliment. Even so, I can't say that my prayers make a difference with God. I can't offer you any empirical data as evidence of the efficacy of my prayers, but I can tell you that I pray. Earnestly. Consistently. Relentlessly. Not necessarily in any disciplined order but absolutely without ceasing.

Prayer doesn't always change the situation, but it always changes me.

I like to think of myself as an "undisciplined disciple".

The thing about the discipline of exercise is that, eventually, I fail. Oh, I do very well for long stretches of time. I was actually doing well before I went on sabbatical.

Going to a gym in Cambridge, MA was outrageously expensive. Here, in Lower, Slower Delaware, the gym fees are more reasonable, but I'd have a 30 mile round trip to the gym.

The Wii Fit is an excellent alternative. The problem is getting into the "discipline" of daily exercise so that it becomes a "habit".

Which is an interesting turn of phrase, is it not?

When does a discipline become a habit? Does it cease to have real benefit when it does?

I mean, at this point, I have some good "habits" but I'm not necessarily "disciplined" about them in terms of "doing what I don't want to do when I don't want to do them".

So, does that negate the effect of being "disciplined"? Because it's now a "habit"?

Well, by now you've probably already figured out that I have successfully avoided making time for exercise because I've been sitting in front of my laptop, THINKING about exercising.

I'm also really good at WATCHING exercise programs on TV.  From my favorite, comfortable chair. Whilst drinking a cold glass of water.

I'm very clever, aren't I? Especially about not doing what I don't want to do when I don't want to do it.

And no, exercise is not my "New Year's Resolution". I've never really gotten into that discipline.

Here's where I've landed. I'd like to think about regular exercise as an act of faithfulness.

I'd like to think that my prayer life is less about 'habit' and more about being faithful.

I'd like to start thinking of the time I dedicate to exercise as a form of prayer and learn ("discipline myself") to be faithful to THAT.

I'd like to start thinking that, if I have this slight change of perspective, that I could not fail. And, if I think I can not fail, I'm thinking I could attempt to do most anything.

So, off I go, into this new year with a new mindset about losing these 10 pounds. I'm looking to change my relationship with my body and create a new relationship with it. 

A more faithful one.

One of my own choosing.

One that I won't come to regret but rather embrace and rejoice in.

Even for an "undisciplined disciple" like me, faithfulness is a choice.

In making that choice, failure is not an option.


Anonymous said...

Why don't you walk and say the rosary? Start with saying the rosary five times while walking and then gradually increase it. You could think about the people you are holding in prayer. I will admit I have in the past listened to the rosary and said it while riding an exercise bike. It was a great distraction. I should start it up again.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I've tried that, Maria. Problem is, I don't break a sweat walking and my metabolism is such that, unless I break a sweat, I don't loose the weight. I do walk with Theo several times a day and often say my rosary. Good for my soul. Not so much for the weight loss.

Karen said...

*sigh* No fair, No fair!! I just checked in after sitting down at the computer while avoiding heading out to the gym. . . I can't even compalin that it is far away. . .

Bill said...

I was out hiking in the Watchung Reservation Monday. I did about 5 miles in 2.5 hours. That would be a slow pace on level ground but this is up and down steep paths on uneven terrain. If you use hiking poles it’s sort of like an elliptical trainer but more intense. Training machines tend to stabilize your body while hiking over boulders and logs forces all those lateral control muscles to come into play. Bottom line is you sweat and work more muscle groups than doing simple exercises. You also get the benefit of fresh air and enjoying nature. As far as meditating, not so much. It’s more like concentrating, concentrating on not twisting an ankle or falling down a ravine. People do bring their dogs, but they’re usually off the leash, which allows the walkers to move at a much faster pace. I wouldn’t recommend that though, if your dog doesn’t answer to commands or play well with other dogs.
The Rehoboth area is so flat that the only way you would get a decent exercise would be to pick up the pace to about 4 miles an hour. The other thing you could do is walking on the sand – which is literally a drag :)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Karen - two days later and I've dropped 3.5 pounds. Yeah, yeah, yeah - it's mostly fluid but I'm feeling motivated to continue.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bill - Actually, I do like the Wii Fit. Lots of variety. I'm not bored. At. All. I have walked down to Massey's Landing and back several times, which is good, general exercise, but I've never broken a sweat, which is what I need to do to lose weight.