Giving up milk is tough when you love coffee, but it’s even tougher when brie is one of your favourite foods. Several years ago, a friend suggested that I try giving up dairy as a solution to the cystic acne I had experienced my entire life. Despite my love of soft, French cheese, I decided to give it a go. Within 4 weeks I was starting to see a real change, and 10 weeks later my skin was totally different. I wasn’t in pain from cysts and the red spots on my face and neck had virtually disappeared. Needless to say, I was a convert.
But a different friend was incredulous. “No dairy? Not even a little milk in your coffee?” She asked. “I could never give it up completely. I just need a bit.” The truth is, I didn’t have a choice- having a little milk in my coffee produced almost the same reaction as eating an entire wheel of brie. And obviously, if I was going to indulge, I’d rather have more than less!
The last week or two, I’ve found myself completely overwhelmed by my to-do list. On the back of a trans-atlantic trip followed by a brutal round of jet lag, each day has seen me staring down my massive to-do list only to walk away in defeat.
Usually, my approach is flexible. Because my work is so varied, I have several different categories laid out on a blank sheet of paper where I note what needs to be done for each. Then I choose a few things to do every day that week. Sometimes I’ll batch work, trying to knock out a whole category in one day. Often, I’ll just tackle the most do-able tasks, or the ones that need to be done sooner. Most weeks, this tends to work just fine. This week, it did not.
Not only was there too much on the page to begin with (a fatal mistake for feeling accomplished), but my real difficulty was that there were too many competing things on the list. Usually one category takes precedence one day, another the next – there’s an ebb and flow that allow for flexibility. This week, there was no natural starting point. Too many things on the to-do list needed doing, all at the same time. I was overwhelmed and paralyzed with the simple decision of where to begin.
One of the
most frequent issues that arises almost every time I talk about discernment is
the role of personal desire in spiritual and practical discernment.
take the form of, “how do I know that this is what God wants and not just what
I want?” or “I really want x, and so it’s probably not what I should do,” or, “I
have always wanted to do y, but that’s irrelevant, right?”
personal desire something that belongs in discernment? Or is it the kind of
thing that we should just disregard because it’s a massive distraction from
what is really meant to be happening? How do I know if I can trust my desire?
I’ve always loved monasteries: the silence, the peacefulness, the feeling of being “away” from the world. There’s something deeply satisfying about going on retreat to a monastery and being able to leave worries about work, home, studies, or plans of any kind, behind.
Stepping into a “sacred space” offers freedom from the daily stress of life.
When St. Benedict wrote his monastic “Rule” in the 6th century AD, he codified a way of living that would last through the centuries, down to current day. While most of us can’t retreat to a monastery on a regular basis, bringing the rhythm of monastic life into my own is something from which I’ve benefited greatly. It’s helped me to focus on clear priorities, reduce stress, and be more peaceful in general.
Here are three ways I’ve found we can integrate monastic practices into our work lives.
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