Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Inner Sanctuary, Part 1: The Discipline of Good Beginnings

During the Inner Slum series, we've discussed some of the destructive habits that pollute our inner environments and our character. We've talked about the noise pollution that makes the renewing of one's mind impossible. We've talked about the micro-aggressions that many of us routinely engage in.

Now, let's turn our attention to the polar opposite of the inner slum: the inner sanctuary. The inner sanctuary is a place of peace, renewal, and excellence. The inner sanctuary has calm instead of chaos. Renewal instead of stagnation. Excellence instead of mental squalor. Inner sanctuaries don't appear by random accident. They are built, brick by brick. Habit by habit.

Discipline is the foundation of any inner sanctuary.

As a people, African-Americans run from discipline. We run from discipline in almost every conceivable area of life. We exalt musical products (such as hip-hop) that don't require the training and discipline of mastering an instrument. We exalt written products (such as "street literature") that don't require the training and discipline of mastering grammar and being well read. This mindset carries over into our spiritual life. We often denounce spiritual disciplines as "empty rituals." We exalt chaos and call it "spontaneity." There IS much that is worthy in ecstatic, spontaneous worship. However, I question the wisdom of completely removing discipline and order from our spiritual lives. Discipline is NOT a natural state. It has to be cultivated. People generally incline toward laziness and mental clutter.

Discipline is the foundation of any inner sanctuary.
The discipline to examine our habits.
The discipline to abandon habits that are unworthy of who we want to be.
The discipline to cultivate the habits that are the building blocks of an inner sanctuary.

The first building block is the discipline of good beginnings. The discipline to take care that we begin things in the best possible way. For example, how do you routinely begin your day? What is your typical first thought upon waking up? What is the first thing you usually say? What are the first things you usually listen to? Are you willing to step back and examine your habits for beginning your days?

Are you careless with how you begin your days? Or do you make the effort to train yourself to begin in the best possible way?

There are many Black people who start their mornings by listening to music with curse words. There are many Black people who start their mornings by taking in the madness and mayhem of the morning news.

There are other Black people who start their mornings the best way they can. They discipline themselves to begin their days in the way that is best for them: For example, by praising God; or practicing a moment of thankfulness; or practicing a moment of silence; or taking a moment to review their goals for day.

How do you begin your days?


DeStouet said...

Okay...i like this.

I begin my day a lot differently than I use to before I stopped believing in Christianity and "God." I use to pray and give thanks upon awakening, now my thoughts shift immediately to the computer/internet. Sad but true! This is where I am mentally.

Discipline is a word that have always made me feel extremely uncomfortable because (first) I am a writer, (secondly) a gypsy/free spirit, (third) when I was young and in the system everywhere I went there were sooo many rules. And no matter how hard I tried, I could not follow them all.

Am I running from discipline now?

Nawh, but I could certainly have more of it, and I'd like to most defiantly change my morning routines, so it's ironic that you should put the spot light on the way I/we/us start our day.

I love how you push the word "habit." It really makes me evaluate myself on so many different levels. It forces me look at my habits as if they were little droppings of myself being left all over for others to see and judge me by. But most importantly to judge myself by.

Khadija said...

Welcome, DeStouet!

I know what you mean...everytime my dad talked about "discipline" when I was younger, I formed the mental picture of goose-stepping Nazis.

However, that bad vibe is usually in reference to things being imposed from outside. Things that may or may not have any legitimacy. I'm talking about self-discipline that we engage in because it benefits us. There's a big difference.

Yes, our habits ARE little droppings of ourselves that we leave all over the place. These little droppings tell on us. In ways and to people we never imagined!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

Oh, I forgot to mention what I've been doing these days when I get up: (1) pray; (2) review my goals for the business/side-hustle I'm working on.

Peace and blessings.

focusedpurpose said...

hi Khadija-

i am not a morning person. at all. i am very nocturnal by nature, so each morning i lie still willing myself to wake up.

meditation puts me in a place where i feel my spirit outside of my body. that is the best way that i can explain the sensation(s) that i feel. i have felt this often while meditating and doing yoga.

somewhere i read, he/she that hates discipline hates themselves.

i strongly believe this.

i also decide that i will create a beautiful day as i reaffirm my commitment to move forward powerfully.

great post as usual. keep up the good work!

blessings sis,

Khadija said...

Welcome, Focused Purpose!

Left to my own devices, I'm not a morning person either. However, working a job puts a crimp into the idea of sleeping until noon. LOL!

I was also impressed by a statement that an entrepreneur I admire made. He said that he didn't know of any successful business owner (in the business sector I want to break into) that slept late. {sigh} I guess the odd-hours computer geeks are a fluke.

I've also read many statements by successful fiction authors that talked about "paying one's dues." From what they've said, it seems that one must write consistently in order to become an accomplished writer. [In addition to reading a lot of quality literature.]

Black science fiction author (and television screenwriter) Steven Barnes has mentioned that a person has to first write a million words of crap to develop the skill to become a competent writer. After you practice and work the crap out of your system, your writing improves. This usually breaks down to writing approximately a story a week.

[For those who are interested, I recommend the "Lifewriting for Writers" course that Mr. Barnes sells. It's pricey, but worth it in my opinion. This guy has many published books and television episodes under his belt.]

During a chat on his blog, Canadian science fiction author told an aspiring sf author that there's no good way around paying the dues of: writing short stories, entering the stories in fiction writing contests, and getting an agent.

One Black author (I can't remember his name) made the observation on his blog that most self-published Black fiction is more about entrepreneurship than the craft of writing. That's why much of it is of inferior quality.

That's the thing about self-discipline in support of a goal: it all depends on how badly you want the outcome. How badly do you want to get/stay in shape? How badly do you want to master a musical instrument? How badly do you want to learn a new language? There's a price tag of effort & discomfort attached to most worthy things.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

DeStouet said... you're speaking my language --i love literature.

so, i guess i have to admit that i am very disciplined in the areas i have to be.

my youngest child is only two years old, and i stay at home with him, so i wait until 5:00pm when my hubby gets home and head straight to our local library. i am there from 5:00 - 8:30 every evening writing. i use to write on Saturday but my daughter has her track meets every saturday, and sunday is strictly for the fam & I.

as soon as my boy heads off to school i was thinking of hiring a maid to do some light cleaning around the house so I could dedicate all of my time to writing. if not, i'll mos. def. write for -at the very least- eight hours straight with the exception of cooking our meals, cleaning our home and running errands.

Sister Seeking said...

Peace and blessings:

One book I've found to be helpful for me is:

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Matthew McKay


The formation of character by Charlotte Mason


Khadija said...


Writing is one of several things that I'd like to have the time to pursue in depth. {sigh}

Sister Seeking,

Thanks for the book titles. I'm wondering if there's a biography of Charlotte Mason. I'm always amazed by the women from her era who accomplished BIG THINGS. It's inspiring.

Peace and blessings.

PioneerValleyWoman said...

How do I start the day?

My goal, which I do tend to meet--I pray and meditate. Then I get dressed to go to the gym. Upon getting home, I get ready for the day, ie., if I have to go into my office, or if I have to work from home.

Some days, it is like my head is on fire with ideas, I forget the praying and meditating, and sometimes even the gym, because I have come up with something I want to write about (ie., scholarly work) or something I need to work on for teaching.

Some days, it seems I'm all into the computer and forget the rest: prayer and meditation.

But I really want to do the first I spoke of: get up, pray, meditate and then go to the gym during the week, then get home, have breakfast, start the day, whether I'm going into work or working from home.

On discipline, I definitely do try to work on having much of it--impossible to be an academic without it...So much of the work requires an ability to work on one's own, without deadlines, etc., no one to pass the buck to!

Khadija said...

Welcome, Pioneer Valley Woman!

Going to the gym used to be part of my morning routine. But then I got too lazy to leave the house for that particular purpose. LOL!

So, I bought an indoor exercise bike. It feels good to get the exercise out of the way at the beginning of the day. But then, I got too lazy to get up earlier to do that in the morning. LOL!

These days, I ride the bike (and sometimes use my kettlebells) after I get home from work.

Peace and blessings.

tasha212 said...

I start my day usually by thinking. In the morning, ideas seem to flow through my mind rapidly. Many ideas for my writing come during the morning right as I am waking up. I often spend 30 minutes at least laying in my bed thinking- sometimes out loud, about my future goals, my blog/writing, my upcoming podcast, or school. I talk to God also.

In terms of writing, I'd like to become more discipline in that area. That's one of the reasons that I started my blog. It's just that now school takes up a majority of my time. I have many plans for my writing in the future but now they're on hold until I can finish grad school. I don't like to start something and not give it my full energy and efforts.

Evia said...

I can be disciplined when I want to be, but sometimes I become overly disciplined and won't allow myself a break. Sometimes, I can't get off the work treadmill or feel guilty when I do.

I work at home. I work much harder at home than I ever worked when I worked outside the home. Sometimes, even when I'm trying not work, I'll be back working on a project unless I closely watch and control myself. It can sometimes be a pain to be overly disciplined, like yesterday I was exhausted from not getting enough sleep the night before, but I was still planning to go inline skating. My husband told me that since I couldn't walk straight, he wasn't going skating with me. So I then felt I had an excuse not to go skating. LOL!

I think moderation in all things is probably what it's best to aim for.

Khadija said...

Welcome, Tasha!

Your upcoming podcast?! {loud applause as much rejoicing breaks out} Good for you!I look forward to it.

Welcome, Evia!

Yep, that's where the cost/benefit ratio comes in. When something (or the manner in which one is doing it) becomes more of a hassle than it's worth, it's time to make a change.

Peace and blessings. said...

Hey there Khadija! {waves}

This is excellent!

One thing that I have been teaching in the church is the importance of embracing the discipline of silence. This does not mean I am directing people to start humming or chanting or staring into a candle! *LOL* I want to help women understand how important silence is for our mental health. Very few have been taught that taking time to undertake the discipline silence and stillness is an important aspect of every day.

Thank you so much for this discussion!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Khadija said...

Hello there, Lisa!

{waving} Thank you for your kind words. That's high praise considering the deep questions your blog asks about our inner lives. Thank you. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I'm doing what I can to follow your footsteps in this area!

Peace and blessings.

Kathrin Ivanovic said...

I am on a spiritual journey of sorts and posts such as this one give me such amazing food for thought.

I joined the Ramadan Kareem blog consortium this year it was such a profound experience for me.

Thank you!

In peace,

Khadija said...

Welcome, Kathrin Ivanovic!

Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words! I truly appreciate it. You mentioned a Ramadan Kareem blog consortium. I'll have to check it out.

Peace and blessings.

Ensayn1 said...

Hi Khadija, I just posted on my SupremeUltimate site and I linked this article to my post. I was partially inspired by your Inner Sanctuary series. Please check it out here is the link.

Khadija said...

Welcome, Ensayn!

{excited waving}

See're making me consider changing the link on the sidebar from your Journal of Ensayn Reality blog to the Supreme/Ultimate blog. There's 1 blog per blogger on my sidebar, so I had to choose. Hmmm.

I can't remember if I commented over there in response to another one of your posts but: I share your concern about the way Ultimate Fighting/Mixed Martial Arts books are displacing books about the traditional martial arts.

Emotionally, it feels just like another "displacement" that we've discussed on other blogs: the displacement of quality Black literature by "street lit." Because of the influence of tv, soon there will be a generation of people who 1st (and then ONLY) think of the UFC or MMA when somebody says the words "martial arts." {long sigh}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

sdg1844 said...

My eyes open at sunrise. It's an amazing thing for to see the sky lighten as day breaks. I give thanks to God for my life, then stretch for about 10 minutes.

There is no music or news. I get myself together and get ready for work. I like silence in the mornings and find my thoughts and mind to be most clear ad precise in the wee hours.

aimay said...

Dear Kadijah,

First, thank you so much for your blog. I first began reading it yesterday, after following a link from Evia's excellent website.

I have been passively aware for some time of a very damaging habit I have. I tend to turn on the tv or go online as soon as I wake up. Because I try to work out 5-6 days a week, this habit pushes my workout time into early afternoon. As a result, I am rarely ready to leave the house before 2 or 3 o'clock.

I am a student and this puts a real strain on my day. I think it is a huge discipline problem, and is also connected to my tendency to procrastinate. These poor habits are seriously undermining my success in school and in other areas. I have a lot of interests, but it seems like there are too few hours in the day because I am wasting so much time.

Inspired by the suggestions in your post and in the comments, my New Year's resolution is to begin a healthy morning routine:

1) Make bed
2) Review list of things to do that day
3) Meditate
4) Gym

All BEFORE the tv/computer goes on!

I want this to be the year I shed the detrimental habits and thinking patterns that are holding me back.

foreverloyal said...

You can do it, aimay!

Khadija said...

Welcome, Aimay!

Thank you for your kind words about the blog. I truly appreciate it.

YES! YES! YES! The first step is to decide to make a change. You're on your way! {raised fist salute}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Enigma said...

I ran across this entry and grinned. I just started a new habit for my days. When I first rise I say thanks to God for the new day and then proceed to write my running thoughts in a journal I have just for that purpose. I then read my Bible and faith passages. Afterwards I write in a journal that I have specifically for prayers and what I am thankful for. This calms me, centers me and focuses my thoughts for the day. I then go and stretch and do some light exercises before I prepare for work. I work out at at the gym 3 times a wk and take a 20-30 minute walk twice a week. I make sure that I take my goals/dreams journal to work with me for lunch break writing. I also began a mandate of being in bed at 10 pm and the TV goes off promptly at 11pm. I recite the Lord's prayer and the 23rd Psalm and go to sleep. I also decided that despite school and other responsibilities I will have one day a week with no tv, no internet, no phone, no requirements but me, my thoughts, a journal (of course!),quiet, a good book and a glass of wine/tea/ coffee. This new discipline has began to center my life so much. I never understood how helpful and refreshing discipline can truly be. I was living by the skin of my teeth running on exhaustion fumes. These changes has made life so much better.

Khadija said...


YES! YES! YES! {raised fist salute} Yes, discipline has its payoffs. I had gotten off track with with how I begin my days. [Which is what happens when I insist upon only getting up at the very last possible split second before going to work.]

I'm getting back on track with beginning and ending my days with scripture and prayer.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.