20 Minutes A Day

All of my little rituals each take 20 minutes.

For example:

It takes me about 20 minutes to write 750 words.

I set my Insight Timer for 20 minutes when I meditate.

It takes me 20 minutes to do my little circuit on the MU Stadium steps.

Funny, how in a mere 20 minutes I can totally reset myself: change my mood, raise my energy, get my brain cooking– just by making myself slightly uncomfortable for a little while each day: grinding out words, sitting with boredom, sweating.

Discipline is such a weird thing, because while you are practicing it, it feels “grindstoney” and  straight-jackety–the antithesis of hair-blowing-in-the-wind, Julie Andrews twirling in the field, freedom. Yet, it is the only way to achieve true freedom.

I’ve been re-reading parts of The Untethered Soul lately and the other day I came across Singer’s wonderful story about the dog and electric fence.

A dog wants to run free, is meant to run free, but its owner installs an electric fence, which is a buried electrified cable.

The dog is then outfitted with a special collar that will zap him whenever he get too close to that buried cable. In this way, the dog learns to stay inside the  fence.

The inside of the fence is pain-free, but it is certainly not running-full-out–jowls-a-slather, free (which is what every dog wants and dreams of, presumably.)

But a brave, hell-bent on freedom dog, will creep up to the edge of the fence each day and let the collar buzz him a little. If he does this enough, he will begin to realize that the “zap” just hurts a bit, that it won’t kill him. If he gets used to the buzz and can learn to withstand the zap, he will be able to plow right through that invisible force field and be truly free.  But he must be willing to take the zap.

It’s the same thing with me and my disciplines. I can live quite comfortably without them. The “yard” of my non-disciplined life is small, but it’s comfortable, predictable, though somewhat boring.

The larger world, the world of freedom and infinite possibility on the other side of the invisible force field, can only be earned if I am willing to take the zap, to open myself to the discomfort of the page, the cushion, the stadium steps.

So that’s why when people say, “Why do you do that to yourself? Why do feel the need to put on that straightjacket?  Why press your pretty little nose to that grindstone?  Life hard enough. Relax already!

I know that if I can just learn to withstand the pain of the electric fence which is imprisoning me in this little yard, and do it in 20 minute increments every day, soon I’ll build up the courage to take the zap head first.

Then I’ll be free.

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