My Lenten discipline of writing something every morning has sort of crapped out. This is my first entry in two weeks. I have several good reasons, but at the bottom of my excuses lays the word “discipline.” Changes in my life, my schedule, and my attention prompted me to get away from the things I do in the morning to get going. I stopped reading my few pages. I stopped scribbling my 3 pages longhand. And I stopped giving myself a few minutes to allow what is inside me to float to the surface of my consciousness.

My morning process is never that simple or straightforward, but those are the things I do to get my body, head, and heart in the same place for a few minutes of writing. Without those simple disciplines, I tend to write from my head only. I force ideas together into a reasonable coherence, but that coherence, without the other parts involved, is usually devoid of anything personal or risky.

coffeeSo here I am this morning at my usual table at the window at Starbucks. I have read, I have scribbled, I have sat, and while the rest of the Sunday morning world is waking, I am allowing my head and heart to catch up with my body that has been nudged with a tall dark roast.

To go back to the theme of container and contents, these simple morning disciplines are my container for writing. Each of us has an abundance of creative energy, of deep well of thoughts and insights, and some focus of passionate interest. That’s the content. But unless I am willing to engage in the act of opening the container, of engaging in those simple acts of willful focus, I will not have access to all the good stuff.

What are typical containers for my life and yours? I went to church this morning. The planned and crafted worship service is a container. The music, the rituals, the reciting, the words of the minister all allow me the time to sit, sing, think, listen, or simply drift and wait for that something that clicks, that rises to the surface, that surprises me. That simple moment that may come and go in just a few seconds are worth the hour of sitting in the sanctuary.

All that we do that we consider a routine, a ritual, or a discipline defines a container. What that means to me is that I need to take care of the container, not for the sake of the container, but for the sake of the rich experiences inside. When my childhood family gathered each night for Bible reading and prayers, I was building my container. That ritual was important, though I didn’t know it at the time, but not just for the sake of the ritual. A ritual, whether religious or otherwise, is valuable for the experience it points to or reminds us of. A ritual connects or reconnects us to something vital.

Each morning I go hoping that my coffee, my reading, my scribbling, and my sitting will connect me with something vital, something inside that is authentic, passionate, and usually a bit scary to write. Without that connection, it is just an empty activity.