Monday, June 12, 2006

When it's right to say "no"

Many people are afraid of the word "asceticism" believing it to be a body-hating approach of extreme self-denial. But the word really just means "discipline" and it's about the ability to say "no" to ourselves in a way that is truly beneficial. Here's a passage by Rowan Williams that explains:
Every search for truth involves some kind of "fleeing," some kind of asceticism. Every act of imaginative creation, in science as well as art, needs silence, a wariness about what looks easy. And at a time when politics is increasingly dominated by people's worries about appearance and presentation, about "how it will play"; when the culture of celebrity is a daily trading in illusory images; when show business reaches out tentacles in all directions, we need to know when and how to flee. And we need to bear in mind that it is not other people's folly we are running from so much as our own deep-rooted propensity to be drawn into these games. Remember Macarius's blunt summary, that the world is a place where they make you do stupid things.
There is a simple asceticism to the practice of meditation. We say no to our body's desire to fidget, we say no to the part of us that thinks we should be doing something "useful" instead, we say no to the mind's desire to chase after distractions. Don't be afraid to "flee" - that is to turn away from - that which would take us hostage and take away our inner freedom.


  1. A quote attributed to Stephen Covey (7 Habits fame): It's easy to say no if there is a deeper yes burning within. This is helping me to be more disciplined in my spending habits.

  2. I really like that, Jeff. I read "7 Habits" years ago when it first came out but that statement did not catch my attention at the time. It's really wonderful. Thanks for passing it on.


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