Thinking about Initiation

There are certain thinkers, like Richard Rohr, who believe “initiation” is a key part of a child’s acculturation that is missing from modern society.

My impression is that initiation is a process that is intentionally designed to produce the following outcomes in the initiate:

  1. Humbled, in the sense of each individual brought to the end of their strength;
  2. Made aware of their dependence upon a higher power;
  3. Made aware of their dependence upon the community;
  4. To emerge with a vision and a sense of purpose for their life in the context of that higher power and community.

How do you do this in a litigious society, and in such a way that is psychically healing and not destructive?

A person is humbled when they come to the end of their own strength, when they recognize their interdependence with others and with the very cosmos itself.  That is, the person who believes himself self-sufficient and perhaps even self-reliant is not humble.

This whole idea of humbling or humiliating a person is repugnant to our modern western society.  We don’t want to humble or humiliate our children.  We want to make them proud, and to think they can do anything.  I don’t think many of us would choose to put our children through an ordeal that we expected to humble or humiliate them.

Probably the closest thing I can think of in modern society to this kind of initiation is the military boot camp.  Per Wikipedia regarding recruit training:

“…if a recruit cannot be relied upon to obey orders and follow instructions in routine matters it is unlikely they will be reliable in a combat situation…the recruit who can’t work as part of a team and comply with the routine tasks of basic training, therefore, is more likely to place themselves, comrades and the mission in jeopardy.

I believe Rohr’s contention, and that of others like him, is that when we fail to intiate children into adulthood, the resulting adults will be toxic to society until they somehow stumble upon these realizations on their own, in a way that is more likely to be harmful both to society and the individual.

Persistent Behavior

Persistence comes of our belief that we will accomplish what we’ve set out to do.  How do we build that belief if we don’t already have it?  Where does that belief come from in those that do have it?

I remember reading in Duhigg’s The Power of Habit about Michael Phelps.  His coach, Bob Bowman, believed the key to winning was building the right routines.  Routines built of small wins; small wins that built preparedness, confidence, and a sense of calm; which in turn led to a series of record setting victories on one of the world’s biggest stages: the Olympics.

My secret dream since college has been “to be a writer.”  But as soon as I turn my thoughts from “practicing writing” to “being a writer” I’m a deer in the headlights.  It was the same way with “practicing mathematics” versus “being a mathematician.”  One perspective keeps my pencil moving, the other keeps me from even getting started.

I thought writing a 250 word essay every day would be easy.  It isn’t.

“Being a writer” isn’t a small win.  In fact it isn’t even well defined.  Does writing this essay make me a writer?  Or writing a book that never gets published?  Or writing an article for a newspaper or magazine?  It’s too vague; and “Being a writer” focuses on identity rather than practice.

Obviously I’m no expert on this matter.  But I suspect the key is to have a well defined and very specific routine that leads to the behavior required to produce the desired outcome.  For example if you, like me, are interested in writing essays here is “How to Write an Essay – 10 Easy Steps.”

How about you?  Do you struggle with persistence?  Or are you one of those who seem able to beat down any obstacle that stands in your way?  Do you understand where your persistence comes from?  Please share your thoughts with me.

Practicing Persistence

Why do you persist in your practice? What do you do when you get discouraged? How do you make yourself do it again when everything in you says “No mas!”?

I am trying to learn the answers to these questions. So please share your experience with me.

It is easier to quit when I lose sight of what I’m trying to accomplish, or lose faith that I can accomplish it, or lose the expectation that my practice will bear fruit.

So to persist, I need to continually revisit and sharpen the vision or description of the expected results of my practice in all its blossoming glory.

I need to carve my practice into a series of small achievable steps of gradually increasing levels of difficulty, with well defined milestones along the way. These milestones are the “small wins” that will build my confidence and my expectation of future success.

I need to document these wins, so I can go back and look at them, and remind myself when I’m discouraged that I have succeeded in the past.

I need to surround myself with like minded individuals, who share in these experiences, who share their encouragement, with a mutual expectation of success.

I need a mentor who is a model of practice, persistence, and who has already accomplished what I want to achieve.