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Freedom of spirit is often freedom from repetition.

What do you repeat (too often) in your life? What keeps happening and happening (and happening)? What are your tendencies?

Do you recognize them all?

Have you ever stopped to analyze them?

It's an interesting concept: inner purification by way of identifying what we repeat.

Our repetitions.

Looking inwardly, we can first check the things we repeat that are right, that bear good fruit; these are things that are natural; they are the repetitions that place us in balance.

With balance comes peace.

When we do good things and repeat good things we are placing the soul in proper arrangement for and alignment with eternity.

Good repetitions are the result of a right heart and discipline.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God," says Psalms 51:10, "and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

But then there are the repetitions that throw us off kilter.

These can be very subtle, under your radar. They can be repeated notions and habits or little thought patterns that cause angst, or anger, or resentment; lust; pride; jealousy.

Little thoughts repeated are magnified.

Little thoughts can have big results when repeated.

We let them play like a broken record.

When all we do and think is routine, it's like the movie Groundhog Day: every day is the same. Nothing is new. We're bored, which can cause depression. We're discouraged. We focus on minutiae (and often on the negative). When every day is like the one before, time whizzes right by us (without spiritual progress). Spirits can attach to inertia.

In prayer, and to our surprise, we may find that two seemingly unrelated negative results are from the same root of something that's a repetition. A tendency to anger may be a direct relative of a tendency to envy, and a repetition of eating one wrong food may lead to desiring other wrong ones -- as a tendency to one immoral act may lead to attraction for others.

You may have a phobia.

You are afraid of crowds. You may have an acute need to avoid the dark. You may be unusually wary of danger. Underneath these all is a repetitious spirit of fear. You may be disturbed. You may have agitation. You may find yourself in a critical mode. You may have a "bad temper." Beneath these things is a repetitious spirit of criticality or anger. You may feel shunned. You may feel unappreciated. You may need to show or "prove" yourself. You may resent those who accomplish whatever they accomplish. There is jealousy. It springs from a spirit of pride that keeps recycling.

It's why -- beyond the obvious wrong repetitions -- we have to search, in prayer, for the root repetitions.

Unlike physical roots, the root system of a repetition may sprout various kinds of weeds.

Once we identify a negative trend, we're halfway toward dispelling it.

When we don't halt a negative repetition -- when we keep chasing our tails, when we're going in circles -- God often will allow or send an event that jolts us from a bad routine.

To repeat yourself can be to defeat yourself.

It can be like sugar: a habit of high-fructose juice in the morning may condition the body to want sugar in the way of alcohol or desserts at night, as this repetition wrongly conditions the body and puts it out of balance. So it can be with the mind. One of the most freeing ways of developing the spirit can be to dispense with certain routine.

Ask God to install a "new and right spirit," a new and right way of wanting, of desiring, of thinking.

We repeat wrong thoughts. One negative thought leads to others. They grow around us. They obscure our goodness. One wrong act of laziness paves the way for another, and then others. Repetition creates grooves and the wrong grooves constrain us. They are fences (separating us from happiness). They may even imprison us. Wrong repetition is also like a cyclone: coming round and round and catching us in a whirlwind until we stop and go against the wind, breaking a vicious cycle.

Only when wrong repetition is identified are we are the path of the kind of balance that brings the most elusive of emotions: inner tranquility.

[resources: A Life of Blessings]

[Note also: Michael Brown retreats: Philadelphia-New Jersey]

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