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Discipline – Got it or Not

It’s really amazing how one simple word can bring with it so much energy and angst!  “Discipline” is definitely one such word – one that accompanies us often from childhood all the way through to where we stand today as adults.  Ever notice the harshness in it?  Or is it simply seriousness?  Difficult to say, and of course, it depends on our first introduction to the many layers underneath the linear aspects of its ten individual letters.

I suspect that each of us has our own story – the story of our relationship to discipline.  Maybe it began at a time when you were “disciplined” as a child or were criticized for a lack of discipline.  How does this translate into your present attitude toward being disciplined in the way you approach your practice of yoga or meditation?  Does “discipline” have to mean that you show up to practice every day for a certain period of time, even that you show up in a certain way?  I’m not so sure.

It would seem that discipline generally applies to those practices which we do not embrace easily.  So, it takes some resolve to get on the mat or the cushion and then more energy to follow through with what we are there to do.    I might add that there seems some sense of obligation or doing the right thing that accompanies this resolve.  Interesting that we seldom speak of activities of love or true enjoyment by using the word “discipline.”  When I think of doing an activity that I love, there is an inner drive that pulls me toward it even when I’m not actually engaged in it.  My thoughts don’t dwell in a negative space that overflows with berating words when I haven’t done it everyday.  Perhaps this is in part because there are no “shoulds” attached to these activities – they feel much more like gifts and easy to welcome when they do happen.

How would it be to face your yoga practice or sitting in meditation as though you were accepting a most precious gift?  If you show up so that your presence is drawn there by this inner drive, there may be more excitement at what can happen during these moments ahead.  Even if you feel you are still learning technique, still developing the skills needed to feel that you are accomplished at yoga or meditating, can you be a loving presence for yourself in this practice?  Perhaps that is, in truth, the bottom line – that you show up with compassion for yourself in the doing.  Even if you are a beginner, or a beginner again, you show up as if you are about to receive a wonderful gift.

This isn’t about the work required.  A change in attitude doesn’t mean that the practice will be easy, although you can explore the possibility of being more at ease with it.  The point is that how you frame the experience will undoubtedly influence what your practice will be like.  Of course, it will be different on different days.  No point trying to introduce sameness.   But honestly, doesn’t receiving your practice as a gift feel so much more supportive to moving forward with it than a more “disciplined” approach.  I can already hear some of you saying, “But sometimes I need the kick in the ass that comes with discipline in order to get on my mat or my cushion!”  So, perhaps at times like these, what you really need is to give yourself the “kick ass” gift of compassion!

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