What is discipline? Very simply, it can be characterized as exercise of will. In this regard, it seems to be clearly related to choice and personal power. However, in most popular notions of discipline, there is also an element of overcoming or obliterating opposition, particularly resistance or opposition arising from personal desires.
Thus, exercising discipline in following a diet or doing work, for example, is commonly seen as a struggle between what you “know” to be true or best and what you might prefer to do in the moment. Discipline in this perspective is a matter of denying yourself “for your own good.”
Two things become immediately obvious in this respect. One is that such discipline rarely works. It can feel like locking yourself into a straightjacket to slavishly follow whatever routine or course you have accepted as the right thing to do. No wonder that diets usually fail. The part of yourself that you deny only grows stronger and more insistent with continued denial.
Ultimately it can (and usually does) completely overwhelm the discipline, at which point the relief of getting out of the metaphorical straightjacket combines with the relishment of indulging in foods or activities that have been denied to make the sense of exuberant relief and freedom at least momentarily intoxicating.
In contrast, if discipline is not overwhelmed, opposition to the adopted routine is ultimately crushed. Along with the opposition, of course, the spirit of that opposition is crushed or disowned as well. This doesn’t sound like it is a problem until you recall that the opposition or resistance that you crush is coming from you. It is the part of the self that you deny in exercising discipline. In crushing that spirit, you are crushing a part of yourself. This can lead to a pervasive feeling of hopelessness and despair that drains the sparkle and savor out of life.
Between these two extremes, there lies constant struggle. As long as this struggle goes on, the march toward ultimate loss of soul continues and the prospects for orgiastic surrender to rampant desires amidst the ruins of your aspirations or joyless victory in the sterile landscape of discipline loom larger and larger.
By setting yourself in opposition to yourself, you set yourself up for defeat one way or another. Either your discipline succeeds and you decimate your intuition and flow in the name of crushing uncontrolled impulses or your discipline fails and you lose your intention in the avalanche of pent-up desires. It’s an interesting game in which, like all of the games of ego and illusion, the only winning move is not to play. By deigning to play at all you accept that the principle part of the illusion – that there is separation, for example between what you do and what you are – is real and important.
It is in your acceptance of this illusion as fact that you accept the notion that you cannot trust yourself and thus lose yourself. Instead, consider that your passions are valuable instead of annoying distractions. Trust yourself. If you feel drawn toward a certain food or activity, trust that there is good reason for that. Either it is an expression of your deepest being or it is an expression of something that blocks your deepest being.
If it is the latter, then as soon as you gain clarity about what it is and why you have put it in your way, you can recognize and exercise the freedom to release it and heal the wound it is connected to. In healing the wound, you increase the level of freedom you have to express and enjoy your deepest truth.
Of course, distinguishing between pure expressions of your being and expressions of blockages can be tricky. However, in both cases, the expression itself is an important key to unlocking the truth and your connection to it. To be sure, tools and support are available to assist anyone who sincerely wants to become free and clear and many of the most useful begin with honest expression and exploration of whatever is present.
As blocks are recognized and expressed, a remarkable thing begins to emerge. It slowly becomes clear that the things your deepest being calls you to do and enjoy are the things that are best for you. In other words, as you clean up yourself, the conflict between what you “ought to do” and what you want to do disappears. It becomes apparent that you are drawn to eat certain foods, engage in certain activities, and associate with certain people (for example) and not others and that the things you are drawn to are good for you.
Discipline is no longer an issue at this point because doing what is good for you is the easiest thing to do. Things that are not good for you are not attractive, even though they might have seemed alluring in the past. Even contemplating doing them is difficult because to do them, you would have to actively ignore the awareness that you don’t want to do them and that you are not having fun.
A path to this happy state lies through awareness. Notice what you are feeling and what those feelings remind you of. Let go of expectations, attachments, and judgments. As you bring greater levels of pure awareness to whatever is present in each moment, your ability to distinguish between your truth and your blocks will grow. As your discernment grows sharper, your ability to choose grows with it. Eventually, you come to recognize that doing the right thing is the easiest thing you can do.
© 2012, David Park. All Rights Reserved.
”Easy Discipline” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.