Certain words conjure up very specific images. If you say the word ‘dungeon’ almost everyone will have a very similar visual of a dark, damp underground nightmare filled with ancient cages housing skeletons trapped in chains attached to the wall. There’s not much room for interpretation here.
But when we hear a word like ‘discipline’ it means something quite different to each person. If you ask a marine what that word means versus someone with a severe love of sweet things, you’ll get a completely divergent interpretation.
What do you associate with discipline? Why is discipline such an important quality to cultivate? Dalai Lama XIV described it from the point of view of ahimsa, non-harming. “A disciplined mind leads to happiness. And an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.” It’s impossible to debate. When was the last time you felt upset with yourself? Did you fly off the handle in an argument, over-eat, blow off working out, miss a deadline because of procrastination, or forget an important meeting because you didn’t write it down? Everyone can identify with the uncomfortable distress that couples with a lack of discipline. Then why do we resist it? Why do we choose to suffer instead?
The late Jim Rohn, world-renowned success guru, said, “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better”. Can I get a “hell yeah”? The advice of just do better applies to us much more often than we’d like to admit. Can we adapt our brains to see this as good news? Can we learn to try harder, practice more, not give up, and put more time in instead of feeling badly about ourselves and look to other people and things to makes us feel better? I think so.
A nurturing, non-judgmental place to begin this endeavor is to get the hell on your yoga mat. I won’t be offended if you abandon this article until later to go do a few stretches. The time is now. Stop finding excuses for why we can’t; it won’t ever get us closer to our goals. Identifying reasons why we can, should, and will is the well-lit pathway to developing a more disciplined approach to our lives.
Here comes Jim Rohn again. “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.” Before you get all up in arms, arguing that your mat is your safe haven from the world, and it’s where you come to just be, consider what you accomplish every time you decide to unroll it and begin. You accomplish a more comfortable body. You achieve a higher quality of breath. You obtain a deeper sense of self.
To truly develop discipline on the mat, we need to begin with a set of goals. Start small. “I’ll be at class at least ten minutes before it’s set to begin.” “I will not eat for two hours before class, and make certain I’m well hydrated.” “I’ll go to at least three classes every week.” Once you’ve carried through on small goals for a full week, reflect on the changes you feel. Are you proud of yourself? Do you feel stronger and more focused? Are you ruminating less?
Once you’ve executed smaller, easily obtained goals, go a little bigger. Is there a posture you’d like to be able to do that you currently can’t? What are the postures that need to be both practiced and achieved to get you closer to your goal pose? How often do you practice these poses? Is the pose you’ve set your sights on something that you can accomplish with practice, or is it something your body isn’t going to cooperate with? Honesty with one self is a large part of being disciplined. Without acknowledging what’s true, it’s fairly impossible to set reasonable objectives. But once we’ve identified what we want, and what we need to do to get there, the work of dedicated practice begins. Practicing as much as you can means you see a proverbial mat everywhere.
Every highly advanced physical practitioner I know works their ass off. They practice every single day for at least ninety minutes, and often longer. That’s the thing about discipline; it’s much easier to watch television, nap, or internet-surf. Man do I love playing online backgammon. It’s one of my favorite procrastination tools, and I’m fond of telling myself, “Just one more game.” It’s not about beating ourselves up, and feeling terrible. It’s about doing the thing we’ve decided we want to acquire if our objective is enticing enough to resist all of the above and just practice. The only trick here is moving from thinking and talking about it to actually performing it.
Is there a time of day you’re most apt to want to practice? Put it on your calendar and be unwilling to schedule anything else at that time. Develop a mantra or find a quote that pushes you to do the damn thing. It’s never about pushing yourself beyond your limitations. Discipline lives there too, and respect for your limitations will keep you away from likely injuries. But honestly, do you need to drop into Child’s Pose, or do you just feel like it? Pushing ourselves in ways that propel us is discipline in action. Once you start to witness real progress, it’s easier to stay dedicated.
By Lara Falberg
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