The Importance of Discipline

Incorporating more discipline into my life on and off the mat has brought me much happiness these days. I will be the first to admit that things haven’t always been this way. In fact, I didn’t fully understand of the power and impact it would have on my life until recently. My days usually consisted of me sleeping in until the last minute, going to work, coming home and lounging on the couch until bedtime. I only cleaned if someone would come over, I had accepted that I was messy and had no intentions of ever changing. Because my routine was sloppy, so was my mind. Because my mind was messy, so was my environment. My messy environment led me to feel purposeless at home. It wasn’t until I started diving into the world of Buddhism and understanding the importance of tidiness in my routine, my home and my actions that I really incorporated discipline into my life.

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Bringing discipline into our lives gives us purpose. It creates a space for us to learn and grow in. Without discipline, we are left feeling aimless and wandering, which leads to sadness and confusion. My house was always a mess, I had no routine and I lacked willpower. I knew what it meant, but I didn’t practice it.

I recently brought this discussion to my yoga classes and invited students to bring more mindfulness to their practice not only with their body, but with their breath and their mind. Bringing “fire” to poses is one way we can bring discipline into our practice– flexing the feet, spreading the fingers, squeezing the inner thighs to name a few. Some of the ways we can work with exercising the mind in this manner could include moving slower than your mind wants to go, focusing the eyes instead of them wandering or darting around and continually coming back to the question, “What am I doing?”. What are doing? Are you in Warrior II thinking about lunch later? In an effort to help people to reign in awareness of their breath, I’ll say, “With every inhale, think to yourself ‘in’, with every exhale, think to yourself ‘out’.” I also asked students to tidy up their transitions; rather than dragging their foot back from a lunge to a plank, LIFT it up and step it back. Put some though into how you’re moving instead of just going on auto pilot, be an active participant in your experience.

Practicing discipline on the mat can give us a glimpse into what it will feels like to incorporate it off of the mat. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, said, “How you conduct yourself when you’re alone is important.” When I first heard that, it meant nothing to me. But now, today, bringing meaning to each and every thing that I do, especially when I’m alone, is how I live my life. I had the realization that if I truly want to take control of my life and my future, I needed to act like it. I don’t stuff food into my mouth mindlessly anymore, I now question where it came from and carefully consider how it will make me feel. I stopped looking at my Facebook and Instagram outside of using it for business. Netflix has been replaced with books. I wake up earlier and go to yoga.  I make sure the kitchen and the cat boxes are cleaned. The laundry gets folded when it comes out of the dryer. It used to be like pulling teeth to get me to do this stuff, but taking charge of these monotonous tasks when they come up is what makes me feel like a far more a put-together person. I AM a more put-together person. And when meditation becomes a part of your life, these once-ordinary tasks become magical and worthwhile. Meditating while you’re folding the laundry or washing the dishes gives you the space to contemplate how you’re bringing more meaning and purpose into your life and that feels GOOD. Bringing discipline into your life is like showing yourself how important you are in this life, it’s how we connect to our inner warrior.

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At the end of the day when it’s time to lounge, I feel accomplished.  And I am far more energized for the next morning because I feel organized in my life. Of course, people can go crazy with discipline and go overboard but I’ve found that the majority of people have the opposite problem. As someone who desperately wanted change and structure in their life for years, I hope to inspire you to make some small changes on your own, to take charge of your life by rearranging your priorities. As someone who was lazy and uninspired for a very long time, I want you to know, if can make these changes, anyone can.

“Without discipline, the small mind of ‘me’ takes over, because that’s our long-established habit. Our mind begins to drift. When we have no direction, it’s hard to be content. We become edgy, anxious, or depressed. We become sloppy, which affects our mental alertness. We become dull and unexpressive in our communication and less productive in our work. We study, yet we don’t learn. Our colleagues feel as if we’re dragging them down. With discipline, we are making a container in which we can grow. Only through discipline can we truly experience our vast mind, the outer limits of our possibilities.”

-“Ruling Your World” by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche