I’ve been immersed, recently, in the work of Jungian analyst James Hollis. I was greatly inspired by an excellent podcast interview with James and Tami Simons, that I listened to on Sounds True Audio. I then went on to read James’s book, ‘Living An Examined Life.’
James writes, ‘discipline is love’. This phrase, struck me, and I have been reflecting on it ever since. It makes sense to me, in the light of my own experience. I love that phrase, ‘in the light of my own experience.’ How experience gives ‘body’ to concepts and ideas and makes them ‘real’. So it is with discipline. One might have aspirations, to meditate, exercise, eat healthily, pursue a hobby, give up a bad habit, all great aspirations, but without acting on them, they remain just that, aspirations.
Discipline, gets bad press. When I hear people speak about it, there is often a sense of resistance. This is understandable, when the common understanding is that discipline involves force and endurance. Images of harsh army routines and strict school gym teachers flash into my mind.
The word discipline takes it’s root from the Latin disciplina, meaning instruction, knowledge. Discipline, then, is the act of putting something we know into practice. It’s as simple as that. It means working with all of the feelings of resistance, capitulation and procrastination. I like to think about it terms of short-term and long-term benefit. It really helps.
On a cold morning, the last thing I want to do, is get out of bed and meditate. As I lie, cosy, under the warm duvet, and feel the sting of cold air against my face, there is nowhere I would rather be, than in bed. However, I know, that the short-term pleasure of lying in bed, will not serve me in the long-term. I also know that the short-term discomfort of getting out of bed, will serve the long-term benefits of my meditation practice.
I’ve written before, about finding myself with a 25 year Yoga and meditation practice under my belt. This happened one day at a time. If, at the beginning, I had thought about practicing meditation for 25 years, I would have stayed in bed. It would all have felt too much. One day at a time, it was manageable, and before I knew it, it was 25 years.
‘Discipline involves organising one’s day around activities that have meaning and value to oneself and that therefore support a sense of personal worth.’ Kathleen Speeth
Inconsistent application of effort, will get inconsistent results. It’s simple. If we want positive changes to occur in our lives, we need to apply ourselves. This is not an opportunity for self-flagellation. It’s an opportunity to cultivate self-care and self-love. It’s because we love ourselves, that we lean into resistance and discomfort, that we make the effort to do what is for our ultimate benefit. Discipline is love.
‘The most authentic thing about us
Is our capacity to create, to overcome
To endure, to transform, to love
And to be greater than our suffering
We are best defined by the mystery
That we, are still here, and can still rise