I struggle with self discipline.
There, I said it, for the whole world to hear.
I suck at sticking to my goals. I’m easily led astray by temptation, social and psychological influences as well as environmental distractions.
Here I am, day 17 of my meditation and winter cleanse challenge. I’ve spent a week away from my usual routine and am feeling uprooted and defeated. I am shocked by how easy it has been to make excuses to not stick to the plan. I am breaking the rules left and right and feeling a little beat up over it.
Sound familiar? I’m sure that I am not alone in this!
So far I’m moving right along with the cleanse segment of the challenge. Though, this week I’m cutting out sugar which is always very hard because with that goes the caffeine. I’m very attached to my morning coffee ritual (habit?). I love the way the coffee sounds as the water percolates and then filters through the grinds and into the small four cup coffee pot. I usually take this time to check my emails and website as the rich aroma of the coffee permeates the air around me. Then I pour the coffee, spoon in the teaspoon of raw sugar and add a splash of my specially decadent soy creamer.
Then I sit down, once again, in front of the computer (another habit I am also trying to conquer). That first cup always tastes so divinely rich and satisfying.
I’m uncomfortable with the mere thought of the loss of this comforting ritual. I’ve caught myself trying to rearrange the cleanse so that I can eliminate coffee and sugar last.
I don’t recall ever having this much difficulty with a cleanse in the past. Why am I so uncomfortable with this?
I’m sure it has to do with what has been coming to my attention in my meditation practice.
When I first began exploring meditation years ago I made the mistake of thinking that sitting in meditation would magically change me. That I would be a better and more enlightened person and that all of the things I dislike about myself would suddenly be different or disappear.
What I’m learning is that meditation is a tool to get more acquainted with myself. I must use it to discover those parts of myself I try to cover up and to accept them as part of me and then to use them for good things or in creative ways to move even closer to living my life according to my authentic self.
I struggle with meditation. I have not had much experience with it nor have I had any lessons other than a few brief moments in Teacher Training. I fidget too much and drive myself crazy with thoughts, my back aches and my feet fall asleep. I added the mantras to the meditation challenge to help me with my monkey brain, hoping to give myself something to focus on. This helped at first, but then things began to arise.
The more I sit with myself the more I hate myself. ~ Pema Chodron/Dharma Talks
As far as removing obstacles with the Ganesh Mantra, Om Gam Ganapatye Namaha, I realized that the only roadblock is myself! Once this thought came to my awareness I stopped meditating. I have not sat since day eight. I hit a roadblock.
Here I was, plowing onward and upward, searching for obstacles outside of myself to clear my path when I just kept bumping into myself!
I did not like what I was seeing in myself.
Discipline is overrated. ~ Danielle Laporte
No, I am not making excuses with this quote. I am not running from myself. I honestly do have a point.
While I think that discipline is necessary to stick to a healthy lifestyle with exercise, diet and mental and physical maintenance, I think it’s also important to know when to take a break.
It’s easy to plow ahead with a challenge or daily routine to get over a hump with health and wellness. However, if one forgets the intention and focuses only on the goals at hand, it’s easy to miss the messages in the journey.
I had to take a break to listen to myself. Of course, I remained true to the cleanse as best I could given my environmental circumstances. I had to know how to adapt as well. I finally stopped being so hard on myself. I remembered to go with the flow, to be gentle and nurturing with myself and to pay attention to what’s going on inside of me. I had to take a break to process the things within me that I am afraid to face.
What’s encouraging about meditation is that even if we shut down, we can no longer shut down in ignorance. We see very clearly that we’re closing off. That in itself begins to illuminate the darkness of ignorance.” ~ Pema Chodron
Without even actively trying, sitting on our cushions or arriving on our mats gives us an opportunity to release and let go of any negative build up in our bodies and minds. Often, we get stuck or avoid this because it is with awareness that we feel this release.
Letting go of anything is hard to do even if we know it’s necessary. When we return to our practice after a small hiatus, we come with more openness and willingness to move forward. We arrive fresh and ready to address lazy habits, unexercised bodies, stagnant hearts, a stale mind and an unheard spirit. A short vacation away from work on self transformation can be just the catalyst needed for change!
Yes, it seems I have made a breakthrough in my meditation. While it’s scary and uncomfortable, it is exactly what I needed to experience. This short moment away from my cushion has allowed me the time to process my new discoveries so that I may return with more of an open heart and mind.
While I sat listening to Pema Chodron’s podcasts on meditation, I discovered some other helpful tips:
“We do not meditate to feel good. We meditate to have open compassionate attentiveness to what is going on and giving room for things to arrive and pass through.”
“We are training to stay with ourselves no matter what, with no judging or labels.”
“Don’t try to come up with answers. Train in softening, relaxing, surrendering.”
“Nurture steadfastness and loyalty to Self.”
“Can you show courage and stay in the fire until you find the blessing?” ~ C. L.
“Tapas (self discipline) is our determined effort to become someone of character and strength.” (From the Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele.) Discipline is to choose what you want most over what you want now, forsaking momentary pleasures. To me this does not mean that we become perfect, it means that when we do falter, we don’t waste the time wallowing or making excuses or blaming others. It’s about taking advantage of the challenging moment and using it as a stepping stone.
Let’s face it. None of us are perfect. We make mistakes and sometimes get caught up in the spontaneous moments of life that can carry us far away from our intentions if we are not careful. Yet, sometimes those moments that lead us seemingly astray offer us the most profound lessons in the end, we just have to be open to them.
Like the bumper sticker says, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
To sum it all up, we do not need to beat ourselves up because we have strayed away from our goals, remembering to remain with the intention. While self discipline is important, it is also important to know when take a break to process and honor the journey. By focusing too much on end results we may forget to remain mindful of the present moments.
Remember to remain gentle and nurturing towards one’s self. Most importantly, when you begin to resist yourself or your circumstances…lighten up! Life is too short to be too serious! Love and let go.
For me, right here and now, discipline is incredibly overrated.
Nichole Gould is the founder of Barefoot Warrior Yoga in The White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a Student of life, yogini, yoga teacher, landscape gardener, single mother, organic pizza waitress and lover of all board sports, she considers herself a jack of much and a master of none. She can also be found dabbling with guitar playing, singing off key, reading from her many stacks of books or writing poetry. Feel feel to peruse her Facebook page or contact her via her website for more insight into her ever curious mind.
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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger