“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:19
We all know that eating healthy, getting up early, working out etc. is good for us. But why is it hard to start or stick to these healthy ways of living? Answer: The mind!
When I was younger I lacked any type of discipline or focus. My main concern was having a good time, and I didn’t think much about the future or the serious matters of life (it was a much simpler time haha!). I flitted from job to job, following every desire as it arose. I was always hard working and reliable, but I never really achieved anything of real value to me because I was unfocused and more interested in partying. This was probably due to the fact that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life.
When I found Yoga and subsequently decided to make it my career, for the first time in my life I had something to direct my energy towards. In spite of working seven days a week for ten to thirteen hours a day at sea, I still used to find time to practice Yoga daily. My passion for Yoga burned strong.
It wasn’t until my yoga studies in India that I was able to learn and experience the wonderful effects of discipline. Most people shudder at the thought of voluntarily getting up at five am and following a strict daily schedule. (If it doesn’t make you shudder, consider joining our Yoga Ashram Retreat next year 😉 ). I. LOVED. IT. I threw myself into ashram life and I thrived. I learned that discipline or “Tapas” as it is referred to in Yoga, is the base for a healthy mind, body and soul.
Our thoughts have great energy. When we allow this energy to flow without the direction of discipline, it will flow into the path of least resistance and we become a slave to our lower minds desires and habitual thought patterns, whether it be sleeping in late, eating cake, or telling yourself you’re not good enough. When we are able to focus this mental energy, it becomes very powerful and we can achieve great things!
Yoga is built on a foundation of disciplines called “Niyamas”. Niyamas are the second limb of the classical eight limbs of Hatha Yoga as prescribed by the Great Sage Patanjali. Niyama means “rule” or “law” and incorporates discipline in actions and conduct, and in particular our attitude towards ourselves.
There are five Niyamas;
Saucha – purity/cleanliness (in word, thought, deed and even diet)
Santosha – contentment, being satisfied with what we have and cheerful about what we don’t have
Tapas – practice causing positive change, austerity, self discipline and control
Swadhyaya – self study, self reflection
Ishvanapranidhana – surrender of own will to Divine will
Tapas means “heat” or to “burn or cook”. Simon Hass says in “The Book of Dharma”, “It is self-discipline or austerity willingly undertaken to manifest our purpose, which now exists only as an unexpressed potential.”
Swami Sivananda used to rise everyday at 3am and take a cold bath in the River Ganges before doing all his spiritual practices. The level of enthusiasm and self discipline this must have taken is mind blowing.
Olympic Athletes make amazing sacrifices to achieve what they do. People take on super human challenges and conquer them. These people are no different to us. They are just more disciplined.
Of course there is a difference between discipline and punishing yourself. Self mastery isn’t about the no pain no gain mentality. It is about challenging and breaking free from negative or harmful thinking patterns and behaviors, to manifest your true glorious potential for the good of yourself and others.
When I returned from a longer stint in India four years ago, I maintained a strong level of self discipline, rising every day before 6 to meditate and practice before work. However, since leaving my corporate job and having less structure and routine to my days, I have let these good habits slip.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not been a lazy layabout, but I have noticed that the less I direct the energy of the mind, the more complacent I become, the later I get up, the less I meditate and practice. All resulting in less peace and clarity and ultimately less achievement.
It is impossible to create anything of value without discipline. Whether your goal is to climb a mountain, start a business, lose weight, eat better, or just to meditate daily, the first step is to conquer yourself. The mind will give every excuse it has to resist control, but you must be stronger than your strongest excuse. As you start to assert your will over the mind, the will becomes stronger and the mind becomes weaker. As your self-discipline gets stronger, so does your self-respect and self-esteem. That is the beauty of self-discipline…
I love a new day, a new week or a new month to make a positive change, as my conviction feels strongest. So as we start this new week, I resolve to rise earlier, practice more and be less disturbed by the minds desires! Who’s with me?
“Make a change.
Feel the heat of resistance melt away old habits and burn through ruinous conditioning.
Offer negative behavior into the fire of tapas and chart your course towards freedom.”