by Reverend Wayne Walder
Don’t do it that way!
It would be better if you did it … this way!
If you aren’t growing, you are dying!
Don’t you know any better?
I could have written several admonitions to do things better, faster or smarter. I bet you know a few. They all pretend to help. They make us feel inadequate, expecting us to be more disciplined and practiced. Most educators believe this is a bad way to motivate anyone. Yet it is still one of the ways our society, our family, and our friends, try to impose discipline upon us. Sometimes they even use shame, fear and rejection. It is no wonder discipline leaves a bad taste in our mouth. It is no wonder we find discipline so hard to practice. Externally applied discipline can make us want to run away from practice.
Yet self discipline is crucial to our ability to lead a balanced and productive life. It is crucial to our happiness. It is crucial to the healthy working of any society. The discipline of practice is the only way to learn new skills, (or new joys).
How do you practice discipline? How do you cultivate saying no to your indulgence, saying yes to a creative process? What do you need to help ‘practice’ … discipline? Do you need silence, a time away? Do you need to be well rested and out in nature? Do you need the right music or the right moment?
In our brief human lives discipline gives us a perspective that is unavailable in the spur of the moment. Practice gives us the self confidence to risk something new. Continued practice offers us some mastery so we can be creative.
Seeing practice and discipline as a creative act takes some reframing. I noticed this with my nephew. He calls me almost every week – I’m his meditation teacher. One week he told me that he could not handle this ‘discipline thing’. He said, “I’m just not good at it, and maybe when I get older I’ll be better”. I asked him if he had any problem with the practice of smoking. “No”, he said. I asked him why. “I enjoy it” he said.
I wondered if he could enjoy a moment of meditative breathing as he enjoyed a moment of smoking. We did it a few times, we took a breath and noticed it. The soft air, the moving lungs, the turning ribs. I asked him to compare it to having a smoke after a meal. I asked him to feel his belly move and blow the air out until his lungs hurt. I asked him to smell the air. We did it for fifteen minutes and he said it felt like five.
Julie Andrews writes, “Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.”