Monday, December 5, 2011

"With self-discipline, most anything is possible." - Theodore Roosevelt

For the last several years, I've kept my journal on my computer.  Each year gets its own word document and special name.  The first was 2007, which is entitled 2007- Take One.  I assumed I'd have a lapse of journaling, and then come back a little later for what would probably be Take Two.  To my pleasant surprise, I wound up sticking faithfully to that "journal," and subsequently each year has had its own little name.  As the years have gone by, I've put more thought and intention behind the name - almost like declaring a theme for the year.

The title for 2011 has been Discipline.  Looking back on the previous years' New Years Resolutions, I noticed the same things kept coming up over and over.  Although I knew I had made some progress and forward motion, it seemed like I needed to tap into that well of self discipline I knew I had inside me to really make some lasting positive changes in my life.  Overall, I'd say my Year of Discipline has been a success.  It's been a long and winding road with more than a few detours, like any year is, but in the end I'd say I lived up to the title.

With my 27th birthday coming next week (yay!) and New Year's right around the corner from that, I'm starting to get into my New Year reflect-y mood already.  I'm a big New Year's nerd, as I'm sure I've written about before and as if on cue, the yoga books I'm reading have started talking about discipline.

Judith Hanson Lasater's Living Your Yoga has been on my Must Read list for over a year.  I'm finally reading it (thanks for loaning me your copy, Laura Frye!) and her mini-essay on discipline was incredibly eye opening.  She writes of how discipline, to her, used to mean pushing herself and accomplishing neverending to-do lists, which sounds all too familiar to me.

Over time, she says, "I have learned that discipline is less to do with accomplishment and more to do with intention and with commitment."  It's in taking a longer term look at things rather than just the short term - the day's list of to-do's and accomplishments.  For some people, whether they're super Type A or super laid back, "discipline" is a dirty word, like the obnoxious angel on your shoulder reminding you of the things that you should be doing or shouldn't be doing or could be doing better.

Despite how it can intimidate me, I've always had a positive association with the word discipline.  I think this comes from being a ballerina as a young girl (I danced until 14, when my feet rebelled violently against dancing in pointe shoes).  I was in awe of the older girls who would dance with injuries and sickness, at the girls who seemed to subsist on salads.  To me, that was something to be looked up to and emulated.  I wanted to be as mentally strong as those girls, and I think that, although my sense of self discipline luckily hasn't pushed me to do anything unhealthy (nor has it made me perfect by any means), that desire has served me well academically, with my career, and overall in my life.  By the same token, I can be the source of a lot of my own stress.  It can be hard for me to let something go, or to properly prioritize, or not stress that there are going to be dishes in the sink for one night because of my own internal sense of order and discipline.

However, it's just as mentally unhealthy to over idealize or idolize the concept of discipline as it is to avoid it like the plague.  Without a healthy respect for discipline, how can we grow?  As adults, no one holds our hands and tells us what we need to do or be - our fate is completely up to us.  A negative attitude toward discipline leads to personal chaos.

Lasater's shift from accomplishment toward intention really resonated with me and made me think about my number one resolution in this Year of Discipline, which was to practice yoga every single day.  I mainly meant a seated mediation practice, but journaling, asana practice - as long as it was me sitting with an honest intention to practice, I'd say it counts.  I had off-and-on success with this resolution until late August of this year where I've finally found some consistency.

I think this passage below, my favorite of her Discipline essay, helps clearly illustrate the importance of intention behind discipline.

Practice is not about what you get, it is about what you give.  Whether you are driven or resistant, the medicine is the same - do what is truly possible with unwavering commitment to giving yourself to the moment.  Without this intention, practice becomes another task to be completed and loses its ability to transform.  And transformation, or freedom, is the reason for all discipline.

One more thing I'd love to share with you, blogverse, is a blog from Kris Carr's fantastic site,  She has guest bloggers post about all aspects of health - mental, physical, emotional, financial, you name it.  I'll be writing more about Kris Carr in the coming weeks or months - she's a really phenomenal woman whose books I'm just now starting to devour.

The entry I'd like to share is called Sweat with Love by Erin Strutland.  She is a former dancer and writes here about the darker side of discipline I alluded to earlier and more importantly, how to change your thinking and reframe your perspective into something more positive.  It's a must read for Type A yogis, runners, dancers, or other enthusiastic exercisers.

I'm not sure what my focus is going to be for 2012 yet, but I do know that while my previous way of looking at discipline has served me, it can also stress and guilt me.  Moving forward, I'm definitely going to take a different view on what it means to live a disciplined life.  As we tell the kids at Karma Kids - it's a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect.  The same principle applies to life, discipline, and living every day with intention.

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