The need for discipline shows up in everything we do around money, work or spiritual practice. People who are disciplined can persist steadily, day by day, following whatever vision calls them at the moment.
Which means they don’t get sidetracked for long by things like doubt or gossip or malted milk balls, as so many of us do. Like a kid learning to walk, they just pick themselves up after each setback and get back to the business of keeping on keeping on.
I am not one of those disciplined people, and you may not be either.
The Best Meaning of Discipline I Ever Heard
Years ago, hypnotherapist Marilyn Gordon wrote Healing is Remembering Who You Are. Soon after, I saw a quote in Reader’s Digest: “Discipline is remembering what you want.”
Put Marilyn’s title and the Reader’s Digest quote together, and there’s a powerful formula for discipline. I’ve found that formula to be far more effective than any hard internal or external taskmaster. Rather than replace strategies like better organization or motivation, it works well with them. But like any formula, it really won’t work if we don’t let it.
I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to forget who I am. Scared self is always whispering how little I can do; grandiose self is always spinning new possibilities faster than I can even peek at them. “I’m not good enough” self feels desperate for approval and demands a magic answer to marketing or other business problems.
It’s also easy to forget what I truly want, which is really nothing more than integrity, purpose and joy. Integrity is about being authentic, whole, true to self and on the level with others. It’s about being the unique me that is as entitled to the same benefits as anyone else in the universe, and subject to the same laws. Or, in other words, I’m not special and neither are you. I’m not God and neither are you, though we are both children of God.
When I’m in integrity, I can see clearly who I am and what calls me. When I’m out of it, I can’t. It’s as simple as that. Being in that kind of integrity takes care of purpose, so joy naturally follows. Real joy, I mean — not titillation or rude “humor” or false praise or pride or wallowing in the effects of a malted milk ball high.
Coming back to the formula proposed by Marilyn and The Readers Digest, discipline is a matter of always remembering who the Real I is (not the ego, obviously) and what I truly want. And what do I want more than living and working with purpose, integrity and joy in its many forms?
Why’s It So Hard To Stay Disciplined When We So Want What It Gets Us?
The humorist David Roche has often said that “You can be 80 percent sincere 100 percent of the time, or 100 percent sincere 80 percent of the time. It’s in that 20 percent area where you get some slack and you can be yourself.” Actually, I think we are lucky if we are truly sincere or focused or authentic or truly following God’s will 20% of the time.
Once during a recent meditation in church, I realized that I was not even hitting the 2% mark. For each second when I sank into the silence, I spent at least a moment being concerned about something I had forgotten to do, something I considered doing, or rehashing an old worry. Then I remembered a story I had learned while taking cosmologist Brian Swimme‘s class in 1988 at Holy Names University. (The class was filmed as “Canticles of the Cosmos.”
We Are So Like Fish!
Once upon a time, some fish happily swam in and out of the ocean, their true home, as far as they go up a connecting river before the water was no longer salty enough for them. Then one night a great storm closed off the inlet, and all the fish who had been swimming upriver were trapped. Most died, because they could not tolerate the rapidly decreasing levels of salt in the water.
Over time, however, the remaining fish had so well adapted to fresh water that most of them were killed when another great storm re-opened the inlet and brought salt water into the inlet.
How “well” we have adapted to living away from our true source and connection to the divine! How often we allow the storms in our lives to lead us away from the knowledge of who we are and where we belong.
Prayer, I believe, is the basic way we reconnect to source, which is the only way we can remember who we truly are. Discipline is our commitment to living the fruits of that prayer. It’s not easy.
Right now, I am focused. No cravings for malted milk balls, no new ideas for other posts to interfere with the joy of finishing this one. No worries about other work that must be done, for I’m secure — at least for the moment — in the knowledge that I’ll get it all done. Every time I come back into the great ocean of Source, it feels a little more familiar, a little more in resonance with the me who has so often been lost and undoubtedly will be lost again.
That, I am coming to believe, is just the way it is for all of us who are committed to integrating our spirit with our work, our money and every other human endeavor.
As always, many blessings,
Pat McHenry Sullivan