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Finding Freedom in Discipline
Work/Life Balance

Finding Freedom in Discipline 

One of my very first spiritual teachers would often use this phrase in his teachings: “There is freedom in discipline.” I was in my early twenties, and every time he would say it, I could feel this childish disgruntled growl happening inside of me. Thank goodness, it was a silent growl otherwise I’d be feeling quite embarrassed by it now that I know how true this sentence is (over 20 years later). 

I had always equated the word discipline with restriction and constriction, like I had been in trouble and had been grounded by my parents because I thought it meant I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do.  Obviously, discipline was not something that I liked or wanted as a young person attempting to find my autonomy in the world. 

What my teacher actually meant is that when you lovingly create structure and guidelines in your world, it helps you immensely, and the payoff is experiencing more freedom in the rest of your life. As a simple example, when you have set work hours, it’s easy to create set hours for play. When you have a regular mindfulness meditation practice, your mind experiences some constraints for a regular period of time allowing it lots of freedom to be creative once that time is over. If you go to the gym everyday, your body gets used to the discipline of a physical practice so that when that is done, it knows it can fully relax. If you are in loving discipline with healthy food choices, the result is a healthier body. If you are devoted to a daily practice with a creative endeavor like painting or writing even just for a few minutes a day, you will eventually get to a place of more mastery with those hobbies. 

When I shifted my definition of discipline to being a devoted disciple of something that was really good and helpful for me, it took on a very different meaning. It has now become a massive act of self care and self love to have a regular practice of devoted discipline to things that are good for me. And this has shifted soooo much about how I respond to “constraints.” Those “constraints” now create expansion. 

Our physical, mental, emotional, and psychological systems all seem to really like this experience of focused, intense engagement in something (disciplined action) followed by creative freedom and relaxation (flow). This is why yogis love the concept of being fully engaged by the various asanas (postures) and then being fully disengaged by going into the relaxation at the end—which is just as important. 

I encourage you to think on where in your life you can create more joyful discipline that will assist you in creating more freedom and expansion. 

Here’s a little pro-tip on how to start creating more loving discipline: Start with a simple daily practice that feels really doable (like almost laughably doable). This can be as simple as a three-minute meditation or a five-minute writing practice, or a 10-minute walk. It’s always a good idea to start small and actually do the thing instead of making a giant list and not doing it—because you are building trust in yourself. If you commit to a three-minute daily meditation practice and do it everyday, your system will start registering that you are serious about doing what you say you’re going to do. This makes the commitment easier, and once those three-minutes a day start to feel easy, you can add a little bit more. 

These are the teeny tiny steps towards mastery. You’ve got this.

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