Discipline and Compassion

Sitting down and putting fingers to keys for this project proved to be difficult.  I not only had to deal with my own insecurities, I had to deal with my own inertia. I had to find the discipline to actually start writing, to go further than just thinking about this project and take a first step. At the same time, I couldn’t beat myself up, admitting defeat before I started. I had to find a little compassion for myself along the way. Finding the balance between these two ideas, discipline and compassion, is one of my guiding principles (#8 on Rules I Live By). Knowing when to push myself, work harder, rise to the challenge, Knowing when to relax, let go, and take a break.

My Vinyasa practice helped me shape this concept. In Vinyasa yoga, which means “moving body with breath” (also referred to as flow or power yoga), class often begins with quiet moments, typically seated/standing meditation or child’s pose. Once the meat of the class begins, you are encouraged to move at your own pace, let your breath guide your movements, and find a child’s pose whenever you need to reconnect with your breath, body or mind.

I was initially uncertain about this idea. I always considered myself to be lazy on the inside about exercise or physical activity- I did it and I enjoyed it, but I never pushed myself as hard as I could. So when presented with the option to take a break at any point- how was I supposed to get stronger, build stamina, or even work up a good sweat?

My fear was only rooted in what I had yet to discover about myself, which was a completely untapped reserve of discipline inside my muscles and mind. When I really listen, tuned into my muscles and breath and tuned out to my mind, I find that my muscles love to work hard. Who knew?! My muscles love to be stressed- so do yours. It’s what they were meant for and it’s how they thrive. I became more willing to step out on the edge physically, to push past it and find out what there was to see “on the other side”.

This mini-epiphany, that I was suddenly someone who loved to work physically and enjoyed being sweaty ALL THE TIME, also gave me newfound appreciation for my compassionate side. I could give myself permission to take breaks guilt-free. Guilt-free!  I can take a child's pose because I know I will work hard again once I return to Warrior II. Or I won't, but I will work hard some other class, some other day.  It doesn't matter, because I can trust in my sense of discipline.  The two ideas reinforce one another.  If you trust yourself enough to know when you need a break and take it (compassion), you can work that much harder without fear. If you trust yourself enough to know you will work hard when it’s time again (discipline), you can rest without worry.

I see this balance between discipline and compassion everywhere now. And when I feel unsettled about an area of my life, I’m usually able to identify that the system is out of whack. I’ve been driving myself too hard and I need to take a break in order to restore harmony. Or I haven’t been showing the follow through and commitment that I need, and I am usually dissatisfied with the results.  It’s a lot like being behind the steering wheel ofa car.  In order to follow your chosen course, sometimes you need to turn the wheel far to the right or way to the left.  Sometimes you even have to reverse or make a u-turn.  But most often, you are making those minute corrections, a little bit right and a little bit left, to keep the car going straight ahead.

Discipline and compassion.  Hold yourself accountable. Love yourself no matter what.

Be well.