What Could Discipline Possibly Have to Do With Feeling Good?
I stared back into her penetrating gaze. I adjusted and sat up a bit taller on my cushion. I wanted to please her. So badly. It had been a long time since there had been a leader I wanted to follow. I was currently in a free fall professionally. I couldn’t abide my medical practice and felt terribly unsure of my purpose. And, I wanted what she had: an unshakeable faith. So, I was listening.
Many in our group of shamanic students had been coming late to class, talking when we were asked to be silent, and generally misbehaving.
After a long silence, she had said to our unruly group, very slowly and deliberately,
“There is a discipline to this work.”
I gulped. How many times had I railed against authority, bucked the rules, judged whoever was “in charge”, refused to undertake certain routines or habits because someone told me it would be beneficial? Instead, I told myself I was special. I was unique. I didn’t need any of what “they” were offering. I was above the law. I had been behaving during this class but, this leadership acceptance (or was it surrender?) was new for me. I wanted to know what she knew. To possess the love and compassion she had.
Discipline: The very word triggered the beJesus out of me. Immediately after hearing this word I had TOTAL RECALL of all the hundreds of times I had failed to do what I said I was going to do: stop eating sugar, exercise three times a week, or do some activity with my kids. It reminded me of feeling hungry and exhausted during swim team practice in high school and wanting to quit. Of bailing out of commitments I had made. I wondered if discipline was a gene I just didn’t possess.
If, like me, you too have a strong inner rebel, you may be asking, “But, how do feeling good and discipline go together Sarah? It sounds like a sunny military academy? Or a warm, fuzzy tax preparation marathon? I thought you were all about being in bliss? I am, and I want to clarify something.
As I have become more and more aware of the undisciplined part of me (her mantra: Don’t you DARE tell me what to do!), I’ve grown more curious about what she needs. She’s a part of me who wants to color outside the lines and just be herself and she’s extremely wary of those who would try to impose fences in her pasture. And, I’ve noticed how she’s held me back.
For example: At least a few times a year, I take myself to retreats and conferences to recharge and to learn. I find that if I don’t ask my inner rebel to rest and lie low, I find myself so caught up in critiquing the leader (the one I admire which is why I signed up!), the method or (worst case scenario) EVERYTHING single thing that is happening.
Consequently, I don’t get to my deepest inner work.
I don’t witness the beauty unfolding.
I’m too busy have an inner resist-fest.
Recently, I decided to go visit my inner rebel using Shamanic journey/drumming. You can learn the technique here. I asked my Core beastie, my main spirit animal who happens to be a bear, to introduce us. There she was: a teen “me” at age 15 wearing my letter jacket…utterly pissed off al all the adults telling her what she needed to do (mom, teachers, coaches, upperclassmen etc.). She had an unfortunate haircut that she thought would be cool but instead made her feel like hiding. I calmly explained that I was now done with high school, college and medical school. We were now FREE to (in large part) do what we like!
She seemed to soften a bit. I asked her what she needed. What she said next surprised me! She just wanted to paint Not perfectly, or to make a “good” painting. She’s sick of trying to be the best student. I agreed to let her paint and I asked her if she would stop fighting everything so much. She agreed to back down. Since this journey, I have been feeling more at ease with my “disciplines”. And, I must confess, I haven’t yet made time to let her paint.
Do you have an inner rebel that mucks things up every time you try to: Stop drinking merlot every night for dinner, Institute a healthy eating program, Practice your bongo drumming, or To polish and refine a creative project?
If so, I invite you to take a shamanic journey with your favorite loving and compassionate spirit (learn how here) , or simply close your eyes for a moment and conjure up your inner rebel up in your mind’s eye. How old is she/he? What haircut is she sporting? What’s the expression on her face? Ask her why she’s so upset. Ask her what she needs. Reassure her that you will provide it for her .
My business tag line is “Follow Your Feel Good” which can be a bit confusing. Am I a hedonistic maniac? Do I honestly believe that pursuing pleasure alone leads to an absurdly good life?
I do believe that feeling good is a peaceful, calm and, at times, joyous state that is achieved (and maintained!) through discipline. And from that state, we can be guided intuitively to know what the next right step is to take (So, we can follow and be led from that FEEL GOOD state).
We all want certain things.
Here are some of the things I want:
I want to bring buoyancy and inspiration to the world with my writing….
so, I’ll need to sit, butt in chair, daily/weekly or monthly to get there.
I want to improve my relationship to food…
So, I’ll need to pay attention to what I am eating and why I’m eating it and do other daily practices that support this.
I want to help others who long to heal….
So, I’ll need to continue to do my personal work and to develop a capacity to hold space for others to heal no matter how angry, scared or hopeless they are feeling.
I want to have an unshakeable faith….
So, I’ll need to connect daily with God/my higher power/the Universe in order to pray and be guided.
There are more, and I know you have things you want too.
The degree to which I am able to do the things I say I want to do (To write. To eat to nourish my body. To help others heal. To have an unshakeable faith) is a measure of my integrity. So is the number of pages I’ve written. The food I put in my mouth today. The number of days out of the week I meditate and the quality of my daily prayers. And these things require that I have discipline. Not perfection, but a daily plan to complete these things that matter deeply to me.
And nothing ( feels better than having integrity with yourself. It’s a sweet fortress.
The word discipline, to me, has come to mean “daily habitual and radical acts of self love”.
It looks like waking up each morning and, as best I can, to take the actions that I know (or I trust) will lead me where I want to go. My inner rebel still likes to lie in bed, sometimes, after the 5:00am alarm goes off to scroll through Facebook instead of meditating right away. I now realize that I’m just having a hard time loving myself enough to do it at the moment and I try to figure out what I need. Which reminds me that I need to go paint because that is what I promised her I would do.
What do you want? (for example: To write a book, To be in a healthy body, A loving partnership)
What small habit, done in the morning (the premier time for most humans except true night owls to do important things), would support this desire? (for example: To write 300 words a day, To find a walking buddy, to sit and listen to your partner for ten minutes a day without interrupting.)
To read more about creating powerful habits to support yourself check out the book “Atomic Habits” By James Clear.
Curious why you aren’t doing the things you say you long to do? Working with people like you is what I do! Hand in hand we can help you get where you want to go, together.