Discipline is an everyday commitment to your worthiness. Most things that require discipline have major long term benefits, be it to our health, happiness, personal or professional success. All that is worth achieving in life requires a focus and determination those less confident are unable to sustain. We must believe we are not only capable, but also deserving of the joy and accomplishments we hope to achieve. While buying myself a chocolate chip cookie from a juice bar the other day (well aware of the irony here), I noticed a wooden placard with a quote from Thomas Jefferson. It read: “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act. Action will delineate and define you.” There are few truer words spoken.
If you want to get a sense of yourself, and of others for that matter, watch them in action. Sure, listen to their words, pay attention to your own thoughts, tune in to subtleties in body language and attitude, but simply pay attention to action, it speaks louder and more boldly than any words can attempt.
Discipline is all about action, moving from thinking to doing. It has very little to do with wanting, trying, or believing, and everything to do with seizing. We must move, even if we’re unsure of the correct direction, we must channel the energy of forward progress and take that first step into something new.
I am personally craving and in need of discipline because I am still in the middle of what feels like a major transition. As many of you know, I recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. Although each are big cities and come with unique challenges, they couldn’t be more different, in climate and in culture.
I’d finally built my teaching and writing career into a level of progress I felt satisfied with, not satisfied enough to just stop and give up, but a level that ignited a confidence in me to keep growing. I could not love my students more, having a modest but loyal following at three studios in such a magnificent city filled me with gratitude I’d never felt.
But those famous Chicago winds came and forced me to show what a genuine yogi I really was (or wasn’t). I left with many tears and slight resistance, choosing to release attachment once I drove out of Illinois. I felt the excitement of opportunity and growth ahead, but I was also scared shitless. I yearned for the same experiences in Chicago, the same successes and joys, to follow me to LA. But for that I needed to grow, adapt and change.
My month long pause in Bali and Thailand was a tremendous gift to allow me to reset. It helped me to be truthful about the issues I still carried: feeling worthy of success, deserving of love, truly capable of living out all these big dreams I had. It helped me to more accurately see how I still wasn’t quite practicing what I was teaching. I lived from passion and enthusiasm, that was no bullshit, but the unconditional love and acceptance of myself, that same sensation I would encourage my students to foster, had yet to take permanent residence within me.
I felt guilt and hypocrisy over my struggle, which I then had to take a step back and reflect: ‘Danielle, you’ve worked to overcome perfectionism and unfair standards you placed on yourself for the past decade. You feeling shame over not being completely over these difficulties, essentially for being human, is precisely what’s keeping you from moving forward and out.’
Bali was therapeutic magic and my emergence back into LA, with the goals of building similar success I had teaching in Chicago had me feeling both inspired and overwhelmed all at once. I had no routine, no work, no friends, and no discipline. I’d carried out a personal practice/ sadhana for roughly a week but I’d made no real efforts to delve deep into my personal growth as I was encouraged to do in Bali.
I forgot all that practice and introspection wouldn’t just magically cling to my heart without my own personal diligence in keeping it there. I felt such love, a real cleansing of old habits, and a strong idea of the woman I was becoming when I left Asia. Now it’s time to continue the work.
It is today that I begin a true sadhana, a 40 day practice that will take form in many areas of my life. The nut shell of my devotion to growth is below:
-Rise by 7. Stretch and smile. Neti. Short asana practice to prepare my body for the day, pranayama (breath practices), a few key asanas/poses, and stillness (contemplation, meditation, repetition of a mantra, etc.) -Throughout my practice, and my day, the mantra I repeat is I AM WORTHY -Devote 2-3 hours to writing and teaching projects -Devote 1-3 hours to widening my yoga and friendship network -No alcohol, limited sugar, less bread, more fruits and veggies -Read, snuggle with my dogs -Cultivate feelings of abundance by keeping a gratitude journal, noting the areas where I’m already rich and full, and opening myself to financial sustainability and ease from this day on -Watch my thoughts, every negative word I say about myself or another, police my complaints and express affirmations and silver linings instead -At least one long hug and one long kiss a day (dogs included and accepted, for the hugging!) -Call at least one loved one a day, e-mail is only form of digital communication, social media is taking a back burner to real life connections and feedback
So this may seem like a lot or like nothing at all but for me, these small steps are pivotal in me maintaining this commitment to myself. When I teach, it is all about my students. I share personal anecdotes in hopes they resonate with my human struggles, but mainly my energy is there to serve them on their path, to help them build strength and love from the inside out.
This sadhana is a method to ensuring I practice what I teach, so I may lead effectively and inspire others to find the same love, gratitude and joy that Yoga has helped me feel. Students and loved ones are major sources for my gratitude and helpful in keeping my accountability. And readers are too.
I toyed with just keeping this sadhana silent, private, but then I realized how much worse I feel when I let others down, recognizing how I seem to let myself down too often, and that’s somehow okay. Well, it’s not. You are worthy of your discipline, acceptance and sincere belief more than any other human being on this planet. And so am I. When we take care of ourselves, we open up a well of generosity, kindness and compassion that we cannot help but give others.
I am taking care of myself so I can take even better care of you, whoever that may be. I do believe that we’re in this together, that we need each other, and there is great strength in allowing that vulnerability to seep in. What I want is to connect deeper to that friend I have within, that sweet and soft essence in me that trusts in my innate goodness and believes in my potential greatness, the voice that knows I am no better and no worse than another, so I can release the stress of competition and comparison, be happy for my fellow human beings’ path while fearlessly able to pursue my own.
In Yoga, we are constantly reminded that everything worth striving for in life takes great effort, discipline and patience. We must be in full acceptance where we are, in whatever step we’re taking toward a greater goal, because life is not a means to an end, it is the end, the be all end all. I would regret spending my life struggling to reach something forever out of my grasp because I never allowed myself to simply Be, to know that where I was, was exactly where I needed to be, and each baby step to progress is a monumental leap in bliss.
I leave you with an image captured by the beautiful Pacific Ocean. This was after my first week teaching here in LA and I was celebrating the joyous years of love and growth by sharing how my discipline in Yoga earned me more than power, strength and control, but a pliability as well, an opening to move forward heart first. Mat is metaphor for life. I carry the same strength, flexibility and discipline in my heart and mind as I do my body. Years ago, this felt far out of reach, but through action and practice, I got there. Who knows where we can all go?
We all have a unique power we cannot even fathom. Believe. You are worthy of discipline. How can you help yourself to better sustain it, believe it and achieve it?
If this resonates with you, please feel welcomed and invited to engage in a dialogue with me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a short piece I wrote on Vulnerability for MindBodyGreen that published today.
You can catch me at the Green Yogi in Manhattan Beach and other studios around the Los Angeles area. I teach private lessons in person and on Skype and I foster long term relationships with my students so that we may continue to grow as happy, healthy humans together. Come eat life with me...