In search of discipline? Borrow it

Sometimes it seems impossible to get out of bed and make the effort to go after what truly excites us

“If you fear change, leave it here.” This was a note I saw taped to a glass jar in a funky restaurant. I chuckled and then it got me thinking, “Why is change so hard for us?” What forces invite us to sit comfortably on the couch of inertia rather than taking the risk or making the effort to go after what truly excites us? For me, and perhaps you, I find one of those forces to be lack of discipline.

My Buddhist refuge name is Tsultrim Mig Gya. It means Discipline Great Vision and represents what my teacher saw as the path to my enlightenment. He defined discipline as “gentle bravery.” I’ve found it takes bravery to pull off a disciplined life and that gentleness with myself, rather than aggression, is key. Fortunately, for much of my life, discipline has been easy to find.

Except for the past seven months. Since coming home from Everest in June, I’ve struggled to escape that very comfortable couch of inertia. The will to get out of bed early in the morning to exercise seemed to have vanished.

I would make a plan, then let it go

What had formerly been easy was now very hard. I would make a plan. Then let it go. Make another plan. Let it go. After several attempts, I decided it just wasn’t time yet. In December, I bid on an exercise boot camp during an auction. To my surprise, I won. I decided I would attend in the new year. I often like to start new projects in the new year. And on Mondays. Fresh beginnings.

I woke before the alarm and was excited, nervous, and wondering, “What would it be like? Would the group leave me in the dust? How out of shape would I be?”

When I’m firmly planted in a disciplined life, nothing gets in my way and I can pull it all off on my own but for now, I am content and grateful to borrow discipline.

When I arrived the leader mentioned it was “Blue Monday,” supposedly the most depressing day of the year because Christmas bills would have arrived and 85 per cent of people who made New Year’s resolutions would already have abandoned them.

It was an intense workout that humbled me. I’ve been back seven times since and realize that for the time being, I am “borrowing discipline” from both the leader and participants. When I think about not going, knowing that everyone else is there gets me there. When I’m firmly planted in a disciplined life, nothing gets in my way and I can pull it all off on my own but for now, I am content and grateful to borrow discipline.

Let yourself borrow for a while

Community helps us get over, through, under, and around the obstacles we face. There is nothing like having someone to hold us accountable when we can’t do that for ourselves. Discipline comes and goes. When it’s gone, it’s OK to borrow from others.

As one Japanese proverb says, “Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight.” There is no failure in falling, only in the failure to get up. If you’ve given up on something lately, vow to begin again – on Monday. Find a community to lend you some discipline and I bet, before long, you too will be off the couch.

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