We all need discipline. We all need focus. Discipline must be honed, given attention and nurtured. It requires that we commit to giving ourselves something else besides that which is readily available for the taking, easily acquiesced to, or simply given in to. It takes focusing our attention on achieving some kind of goal, whether it be to find a good or more fulfilling job, exercise, eat right, lose weight, connect with our deeper self, or simply to quiet the mind of its usual rumblings, rants, and worries.
Looking around at how we conduct our lives we can begin to see where discipline is needed. It’s really pretty easy. We just need to listen to what we say to ourselves and others all the time. I once had a running conversation with myself that went something like this: “I must get back to myself, try to find a way to reconnect with my creative self, my seeking self, my spiritual self. I feel so far away from her. How do I find her again?” I’d find myself saying this to others as well, that I was trying to find myself again, feeling that I had somehow gotten lost and disconnected from my true path.
It became clear, as I began a more concerted effort to find that lost self, that the inner workings of my mental status had taken me in directions I didn’t necessarily want to go, but eventually found to be the directions I needed to go in, all leading me forward. In my discomfort in life and my disconnect from my spirit I discovered all that I needed to set me on the path to self-discovery and reconnection with the real self that I felt was lost for so long. Indeed she was lost, not in the way I imagined but in a much more profound way. I discovered that she was totally disconnected from life in this world.
I discovered that I’d kept my spirit safely tucked away, protected, or so I thought. Little did I know that she was fed up with being locked away. Little did I know that her biggest desire was to actually live in this world that I found so frightening. It was her push for change that really set her, and me, free. And then, once I opened the door to connecting with her, I realized there was no stopping her. But I also discovered that I had to have some kind of control over the sudden rush of information that she presented me with, all the hidden things about myself that I’d let her keep secret, the things I didn’t want to know about.
Rather than simply have control—I was already an expert at that—it became apparent that I had to become flexible so that the secrets could be revealed at the same time that I could remain comfortably available, present in my life, to work and be there for those who needed me. Thus began a practice of achieving balance, not just when I was in my regular yoga class or working on my recapitulation, but at all times, both awake and asleep.
I soon realized that I was on a path of profound change and that everything had to become part of that path of change. Gradually the discipline I was honing in my yoga practice seeped into all aspects of my life. I didn’t do yoga all day in the usual sense of doing yoga, but I began a new kind of spiritual practice. I intended that the sense of calmness and wellbeing that I experienced in yoga class accompany me throughout each day.
With constant attention on breathing and movement, on how I held myself and how my lungs filled with air or didn’t, I brought a new focus and stability into my life. Every day my yoga extended into more and more hours, as I simply told myself to do yoga all the time: to let my mind be empty, my body loose, my breath naturally flowing. As I focused on my breath going in and out, I began to be more physically present in the world. It became easier and easier to shift away from stagnancy, complacency, and old moods and habits.
This intentional discipline worked then and it still works today. Yoga all the time is still pretty much how I go about my daily life, deepening and bringing a most naturally acquired spiritual practice into every day life by simply noticing my breathing, bringing my attention constantly back into my body, making room for my spirit to accompany me on my journey all the time.
We can only learn by experience. Simply reading about, or thinking about doing something gets us nowhere; we must get experience by doing, and only in allowing ourselves to have experiences can we change. That change will permeate every aspect of who we are, our thoughts, our bodies, our spirits as we discipline ourselves in a most natural and focused way.
Institute a spiritual practice that is simple, natural, and holistically healthy. Simply remind the self throughout the day to return attention to the body. Discipline the mind by focusing it on the body. How is it sitting or standing? How is it breathing? What is it thinking? What voice is speaking; is it saying what you want to hear? Are you in your body? Is your spirit present? Ask the two to go to work with you each day, to be present, attentive, moving and breathing together.
In getting up each morning with the intention of staying fully physically present in the body, a breathing, moving machine that has plenty of room for the spirit to fully live as well, we discover that it is the perfect vessel for transformation. In honing the body, with discipline and effort, we eventually advance into a new self-awareness that allows for new levels of experience where, without fear, we tread with joy and eagerness. This is doing yoga all the time, awareness of self as body, breath, and spirit.
Focusing and breathing,