Writings

1st Jan or, The subtle skill of discipline and responsibility


 Today is the first day of the rest of our...year. And lives. It's not more or less important than the rest, in theory just another day, but the belief in the importance of day 1, is deeply ingrained and can easily induce a slight feeling of performance anxiety. 

 

1st Jan or, The subtle skill of discipline and responsibility
It's the day of 'shaping up' for many. We have collectively chosen this day to atone for the previous year's over or under doing, and why not. Maybe we all need a day that offers a clean slate. Kind of like the catholic confession. We go in to the booth, tell the unseen voice on the other side about what we did and how deep our regret is, and as we step out from there with our perscription of Hail mary's, we feel a little bit like we do today. Like we've been given a precious chance to start from zero, to be that 'better' version of ourselves.
Many of us relate to this day by with words like Discipline and Responsibility. Big words that in the beginning of my yoga journey made me break out in hives. They pressed and stressed me with their sheer gravity, and implication to rise to some sort of occasion. Stress and press was not something I needed more of. So, for a couple of years I consciously stayed away from books and teachers that emphasized the importance of 'discisponsibility', until I after some inner debate with myself, knowing that 'discisponsibility' of course was useful for the purpose of my practice, realized that it was only up to me to make friends, and good use of the concept. That in itself, was a good teaching in responsibility.
My reluctance to simply accept discipline and responsibility as helpful, came from this history of insecurity that in the past often led to self destructive behaviour. I was afraid that 'discisponsibility', would kidnap the voice of my inner self flagellating critic. And instead of helping me cultivate an attitude of honest friendliness towards myself and others, I would use it as a way to feel even worse about myself every time I 'failed'.
This version of discipline and responsibility has been thoroughly tried and tested by me in the past. I've used it with diets, 'quitting' of all sorts and once I discovered yoga; I used it to feel like I was becoming/being a better person by doing 'good' or 'the right thing'. Painting a fine layer of appropriate behaviour on top, to better fit the mould of whoever I thought I had to be.
In the end I would always land back in the same place. Sometimes with an even stronger sense of being a failure, since I didn't manage to live up to my own expectations, and always with a strong underlying feeling that there was something underneath that still had been untouched, unexamined.

When you google 'Discipline' you are given a few options as to the meaning of the word, in the Oxforddictionaries the first definition we're given states it to be: "The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience". Hmmm, not really helpful, been there, done that, didn't really enlighten me in any way. If you instead go via to it's latin origins, 'Disciplina', we come a little closer to something usable: " instruction, tuition, teaching, training, education..derived from 'discer': to learn, learn to know, acquire, become acquainted with. A softer, and to me more accurate description, which provides space for a more intelligent training process where patience, trial and error is given space, allowing us to cultivate a resilient 'Never give up attitude'. It also reveals why we are undertaking the task or the education, cause' only by really liking or loving something, will you stay interested long enough to become truly aquainted or well versed in the subject of your choice.
When it comes to 'Responsibility' I choose to give my own non-googled version:
Response Ability. The ability to respond with varying amount of skill, to any given situation or towards any determinate goal.
Both Discipline and Responsibility are empty subjects or actions that in themselves do not refer to any specific goal or aim. What you are training for, what you are learning, or the subject that you respond skilfully to, is up to you. If you want to look good in a bikini or bend backwards with ease, discipline will get you there. If you want to be a good provider and someone who is entrusted important tasks or missions, taking responsibility for providing, or completing your task is essential.

In the bigger context of life wouldn't it be wise to aim our 'discisponsibility' directly towards happiness? In the end, the svelte body, bending backwards and the succesful conclusion of a mission, are goals we think will make us happy, but they provide only a brief version of happiness and we soon crave for another goal to be successfully completed, in order to get a quick fix of satisfaction. It's not happiness per se. For the sake of clarity, let me see if I can outline the kind of happiness I refer to.
Happy, if we revisit the Oxford dictionaries, comes from the Middle English Hap + y, which means: full of luck. It's meaning, is described as "feeling or showing pleasure or contentment."
None of them quite hitting the mark. Luck to me is a passive word, and to describe happiness as 'showing contentment' ...really? Let's instead expand our search.
Some pages indicate that Happiness and the greek word Eudaimonia is a better match and I agree. Eudaimonia gives us: 'human flourishing', "practical or ethical wisdom" and in Aristotle's world:" the highest human good": translations that brings happiness closer to my interpretation, and I think a suitable one in the yogic context.

To use discipline for happiness and to take responsibility for yours, the one with capital H, is not as simple or straight forward as testing it on the 5:2 diet, not as quick in giving results. It's a life time committement, since aspiring to flourish with wisdom for your highest good, requires a resolution that must last for way longer than just this year. But if we today, on this no. 1 of days, look towards the more expansive meaning of discipline, as an instruction, teaching, training, and direct that discipline towards taking full responsability of our happiness, that one with a capital H, chances are that this year 2015, can be a truly enlightening experience

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