Can having discipline create freedom?

by admin on December 27, 2010

I went to my parent’s house recently. I was looking in the garage and noticing how neat everything was. I hadn’t really noticed it before, but as I waited in the car and let my eyes wander, I noticed it. The bins, the clips for mops and brooms so they’d be neatly stored on the wall. The recycle bins, the neat workbench with its storage sections for tools; everything had its place.

This kind of discipline and attention to detail is not foreign to me. Matter of fact, I have it too. Someone once told me, upon arriving at my house, that it looked like I had it on the market to sell because everything was so neat (“all the books are at right angles on the tables,” they said) It’s unconscious at this point and was that way even when I was growing up. I always loved to re-arrange my room and re-organize all it’s contents. It was one of my favorite projects.

This kind of discipline carried into my schoolwork. One of my favorite things was to buy colored pencils and pens to create the most perfect notes, color-coded and with neat little notes in the margin. This discipline became the backbone of my yoga practice, although I didn’t find yoga until later in life. I relished in the routine of it, the attention to detail, and the need for consistency. I loved the neatness of the studio and as an assistant and later, a teacher, always encouraged students to leave their personal belongings in the lobby. The yoga studio was, in large, part restorative because it was uncluttered.

I started to wonder if all this attention to detail makes me uptight or maybe could it be more freeing? Is it possible that having discipline helps you gain freedom?

Discipline isn’t only displayed in the ways I describe above. Discipline could mean attention to what you eat, how you approach your job, your commitment to your health. But when I think of “discipline,” I think of being uptight, rigid and controlling. So why the epiphany that it’s really “freeing me up?”

I guess the reason is I started to look at it differently. It began over the weekend, when home with my family. We were talking about things that matter: my future and their’s; finances, health, my yoga teaching. We were getting into all sorts of detail, beyond what I knew at the time but what I learned through long and detailed conversations. We set some targets and I left with a lot of personal planning to do to work towards some goals. I thought to myself: if I have the discipline in these areas of my life, I will have such greater peace of mind. The solid foundation I’ll set in each of these areas will give me more than comfort; it’ll allow me to focus on other things because I’ll know the major pieces of my life are in place. Even something like car care was discussed; I’m not the best when it comes to having the discipline to bring my car for regular maintenance checks. But I do know the trauma of having a car break down unexpectedly due to lack of service and I certainly have run my car past the time when the oil is due to be changed. Now, do I want to run my car into the ground? No. Do I want to have to get a new car? No. So, why do I refuse to have the discipline to maintain it regularly? What’s more freeing than being able to drive a healthy car when you need to?

So, in the coming year, discipline will be one of my new mantras. My goal isn’t to focus on discipline from a ‘rigid’ perspective but more from the point of view of how much freer I’ll be and how great I’ll feel knowing that some of these important pieces of my life are being addressed.

It’s going to be hard work but nothing worth it in life ever came easy.

Wish me luck!

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