Rodney Yee defines discipline as being a disciple of something. His teacher, Ramanand Patel, says that the traditional idea of discipline is an imposition on the mind, arguing that it’s impossible to force the mind to do anything. “If you want proof, close your eyes and don’t think of a black cat!” Ramanand suggests that rather than trying to be disciplined, we should devote ourselves to something meaningful.
I appreciate Rodney and Ramanand’s perspectives because I have always struggled with discipline. This is a strange admission coming from someone who spent her entire young life in piano, dance, art, and singing lessons. Wouldn’t spending thousands of hours practicing be considered the epitome of discipline? Well, yes, but with one major distinction: not once in all of those years did my practice ever feel like an imposition. I was, as Rodney suggests, a disciple of my passion.
I have struggled with discipline because in my mind it has always implied obligation — I should be more disciplined about my diet, I should be foam rolling my IT band everyday, I should do more cardio, I should start composting, I should wake up early and write every morning . . . I could go on and on. Let me be clear: It’s not that I don’t care about my IT band or my heart health, because I do. I try my best, it’s just that the idea of discipline feels conditional, like I am somehow incomplete or not good enough if I can’t make it happen.
My relationship to discipline shifted when I started to see it less as an imposition and more as a devotional practice. Bhakti, or devotion, is unconditional discipline. My life became more meaningful when I stopped asking myself, ‘How can I cultivate more discipline?’ and started asking, ‘What is important to me?’ When we focus on what’s important, there is less resistance and our energy flows freely to that which we love.
Use the last of these spacious summer days to take stock. What’s most important to you? Where do you spend your energy? Do your answers add up? Redirect your attention and become a disciple of what you most love. It was always lead you h(om)e.
Photo: Hailey Wist