Do the Work

Discipline is one of those fully loaded words. As I contemplate how to describe discipline in a fun, happy, upbeat way I internally roll my eyes and audibly ugh. But it’s really not all that bad. Really.

What comes to mind when you think of discipline? I’m guessing one of your first thoughts may be, “I know I need more of it.” And that statement is always followed by a but… Again, I’m just guessing. But here’s the thing, discipline is not negative or even really all that hard. It’s more the story you tell yourself around that word. That it’s going to be hard.

Discipline is the box we build to create structure and a foundation in our lives. It gives us a place from which to expand and a place in which to contain our whims and distractions.

Discipline leads to liberation. It allows for contentment. It keeps you moving forward.

Think about the promises you make to yourself on a daily basis. “Tomorrow morning,” says totally committed you, “I’m going to get up at 5:30 and walk three miles.” You feel it, you’re going to do it, you know it is the best thing for your physical and mental health, your metabolism and your energy. You put your shoes and socks by the door, lay your clothes out and set your alarm.

5:30 is sooo early and it’s not even light out yet. Weren’t there bears spotted in the neighborhood? Aren’t they out early? I’ll just hit snooze and go for a walk later today. Yeah, later will be better anyway, I won’t have to rush.

What are the chances you’ll go for that afternoon walk? Isn’t a little more likely you’ll just repeat your dedication to the false promise that you’ll go for that bear walk tomorrow morning instead? Any maybe do a few yoga stretches before and after for penance?

When we put off anything that can be done now it tugs at us internally all day creating a slow energy leak like a pin prick in a balloon. By the end of the day there is little left to work with.

Now imagine a scenario in which you rise at the same time every morning, engage in whatever you deem your morning routine – meditation, activity, journaling, reading something that will help you grow – then go about your day. It’s done, your time to honor yourself has been completed. If something comes up later, it won’t prevent you from fulfilling the promise you made to your higher self.

On the level of yoga, tapas translates to fire or to burn. In his book, The Practice of the Yoga Sutra: Sadhana Pada, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait explains that the “literal meaning of tapas is ‘shining heat.’ Tapas is the radiance of life force – it makes us radiant and vibrant. From the standpoint of practice, gathering and imbibing this radiant force is tapas.” We must burn off impurities in a literal and figurative sense. Doing so creates a sense of ease in the body and clarity in the mind. Physical yoga practice does this. You may feel some level of discomfort or burning, you may sweat, breathe a little heavier, you may shake a bit. This is physical tapas in action. While on the mat in your physical practice you may also burn off unhelpful habit patterns or negative thoughts. Off the mat you may become less reactive and embody more peace.

Fire transforms. This is liberation.

Allison Andersen is an owner of Red Sun Yoga, a global wanderer and a philosophy geek. She is the author of two blogs: where you will find stories and photos of her travels, and a place for her to ponder life’s intricacies, inconsistencies and magic.