Guidance on Discipline
‘The rewards of self-discipline are many and varied,’ so goes the old saying.
Discipline is a virtue that has been almost ignored by many in modern times. Of course, all people have to apply a certain amount of discipline to their lives or they would simply die of dirty conditions and starvation. So there is a basic understanding in most adults of the need for simple standards. They know that they need to get up in the morning, to wash, to care for their bodies, to look after their offspring and so on. Any musician, or sportsman, knows about the necessity of regular disciplined practice in order to achieve good results.
Discipline can be applied to many aspects of our lives with great effect. It usually involves choosing to do a slightly more difficult thing, rather than the easiest or more instantly appealing. For example you might choose to get up earlier and get some exercise, or walk or run to school rather than getting a lift. Choosing to eat healthier foods is a good discipline; your body will thank you for it! Turning away from the bag of chips and munching an apple instead is often the better decision. Wearing healthy footwear most of the time might not get you full marks in the fashion stakes, but shoes that you can run around freely in will encourage you to be more active, and therefore give you more energy. Shoes that require a clomping or teetering walking style are not going to encourage the growth of a healthy spine or energetic muscles. Fashion victims beware! Discipline sometimes means not ‘following the herd’!
Good discipline suggests doing the things that are good for us regularly, creating a pattern of behaviour or activity that becomes part of our lives. Being disciplined saves time and energy; being prepared is always an advantage.
This is all discipline of a certain sort and very necessary too. However, when it comes to a more personal discipline, spiritual discipline, most people do not have a clue. They do not know how to put one foot in front of the other, spiritually speaking. This is what is so lacking in society today. Yoga scriptures show an understanding that a Universal Energy controls and is part of every living and non-living thing. To us in the West it is known as God. However in many people there is no recognition of the ‘Godhead’ and therefore no understanding that God is accessible to every soul on this planet. The divinity within each person is totally unknown to the majority of western people, although many say they are Christian and that they believe in God. Their belief tends to be an insurance policy belief.
“I’ll believe just in case there is a God and surely there must be, because there is no explanation for the beginning of the Universe. It had to be caused by something. If there is a God and he is a vengeful God then I had better say a few prayers sometimes to keep him happy. If I’m in trouble I’ll ask for help, just in case he’s listening.”
That is as far as it goes in many cases. People have a reluctant half belief in ‘something’. They rest in this unknowing state for the whole of their lives. They ignore the signs; they do not follow up this hunch. They do not pray, they do not make contact. They lead lonely solitary spiritual lives, empty of God.
Many people may read books or hear talks about leading a life of devotion and prayer, and think: “But this cannot be for me, I have to do all the things I have to do to live my life. I have to work. I have to earn money to pay for my house to feed and clothe my family. I don’t have time to pray and meditate.”
They do not realise that one does not have to give up one‘s normal life, but simply make some space in it to allow the ‘Godlight’ through. You can pray while you work, or while you wait for the cooking to be ready, or the washing to finish, or while you travel.
This kind of prayer may simply be words of thanks, or asking for help or greater understanding. If you treat your work as worship that you perform unselfishly, a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction arises.
We need to make time regularly for meditation, each day if possible; ten minutes is better than giving no time at all. It’s good to live prayerfully, being aware of the wonderful gifts given to us by God. Huge changes are not required. Small changes will make the difference between a meaningless existence and a purposeful life.