Sunday, December 20, 2009


What we see is not Nature,
but Nature exposed to our method of questioning .

~ W. C. Heisenberg

I've never met anyone who does not struggle with self-discipline. The problem with self-discipline is usually identified as a lack of willpower, a lack of follow through. You commit to a program with every good intention, and wake up a few days later having 'failed.'

A few of us are on the other side of the continuum, so disciplined we ' fail' at things like kindness, spontaneity, and relaxation. One way or another, the struggle to be disciplined takes a lot of energy, often misspent.

There is a convoluted belief about self-discipline that many of us have taken on.

The Belief
"If I were different - better, smarter, thinner, richer, more in control (which I would be if only I had more self-discipline!) - life would be as it should be and I would be happy. As it is, life isn't the way it should be and it's my fault!"

I contend that what we think of as the problem with self-discipline is not the problem at all, and the solutions we try, sincere as they are, lead to frustration and failure. So, as I see it, this belief is not true.

Nothing in life is as matter of fact as 'fault'; no amount of self-discipline will ever give anyone control over life (control is an illusion); happiness does not depend on circumstances; and life is always exactly as it is!

There are two kinds of self-discipline:

1. Strict, harsh, and punishing.
"Do not give in to weakness."
"Your lack of resolve is pathetic."
"Push ahead no matter what."
"You're a failure if you quit."

2. Supported, assisted, and nurtured.
"I will not abandon myself no matter what."
"Deep down this is what I really want."
"I will ask for help if I need it."
"I know I cannot fail if I do this with love."

The first is familiar to us all.

The second, compassionate self-discipline, is nothing other than being present rather than engaged in distracted, unfocused, addictive behaviors based in an I-need-to-fix-myself mentality.

That person is actually paying attention, focusing on what is here to do in this moment, bringing compassion to all aspects of daily life, and discipline has nothing to do with it. We don't lack self-discipline, we lack presence. Compassionate self-discipline is simply allowing the intelligence and generosity that is your authentic nature to guide you in every moment.

With this guidance you will be not only disciplined, you will be spontaneous, clear, awake, aware, efficient, appropriate, respectful, grateful, kind, honest, sincere, expressive, steady, dependable, responsible, peaceful, joyful, and satisfied. These are only a few descriptions of the experience.

Discovering compassionate self-discipline may be easier and harder than you thought. On the one hand, it is not necessary to come up with more sophisticated methods for making your "self" do what your self does not want to do. No more planning, hoping, fearing, and failing. On the other hand, you will need to choose in-the-moment presence over the habitual patterns of a "conditioned mind."

Conditioned Mind

The everyday mind through which we interact with life is the result of a system of brainwashing called 'socialization.' From the first moment of life a child is taught what is right, wrong, ugly, beautiful, worthless, who the right people are, which values are important, which god to believe in, what heaven is, what hell is, how a person should be, how others should be, how the world should be, how people should be punished, what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman... In other words, every aspect of life has been programmed (For most people, 'going beyond' their childhood socialization is simply doing the opposite of what they were taught.) This program -- Whether adhering to it or rebelling against it -- is what we call conditioned mind.

Everything you have attempted for as long as you can remember has been under the direction of a socially and karmically conditioned mind.

"You may now safely turn off your human..."

Every conditioned human being is in a constant, primary relationship with a voice in their head telling them, second by second, what is so, real, true, right, good, beautiful, worthwhile, important, and desirable, as well as what is wrong, bad, to be avoided, unpleasant, ugly, and so on. The voice let's them know how they feel and if they're being the 'right' person. It scans for what's wrong and points out mistakes. In other words, it creates and maintains the reality of each individual.

As you read this the process I am describing is going on. Conditioned mind is taking this in and looking to see if the information is true. Perhaps it's beginning to argue, "Do I agree with this? I don't have a voice in my head pointing out that stuff to me second by second."

That's it! That's the voice.

A casual observation will show you that you are constantly looking somewhere to get the information you're getting about every aspect of life. For instance, you decide to learn a new skill.

The decision, the approach, the beliefs about your abilities, success, failure, and so forth, arise in conditioned mind. You may be aware of voices of enthusiasm or trepidation, and you may hear negative, even punishing voices saying you can't succeed because you have some built-in flaw that will prevent success. As you proceed, you are constantly following the directions, assumptions, and assessments coming from conditioned mind. You look to conditioned mind to tell you how you're doing. Depending on the response you get, you will feel good or bad. Are you learning this new skill quickly and easily? You get to feel good, proud, pleased. Are you learning it faster than others? Better still! Not meeting the standards? Oops. We know what that says about you.

Conditioned mind is framing your life.... We are going to turn the tables on it. Rather than 'it' being in charge, calling the shots, making the decisions about what you do and how you feel, 'you' will have the opportunity to observe 'it' and to realize that you can have your own present moment experience of life. You will have a chance to be in life without the filter of conditioning.

So the question is not
"How do I become more disciplined?"
The question is
"How do I learn to live in the present?"

Making A Change For Good, by Cheri Huber

{Art by John Powell/Programming by DPC}

Soft is stronger than hard,
water stronger than rock,
love stronger than force.

~ Hermann Hesse

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo

“Wisdom is the greatest cleanser”

Sri Yukteswar

Search This Blog

This blog may contain copyrighted material.
Such material is made available for educational
purposes to advance understanding of all facets
of sentient existence...

This constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted
material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107
of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed
without profit.