July 26, 2008


Discipline is a bitch. And a half. Ya ever noticed that?

My vegetarianism lasted just as long as I didn’t have to eat anything yucky. My non-consumerism lasted just as long as my poverty. They were surprisingly easy to discard once they no longer suited my lifestyle or my whims. And meditation…let’s not even go there. I haven’t been able to maintain a daily practice for, well, ever actually. I came somewhat close last summer while I was living at the mountain center in the company of a sangha, but that fizzled out once the novelty wore off and the tediousness set in.

I’ve never much bothered with trying for force myself into something I don’t want to do. Oh, I try from time to time. I talk myself into all sorts of things. I’ll turn over a new leaf. Tomorrow, of course, always tomorrow. Someone I once knew liked to say “If you’re not having fun, go do something else,” and isn’t that always the way I’ve lived my life? That’s samsara I guess. Chase the blue butterfly when the red one isn’t pretty enough anymore.

But trying to force yourself into something you’re not, isn’t that just another type of chasing? Another way to deny the perfection of the perfect moment? And if I deny discipline, because after all the present moment is “perfect,” isn’t that just an apathetic copout?

Maybe. Yeah. But the Buddha (really smart guy, that one) had this thing he called the Middle Way. It’s what I like to think of as the “do what you can” doctrine. So that just leads to the question “What can I do?

Well, I’m renewing my commitment to vegetarianism by gradually eliminating meat from my diet. Never too strict, no hard and fast rules. My brother even let the cat out of the bag at a recent family gathering, so maybe I’ll test my new-found veggie-ism next time Grandma serves pot roast and see how that goes. I also want to buy less prepackaged food, more fresh veggies and cheeses, learn to cook a few more things.

I think I had consumerist whiplash this spring, because I spent a lot of money. Clothes, shoes, furniture, books, just plain fun, and it was fun too, but in the end I really don’t think I was that much happier, and now I’ve basically blown whatever little rainy day money I might have had. I’m coming up on a new semester, which always means a massive lump sum financial aid check. I also secured a contract to continue work with Rocky Mountain Institute in the fall, for a good hourly wage. As a result, I’ve turned down the teaching assistantship which would have had me driving 380 miles a week (Yay!). I’m determine to be more responsible and stash some away for emergencies, to do my best to live off my earnings, and to plan all my purchases in advance, save, and budget well.

As for meditation…well, I’m still not even gonna go there.


TMC said...

You're most certainly not alone in any of these struggles. : )

wolfie185 said...

I hear ya, I have to remember to take small steps and look at what I can do. My problem is I look at a huge picture of what I want to accomplish, by doing that the task seems overwhelming so I become lazy via discouragement. Most of the time pain/suffering is the great motivator towards changing my ways. As for mediation I am glad I read Steve Hagen first because he wrote about walking mediation and living in the moment in a way that I could understand it, so I tend to do more of that until get in the habit of longer sitting mediation. Right now I just do short breathing mediations before I leave for work to focus my mind on the positive and compasssion and I do the same at night and give thanks.

Chlirissa said...

It was interesting to read this as someone who has always had an overflow of discipline. I grew up in a military family with an OCD mother, where there were copious amounts of rules to be obeyed and no questions were ever welcome. You do what you have to do; you suck it up when you don't like it; you don't entertain the possibility that life can be any different than what you are enduring at the moment.

I've spent my last six months becoming less disciplined and accomplishing less of everything except lounging. It's been a roller coaster in someways and a stalemate in others, but I've been developing an interesting skill: discerning what makes me feel good.

I spent so much time accepting arbitrary limitations imposed upon my by outside forces and just dealing with whatever, that I never learned to make the space for myself, my wants, and my needs.

With the fall approaching, I'm over joyed at the prospect of actually having structure in my life and beginning all manner of time-and-energy-consuming projects. I need to make sure that is in a way that is responsible not only socially and politically but personally.

My biggest hope for the fall is that I too can find that middle way. There are so many paths, it makes me wonder how many of them can be in the middle...

LesleyB said...

For me as well, discipline in meditation practice can also be a struggle. On obstacles to practice, my teacher said that the problem is we make something out of them (obstacles) and we don't recognize the source of obstacles are from one's mind. In my interpretation it seems like we give our doubts about our practice to much power and as a result waste time not practicing. I try to see laziness and lack of discipline as another part of the suffering of samsara, which in a way motivates me to practice. I dont know if what I wrote makes any sense.. I just wanted to share with you that I struggle as well with consistency. I think it's a common problem in Buddhist practice.

Monica said...

Very true, Lesley! Very wise! But the trick of it is that somewhere between recognizing and doing we all seem to stumple. And that right there, what I just said, is just another way of making obstacles out of nothing. :-)