Discipline is a dirty word

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In yoga philosophy the concept of discipline (specifically self-discipline) is referred to as niyamas. It covers cleanliness, contentment, spiritual austerities, study of sacred scripture and surrender to God. That might not be the kind of discipline you’re used to hearing about, because the restraints we’re used to are what we aren’t allowed to do. Don’t eat that food, don’t act that way, don’t cause trouble and on and on in the same vein so we can fit into society.

Discipline for me is a bit different than both of these concepts. For one, I think that saying no to things I don’t want to do is part of discipline – it moves me closer to who I want to be in the world. If I’m wasting time with things that are not important to me (which is , of course, the most important commodity we all have) I’m allowing myself to be moved away from what I want in life. It sometimes takes great courage to say no. Women, in particular, are meant to be people pleasers, and many of us have allowed pieces of ourselves to disappear or shrink in an effort to please. If people are used to you saying yes to everything, and suddenly you say no, they may feel as though you are being mean or hurting them – and we can’t have that now can we!

What if you approached this differently though. What if when someone asks that you do something that you don’t want to do you simply say no, without getting caught up in the thoughts and feelings of the other person. IF you feel the need to explain, and you are not obligated by any means, simply tell them you are focussed on self-development right now and that means doing and behaving in ways that support that.

Does this mean we never do for others? Of course not. Helping others is very fulfilling and meaningful – especially when it is selfless. People we care for are typically a priority for us. I’d like to give an example of how this might work in real life though. If my employer asks me to stay late to get something done will I do that when I have a sister in need of emotional support right now? Nope. The scenario that moves me in the direction of self-growth through compassion, empathy etc is with my sister. If I’m asked to join a group that I don’t have a lot of interest in because my friend is very interested do I join? Or do I spend my time on the groups that are of most value to me? Obviously I join the group appropriate to me not my friend. We’re on two different journeys after all. I’m quite sure everyone can come up with examples like these.

When we stop growing in life, we stop living in a sense. Growth and the effort toward fulfillment is a lifetime journey and a very fluid one. We don’t reach the end, we simply grow into the next version of ourselves. That’s what keeps the spark alive and keeps us feeling young at heart. I, for one, think that’s pretty important.  This is how we live on purpose.


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