Discipline, gentleness, and the basis of practice

Noticing where we open up and where to shut down – without praise or blame – is the basis of our practice.
Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

I’ve been thinking a lot about practice and discipline and, as paperkingdoms asked on this post with such insight, “Where’s the sweet point between discipline and gentleness?” When do habits become practice and vice versa? How do we maintain a discipline toward something and still find ways to be gentle about it? Simply noticing, as Pema Chodron suggests, where we open up and shut down?

I keep thinking that, at some point, things just get Easy, like brushing my teeth. That the day feels off if I haven’t done it and it gets to a point where I want to do it, simply because it’s what I do. And perhaps that’s not quite the reality of what my practice is right now and why I do it. And so, of course, that gets me thinking about why I do any of this at all.

***

What’s the tipping point between commitment and dabbling? Where’s the line between being someone who sometimes practices, and a practitioner who sometimes doesn’t? I’m toying with the idea that that bit — stepping over the line, adopting identity, is really where commitment lies. But while I think that’s important, that taking on roles/identities is important, that it’s not the same thing as developing the habits that go along with it (that keep people from pointing and laughing at the so-called Doer who never Does). – from paperkingdoms’ comment on the post, Sneaking up on practice

My curiosity is piqued when I reread the part of the comment above and what rears its head is the statement, “the so-called Doer who never Does.” It resonates because when I first failed at this writing venture, I kept saying it was because I wasn’t practicing. Because I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing. Oh my goodness, I beat myself up over that one. And while there may be some truth in it, there were a lot of other things that went into that not working out.

So now, when I’m trying so hard and wanting so much for this work out, to be able to share these teachings, this practice, this deep seated belief that we are all storytellers and that the world needs our stories… when I don’t practice and when I don’t write as often as I think “I should,” I get really uptight about it.

Perhaps that’s the important part – noticing that I get really uptight and trying to relax into the feeling. That tightening and hardening my heart to the fact that I’m doing the best that I can, that I’m still learning my practice and what it means.

I don’ t want it to be another item on my to do list.

***

I’ve been sitting on the first two parts of this post for nearly two weeks now. I think it’s time to let it go, let it be what it is, and simply sit with it, without judgment.

Isn’t that our practice?

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6 thoughts on “Discipline, gentleness, and the basis of practice

  1. Great big hugs for you, Stephanie.

    I don’t have words yet for everything that happened this weekend. But a lot of it was about not doing what I keep saying I want/need to do. And in the specifics, it’s not exactly about a practice… although it is, when you tease it out.

    But the thing I ended up sitting with today was a desire/fire for “persistent, practiced courage”. And I wanted to send that out into the ether in your general direction. <3

    Which, it has also occurred to me, might be another name for "discipline". But I like mine better, today. ;^)

    Although, on whichever hand we're up to by now, I feel a little more conciliatory toward "discipline" in this context, which I was reminded of this weekend: “It takes discipline to be a free spirit.” — Gabrielle Roth

    • I think the Gabrielle Roth quote sums up how I *want* to see discipline, as that seems a lot of how I understand the Shambhala connotation of it. (Chogyam Trungpa liked to use English words in wake-you-up-not-quite-what-we-think-they-mean was.) How it’s a container of sorts.

      Yet, my brain isn’t quite to that way of what it means…

      I look forward to your thoughts about the weekend. There have been some gems that really have give me food for thought. Reallyreally. Glad you were able to make it :)

      (And in related news, I am slowly talking myself into trying it out. Very s l o o o w l y. But, it’s there. It’s percolating.)

      • It’s not where I am yet, either. But it’s still a good quote.

        <3

        (Eeee! Meant in the most gentle way possible. ;^) )

        • *nod* Agreed. :) It’s good to have in the toolbox, paintbox, whatever metaphor you want to use. Aspiration, right?

          (And I know. *smiles* Dance has been coming up a lot in what I’ve been reading and thinking, and someone so kindly let me know there’s a group in Baltimore….)

          • ::nods:: About half the time my reaction to the Gabrielle quote is more “well, I don’t know that I was aiming for free spirit, really” or even “well, then, you can keep your ‘free spirit’… so there!” ;^P Although, admittedly, freedom of spirit is probably yummy. And also,

            (Lots of love. Sometimes the universe nudges. The floor will be there when you’re ready.)

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