Friday, January 22, 2021

Bringing Yoga to Life - Chapter 7 - The Freedom of Discipline


In Chapter 7 of Bringing Yoga to Life, Donna writes about the freedom of discipline.  Discipline is often defined as a controlled or imposed behavior from a certain kind of training.  One definition on the internet was: 
the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience:
So, it is often seen as unattainable and "a denial of pleasure", but Donna says that the original Latin word means "to impart knowledge" and "to enlighten".  So discipline is meant to be a practice that contains "our thoughts, energy and actions so that we can use ourselves in a potent ways". 

When I first started my practice I was pretty here and there and didn't have a consistent practice.  Even though I knew yoga was good for me I did feel it was a bit of a constraint to try and add one more thing to my day. But, even my more sporadic practice left an impression that there was a lot more to yoga then mere stretches and strengthening poses.  I began setting my alarm to get up and soon was able to get up without needing any push. For me the discipline of yoga has been a freedom.  At first I was adding yoga as something to tick off the list and if I didn't do a practice everyday then I had failed completely.  This discipline though has allowed me to see that even if I miss a day I have not failed because yoga is more then the time on the mat and it has also allowed other things that I thought I had to do fall away.  It is easy to get distracted by the many new things out there, but I had faith in my practice and knew that sticking with it was best, even when shinier things came out.  I like how Donna puts it as, "An important part of learning to channel our energies is increasing our tolerance for staying in the pause between desire and satisfaction."

Donna asks us to consider what happens in the pause between the longing for a feeling of freedom and how we respond to that longing, because she says that is when we make a choice.  
It takes breaking out of our normal habit pattern, and "training ourselves to stay with rather than run from all that we experience".  Donna also talks about our biggest obstacle in perceiving reality as it is is our habit of identifying with and participating in the stuff that fills our mind.

I was reading a few other books and articles at the same time as this chapter and read a similar point in Anthony De Mello's book, The Way to Love, where he writes that how each person responds to events really depends on their programming, which to me means their habits. Someone in the same situation may react completely differently.  "Therefore the problem lies not with reality outside of you but with you, in your programming."  He writes that when feeling insecure one should say to themselves,"If there is anything I can do about the future, right now, I shall do it.  Then I am going to just leave it alone and settle down to enjoy the present moment, because all the experience of my life has shown me that I can only cope with things when they are present not before they occur."

Birjoo Metha, at the 2018 AGM in Ottawa, Ontario that I attended also talked about this.
He called it your epistemic bubble.  He used this word as he explained that "episteme" is about knowledge.  He said that we as humans really cannot remain in a state of doubt, because it causes dissonance.  We learn from that which surrounds us, so if our knowledge is restricted to the same people, websites, newspapers, etc. then the knowledge is coming only from certain sources.  This is happening right from birth. Our five senses are conditioning us to believe the world as we see it. Birjoo said that when you have a world view not solely dependent on the senses, you have victory, or jaya over your senses or indriyas.  That when you understand the restrictive role of the senses in the creation of the asmita or the world around you then you have the ability to go beyond the restrictive limitations or epistemic bubble of the senses, and it results in being able to perceive reality as it is.

So our upbringing and thoughts and habits throughout our life have lead us to this point.  If we are willing to pause and be present we may start to see, feel and react in different ways and find that a disciplined practice can lead us to freedom within.
Donna does mention that resistance to practice occurs when we have not yet formed a clear intention and that until we form a clear intention we cannot rally our energy to align it with our goal.  She eloquently writes that, "once we find the core of our intention, this intention acts like a laser to cut through the endless excuses and evasions."

Years ago I trained for a marathon. Two thoughts helped get me to the end..

1. The story of the Tortoise and the Hare

2. The Little Engine that Could

Some days I just come back to this..
Slow and steady and I think I can.

Peace, Health and Happiness to you,
Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Level 3

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