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January is almost over.  I wonder how many resolutions have been tossed aside, forgotten like old, broken toys?

I think that’s because we do not discipline ourselves to follow through.  Disciple is at the root of discipline and I like the definition of a disciple being a follower, a student, if you will.

We need to decide what we will follow.  If we truly want to follow our resolutions, it makes sense to be like a disciple of your plans.  Stay with them.  Today you might be distracted by something, but tomorrow you can return. defines discipline as “control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishes bad behavior.”  That’s a little harsh.  How about “A way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules.”  A willingness to follow plans.

Can we be better followers, better disciples of what we claim to believe in and want to achieve?

I am re-thinking resolutions this year.  I’ve spoken to several people who are not doing it.  Every year I change my mind – last year I listed the things I wanted to accomplish.  This year I’m thinking about how I want to be.

It doesn’t matter what resolutions you have.  Or even if you have any at all. Still, there may well be things you want to get done.  I know I always have something.  If goals are going to be reached, they need us to follow them like a disciple.

I call them elementals because they are elemental to us all.  Everyone has these things built-in.

 1.  Using the power of Dreams and Visions to create your intent.
Dreams and visions provide the most powerful information.  Those things you dream of or see in happy visions are the things you most want, that you have the most passion for.  This allows you to start off from the best possible place.

 2.  Using Clarity and Guidance to decide on your actions.
You use clarity to listen for Guidance. Clarity comes in between the breaths, in the silence, opening the portals for Guidance. Clarity can come into play after the Guidance, as well.  It gives your steps surety and the clear eye to see what lies ahead.

 3.  Using Discipline and Choice to fuel those actions.
Actions need choice.  You won’t do anything without choice. Discipline helps you to continue to make the choices.  Discipline keeps you coming back to what you’ve chosen.

 4.  Using Openness and Acceptance to allow what comes.
Life doesn’t always move in a straight line. You have to be open to what comes to you.  You many not yet see how it applies to your Intent.  Accept what you get.

 5.  Using Gratitude and Flexibility to listen for your next move.
Having gratitude for what you created expands and shapes it. It also put you in mind to be flexible if the Guidance should take you in a new direction.

If you use these elementals you will find life happens easily, almost effortlessly.

Sometimes life gets too absorbing.  My nose is to the grindstone, trying hard.  But it’s at times like these I need to step back and remember that it’s far more productive to use the “Elementals” to make things happen.

1)  The first step is always to get quiet and look inside. There I can find the inspiration of Guidance.  It is speaking to me through my dreams and visions.  Showing what I want and giving me the match to light the fire.  It reveals my Mission, what I truly want to do.

2)  Next I want to give my clear Attention and Awareness to this Mission.  Tell the truth and own what I want.  Listen, research, and learn what I need to do.  Give it thought and planning to know how to proceed.

3)  Back that up with Consistent Discipline, making the right choices, taking the steps I feel guided to take.  A small amount of effort, repeated regularly, produces results.  Keep taking authentic action.

4)  Along the way, care for myself and my actions with Acceptance and Flexibility.  Allowing myself to dance this way or that, fail or succeed, rest and play. Remaining open to whatever comes my way.

5)  I don’t want to forget to fuel myself with Gratitude and Appreciation.  Keep the talk ever positive, filling the well. Be grateful for whatever I create through my actions. Gratitude will multiply whatever I do.

Return inside for Guidance to check that my mission still feels right. Sharpen my awareness, keep taking conscious steps, take good care, and be grateful for everything I make happen.

Rinse and repeat.

On the one hand, discipline is known as the fortitude to stay with it.  On another, it’s harsh retribution for bad behavior.  Some will point to its root of “disciple” for clues to what this thing really is.  It is, I believe, at its best, a school of practice which you agree to follow.

Discipline is the willingness to get up and do something –

  •  You want to do or have chosen to do.
  •  Others expect you to do.
  •  Everyone else is doing.
  •  You think you should do or you’ve decided is best to do.
  •  You’ve promised to do.

And do it again.

Part of Discipline is the getting up and doing, but it also includes the rules/the practice  which keeps you going.  The commitment and dedication, the following, the discipleship to keep coming back.  It contains a streak of perseverance, which might carry with it shades of retribution, but is merely the willingness to try again.

I like the vision of showing up.  Long ago. I don’t recall if it was Natalie Goldberg or Julia Cameron.  Perhaps Anne La Mott. (Much of their teaching overlaps.  Rather esteemed company in my book!)  As a writer, I was taught to just show up.  Doesn’t much matter what you do. If you can get yourself to the desk, to the writing tablet, you’re half way there.  That is the core of discipline. 

Once you’re there, you can use tricks you pick up for yourself along the way.  For instance, I can usually get into writing something if I read over what I’ve already written about it.  Or, if I take pen in hand (they say that’s more connected to the heart) and put it to paper and just write.  If I just write, free flowing, whatever I’m thinking about the topic at hand, what I want to write about it, I will generate something.  Natalie Goldberg swears by Writing Practice – doing 10 minutes of focused writing to get you warmed up. It’s worked for me more than once. There are many such fire-starters.  Some may suit you better than others.

It always begins with the first step of showing up. Being willing. Or as Paulette Terrels teaches, being willing to be willing.  I use the adage: “A small amount of effort, applied regularly, produces results.”  That regular application is the discipline to show up and show up again. You generate fuel to do that through your commitment to following the practice, the path you have chosen.

An additional observation shows me that when I do that, when I give things time and attention (again, no matter how much), “handling” it as SARK says, I generate momentum for coming back.  When next I come to the task, ask myself to show up,  I often find connections have been made.  That “small amount of effort” allows my subconscious to do some of the work for me. These connections fuel what I call the “head of steam.”  It creates a vortex for me to show up to write, eager to get to it, knowing exactly what I want to say.  (And have some time to stay with it. Amen!)

Libby Gill’s theme for this year is “delivering excellence through discipline.”  This got me to thinking about Discipline.

My mother always said, “It’s a matter of discipline.”  My response was usually, “Ugh!”  Thinking it was going to be difficult and/or involve some form of punishment.  As in I’m going to be disciplined for what I’ve done.  

Her repetitions did pay off, though. (Thanks, mom.)  In some areas of my life, I am very disciplined.  In others I would say I’m as lackadaisical as any wastrel I’ve ever known.  What makes it work here and not there?  Maybe it’s that slanted and narrow view of Discipline.

Discipline has far more delightful refractions than the punitive angle. Discipline, like disciple, speaks of a following.  It might be about following a program or school of thought. As in the Discipline of Martial Arts Training.  It is a Practice.  A regular, ongoing practice.  I do Tai Chi every day so I move better, my systems flow better and it gets me in the mood to meditate. This follows that.  If I do these things that make me feel good/strong/healthy, ipso facto, this follows that, I will do the next thing and I will continue to feel good!

In order for your practice to grow, you need commitment. Commitment is the glue that keeps you in place. So we can look at discipline as a commitment to that Dojo (martial arts school). To whatever it is you decide you want to do. I like the phrase “Begin Again.”  Alcoholics Anonymous says “Keep Coming Back.”  Libby Gill speaks of perseverance in her book, “Traveling Hopefully.”  “Perseverance isn’t drudgery.  It’s a commitment to keep moving forward toward the vision you’ve created of your best possible life.”  You just need the commitment to keep coming back to your practice.

“Moving forward toward your vision” is a practice.  Sharon Salzberg, in an essay called the “Heart of Practice” from her book “A Heart as Wide as the World,” says, “Mindfulness is not something abstract or far away, it comes alive for each of us the moment we begin, and as we begin again.  This is the very heart of practice.”  Of Discipline.  To keep coming back.  The repetitions.

And making the choice.  Am I going to eat that delicious-looking, sweet, fattening donut, or am I going to have my allotment of peanuts instead?  Which shall it be?  Meditate or do the books?  Where is my commitment?  What is my choice?

Discipline, then, adds up to how often you make the same choice, out of your commitment. Ask yourself: does this support or drain me?  Does it take me where I want to go? Or at least in the right direction? The more you answer those questions, the easier it gets to know the right choice, to keep making the same choice, solidify Discipline and make it work for you.  Apply following/commitment/practice/choice Discipline to what you want to do and watch it bring you stellar results!

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