Tasty Snack or Hasty Smack?

I’m back on the yoga philosophy trail again and I caught myself wondering this morning as I hovered on the edge of discipline looking into the chasm of dreariness, where does healthy self-control end and Professor Gradgrind take over? I know it happens but I can’t quite figure out how.

The yoga term for self-discipline – I was living in Spain when I discovered this and it seemed highly amusing – is tapas. This is an individual process rather than something imposed from outside, though external disciplines can help. When I was living in the yoga centre I learned a great deal about myself, particularly that I was not good at getting up at six a m. Then again, getting up at six did help me to push the boundaries of my life. That was a good discipline. On the other hand asana sessions always began with several rounds of sun salutations which at that time I found utterly crippling. Had I been given some modifications I might have found a way into this practice; as it is, even today I still have a mental block about it. That was not a good discipline.

Discipline from outside is a double-edged sword; you have to know what is enough and what is too much. Over the years I’ve learned to take what helps me and ignore the rest, because in the end what matters is self-discipline. If you can’t control yourself you’re in deep trouble – or everyone else is: look at Trump. But here’s the rub: how much discipline is enough?

When I began writing full-time like most people I had trouble getting into a routine. So I imposed one and made myself work from nine till five with timed breaks for tea and lunch. That was fine initially but after a while it exhausted me because that inflexible routine ignored the real patterns of creativity. Sometimes I need to sit in the garden and think. Sometimes I need to read or go for a walk; some days I must finish early or go mad. Then again there are afternoons when I write, oblivious of time, until I’m called for dinner (I know – lucky me not having to cook.)*

Routine is a good servant but a bad master; in the end you have to follow the river of art no matter where it leads.

Kirk out

*Every woman at some point has to stop writing and put the dinner on. That is her tragedy. No man does: that is his.

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2 thoughts on “Tasty Snack or Hasty Smack?

  1. From reading the book on Neuro Linguistic Programming, I can see how your early experience of those sun salutations persists today, causing that mental block. A way past this would be to think of and focus on the positive feelings from the practice when you catch those early ones.

    Russell Brand recently uploaded a video on the topic of self discipline, but I couldn’t help think he was mixing this up with healthy routines which he has incorporated into his life. Then again, what’s the difference, or is it self discipline we need to build these routines into our lives? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-cpOD7eOB8

  2. Gosh, hadn’t seen him for a while – he looks like wild man of the woods. I’m never quite sure what I think about Russell Brand but I can’t disagree with what he says – except that I’d say, enjoy the practice while you’re doing it; don’t just do it for the sake of future benefit. I have to get out of bed by eight every morning or miss my yoga window and half the time I don’t want to get up at all, but somehow I do, because I know what it feels like when I don’t do it. Then once I’m on my mat it’s all fine.
    Thinking of the positive benefits from the practice is good, but I can’t seem to get rid of the panicky feeling that I’m being stretched beyond my capacities; mind you I think this goes back to sports at school. It wasn’t until I discovered yoga that any physical activity worked for me at all, and I’m sure that’s because of school. Outside school I loved running and jumping and climbing but team sports left me quite cold.
    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts

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