It's Joy Tip Wednesday and January is more than half way over. Crazy. I can hardly believe it. This week I was struck by a passage I read on Monday from Swami Satchidananda. He was reflecting on how we can transcend the circumstances of mind, body, life with two magic words: dedication and discipline.
Dedication and discipline have been on my mind a lot these days. How they seem to be the boat that steadily carry me through the inevitable ebbs and flows of life. Here's the thing. Some people think I'm utopic. That I don't live in reality because I'm such an optimist. I'd say in fact it's the opposite. Precisely because I realize reality is not a utopia, I know my dedication to optimism will carry me through. I spent enough time studying and seeing violent conflict in my life that I know life is not utopic. And because I know my mind tends to be quite the self judgmental perfectionist, I know I'd better cultivate something else if I hope to get stuff done.
It's like this. If I'm not dedicated to optimism, to the mantra that guides me these days "Be love. Choose joy. Exercise courage" then the not fun parts of life will gobble me up. Because let's face it...life is tough sometimes. It's challenging. It's not all rainbows and cupcakes. But that's perfectly ok. And it's ok because I'm choosing not to become hostage to all the external circumstances. And when I forget, I give my power away, I allow everything happening out there to dictate everything that's happening in here (my heart and my head)...and boy does it feel helpless. All of the power I have in life is dashed out the window. All of the opportunity for choice is gone. All the space for creating something different snatched up. And what I'm left with is trying to swim...coping.
I know coping. I did it for years. It was painful. And sometimes I fall back into it. Some people believe what I would call living in a state of coping is living in a state of reality. It was painful for me, so I decided to choose something different. Call it reality, call it what you want. But since I starting a different way of being in the world, I've been more productive, created huge shifts, and fell in love with the wonder of life all over again. So I'm going to keep doing that thing called choosing something different.
Here's what I did. I decided to be dedicated to optimism, opportunity, possibility, choice, design, power, and expansion. All of these things reside in myself which means in the moments when life has taken a turn down because after all, what goes up often comes back down, I have some life rafts to carry me forward. How I remain dedicated is through first, a commitment to myself to wake up every day connected to my dedication to open possibility. To keeping the epicenter of my life in my heart rather than in other people's hands. And discipline through personal practices I take on every day to keep those life rafts full of air, sturdy, and ready. I know this works because I've seen it change the way I think, the way I "be," and what I'm able to create in my life.
Let me give you a concrete example. Padmasana...also known as lotus pose. Or "kill your knees" pose according to my brain several years ago. I was pretty sure I might never get that pose. I mean my knees and my hips were not having it. But regardless, I heeded my teacher Sri Dharma Mittra's words that if you believe it is possible to do a pose...it's possible. If you don't believe it's possible...it's not. So I dropped the idea that I couldn't ever do this pose and actively decided I wouldn't be attached to it either. I'd just be dedicated to staying open to the possibility that if I kept practicing it...I might just get it. And lo and behold...a few months ago during my home yoga practice I thought "what the hell...just try it today Marci." As I slipped my right leg on my thigh and reached for my left I figured I might find the same tightness that usually holds me back and then something magic happened. I found myself sitting in a lotus pose starring at my legs aghast. Dedication + Discipline = Change.
Want another example? For years I was convinced I could never survive working independently as a creative person. But man did I desire this so deeply in my heart. I clung to the idea that I'd never have enough money, I didn't have the right connections, I didn't have the time, boy I had a long list. And this long list was a list of external circumstances strapping me down. One day I realized this horrible jail I felt stuck in and thought might literally drive me mad was...well...self made. First, I was ecstatic. Finally a way out! Second, I was terrified. The way out was up to me! And then something happened, I became dedicated to pursuing my passions. I wasn't sure how. I still had doubts. But I saw enough people creating lives they designed that I was open to the possibility that it could happen and I with disciplined constant baby steps through ups and downs, I made it happen. And I did it all the while I danced on the dance floor of my real life. A real life that included a monthly mortgage I had to pay, a struggling partnership, a graduate degree requiring homework, friends and family that needed me, and some serious health problems at the time. Despite the rocky ebbs and flows, I kept my "eye on the prize" one could say. The result...dedication + discipline = change.
What does dedication and discipline in my life look like on a daily basis? Morning and evening rituals like meditation in the morning right when I wake up. Keeping healthy food in my apartment at all times. Lately these days it means hitting up the gym in the mornings to get my blood flowing. Reading a nonfiction book at night before sleep that has nothing to do with my work. A daily gratitude list that reminds me of all the blessings I have from the Universe and consciously thanking myself for the ways I've shown up to them. Regular breaks throughout my work day to break up monotony.
Here's the deal. This week I want to invite you to practice this formula of dedication + discipline = change. Walk out of any prisons you may have created where you see that you are holding your happiness, your joy, your passions, your purpose, your life hostage to external circumstances and try something different. Here's how you can get started:
- Decide what you are dedicated to. Regardless of what's happening in life. Free yourself and think about dedication in the vast blue sky outside of external realities of yourself. I know, I hear you sneering thinking that this is too polly annaish. I disagree. Just try it ok? What have you got to loose?
- Give yourself permission to open up to infuse this dedication and your life with possibility. The possibility that if you deepen your dedication, if you stay open, and if you take disciplined steps, this dedication can become a reality regardless of your circumstances.
- Ask yourself, what disciplined practice will help me show up to this dedication? For example if it's a dedication to play, maybe it is an activity that supports you to connect to to the kid in you again. Or the creative side of yourself and you take out your colored pencils, sketch pad, and develop a discipline of drawing every night for ten minutes.
- Build your discipline into your daily schedule. Put it on your calendar. Tell your spouse or partner. Make it a priority in your every day reality. I don't care for how long, or the how. At least create one minute of disciplined time to what you care about. But ideally more :)
- Practice patience. Let me tell you something. Getting lotus pose, following my passion, developing a strong meditation practice, falling in love with life again after falling out of it, all took patience.
Real change takes time. If you take some small steps this week, I'm confident that will give you some energy and momentum to go forward. But don't be fooled. Sometimes the ebbs and flows of life will have you wanting to walk away from what you are dedicated to and I'm inviting you to dig deep and have the courage to stay connected to your dedication and discipline anyways. Life will always get too busy. People will always have more needs from you. Weather will always change. Finances will come and go. But if you commit to seeing through your dedication and discipline no matter what...the results will absolutely astound you.
Need a cheerleader? Send me an e-mail and share your triumphs. I'll cheer you along an tell you to keep going. Want some real support in staying committed to showing up to your dedication and discipline? E-mail me to schedule a conversation to get you started. Dedication and discipline is part of the bread and butter of what I support people in creating in their lives as a coach. And the results are absolutely life changing. It's up to you. Are you ready for the journey?