I cringe whenever I hear the word discipline. For me, it evokes images of a sterile, ascetic life of self-denial. Of rigidity and no fun. All work and no play. No thank you. I don’t need any of the stuff.
Whenever I can ignore the knee-jerk reaction that I get to the word, however, and look a little deeper, I see that discipline isn’t meant to be a party-pooping quality, but rather, a potent source of joy, more so than the spirit within that admonishes me to just do whatever the heck I want, because instant gratification feels so good, even if it’s just for five minutes.
Yes, at times we need to get our way and do whatever we feel like, instead of what we rationally know to be most beneficial for us. If we don’t, life feels like a chore and who wants to labor all of the time? But while discipline can be an effort, by focusing upon its benefits, we are motivated to abide by its demands.
Consider your diet. Go ahead, have some ice-cream, but consider what your skin would look like if you ate Haagen-Das everyday. Think about the weight you’d put on. The critters that would feast upon the sweet stuff, and the Oscar the grouch personality that would emerge out of nowhere to take over your rational mind. Or, if you prefer to see the glass as half-full, then consider how foregoing the ice-cream helps to starve your spiros and keeps you sane and functional so that you don’t lose any more friends to Lyme rage or hours at work due to your brain fog and fatigue. Better food equals better mood and a more joyous life over the long haul.
Or how about exercise? You think you feel poorly now? Imagine what you’d feel like if you didn’t do yoga three or four times a week. Or, if you don’t exercise, consider how much more energy you’d have if you got out of the house. Yes, it may hurt more in the beginning to work out, but your body will get used to it, as long as you don’t push yourself to the point of misery. So how about a walk in the sunshine? It’ll lift your spirits, oxygenate your cells and give your cognition a boost so that you can sit down afterwards and read at twice the speed that you’re doing right now. Exercise is hard when you don’t feel good, but is an important pillar of health. By moving those limbs a little, over time, you’ll feel better.
From personal experience, I reap the greatest benefits of discipline whenever I spend prolonged periods in prayer or meditation. This can be difficult for me, as Lyme disease leaves me prone to laziness and distraction. Sometimes, I don’t feel like hanging out with God, or think I’ve got better things to do with my time. I get bored with my prayers and assume that the creator of the universe won’t have anything important to say to me. However, I have noticed that whenever I slow down and get quiet with God, then Truth eventually manifests in my thoughts and I feel more at peace. If I am still and searching and push myself to concentrate, that is. And peace brings me greater joy, because I’m suddenly not worried about life and its distractions in the same way as when I fell out of bed that morning. Yes, prayer and concentration on my creator can feel like a chore, especially when I’m led to believe the lie that my words are worthless or that my god isn’t listening, but when performed regularly, I have found prayer and meditation to be a good recipe for joy over the long haul.
Discipline, unlike instant gratification, brings joy after the fact. It’s one of those things that at the time may not be fun, but its rewards are more permanent and lasting.
Most good things in life exact a price. Discipline is often the price of joy, but if looked upon as its contributer rather than its thief, it becomes easier to employ as a catalyst for healing from Lyme disease.