Discipline VS Permission: Part One

I recently came across an old voice memo I recorded years ago. In it was a short but powerful message I needed to hear. A message that contains several concepts I often forget again and again though they are quite important in the relationship with myself. I could hardly believe this wisdom was coming from me and it felt profoundly nourishing to listen to my own voice, my Truest Self, shining light on an age old battle between my mind and soul. As I was reflecting on this I felt compelled to share what’s come up. Here’s both the recording and transcription along with some additional musings I’ve turned into this blog series. 

What we need most is not discipline, rather permission. Permission to be who we are, to fully express ourselves in the world. If we have to force ourselves to do something, it is not in alignment with our true nature of divineness. We are not ready. We need more training; training in our own pain and our own suffering at times, but once we become present with that we will be healing through the true barriers to our freedom. It’s the process not the product that provides for us, that feeds our souls. It’s our becoming that is important.

This concept first showed up for me in yoga teacher training back in 2008. It wasn’t something our teacher talked about, but it come through my own direct experience which is actually what yoga promotes as our greatest source of wisdom. As students we were encouraged to do our daily practice (called sadhana) at home every morning between trainings. I had some resistance to this and found the more I judged myself for missing days, the more days I would miss. Guilt and shame began to build month to month as we returned to our weekend long retreats and were encouraged to report our “progress.” At some point I decided to simply let myself off the hook. I changed the mantra in my head from a stern “You need to do your practice!” to a compassionate, 

“You have permission NOT to practice.”

There was something so incredibly freeing in this. I felt a weight was lifted. I felt a new kind of self-love that I was not entirely familiar with yet in my life. Remarkably, at some point soon after I made this shift within, I developed a regular meditation and asana practice without struggle. I woke up with ease and floated to my mat to sit for twenty minutes at a time, something I found daunting before. Practicing postures became intuitive and exciting as my body was liberated from the “shoulds” in my mind. It was perplexing but I consciously released the thinking and trying to understand it and focused instead on simply enjoying what was happening. To this day I find this to be a key component to staying consistent with my practice (and happiness for that matter), 

I allow myself to be human rather than perfect. 

The magic of this type of permission over discipline is in the acceptance. Now there are many layers to this whole acceptance business but for the sake of simplicity, let’s break it down to two things here: embracing resistance and living in our wholeness. 

Embracing Resistance: Often, when we’re coming from the angle of discipline (especially the westernized variety), we’re fighting with ourselves and thereby inherently un-practicing the first teaching of yoga which is ahimsa or non-violence. We’re engaging the ego rather than healing it. Though we’re taught it’s a bad thing, resistance actually holds wisdom for us. It illuminates woundedness that makes it difficult to allow anything loving from ourselves or others. Unhealed wounds breed unworthiness. Instead of judging ourselves when we’re feeling resistant to acts of self-care such as our yoga practice, eating well or setting/holding boundaries in relationships, sit with the experience of it. Notice how it feels in your body, observe the thoughts that feed it. Don’t psychoanalyze, rather befriend resistance and allow it the time and space it needs to teach you whatever it is showing up to give. 

Living In Our Wholenss: You see a lot out there these days about worthiness and/or “enoughness.” Like so many things, the idea of this is cool and all but to embody it is a little more complicated. Additionally, the whole self-help movement is great but I see a down side to it in that the inherent message is you are not ok as you are. If we are constantly trying to change, we never have the chance to just be. It’s in the being that the magic happens. 

I see an example of this over and over again when I teach. One of the most challenging things for students to do is stand in five-pointed star pose (standing with wide legs, arms extended with a tall posture) taking up the space they inhabit. People share feeling awkward, guilty, ashamed, anxious even angry when encouraged to hang out there in their fullness. This is not surprising given that we’re conditioned through our patriarchal systems to fear our innate awesomeness, to play small, to make others feel good but dare not do so for ourselves. We fertilize these toxic seeds of faulty beliefs by constantly “working on ourselves.” Instead, live from the basic yogic tenant that there’s actually no separation between us and God (Source, Spirit, Light-whatever you want to call it). How then would you approach things that enhance that lovin’ feeling?

I’ll be back next blog with more on discipline and permission. Be sure you’re on my email list so you don’t miss it! Join HERE. Also feel free to share your thoughts and questions to add to the exploration of this topic. After all, we’re all learning together! Comment below or email me: [email protected]


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