My Buddhist refuge name is Tsultrim Mig Gya. It means Discipline Great Vision and represents what my teacher saw as the path to my enlightenment when I took my refuge vow in 2005. It was a time of great personal change for me. Discipline was one of my guiding principals then because it gave me a structure in which to manage the groundlessness of my existence at the time. Having ready access to personal discipline made it easy to put in the 20 hours a week of training I was doing in preparation for Denali.
My teacher, Moh Hardin, defined discipline as “Gentle Bravery.” It takes bravery to pull off a disciplined life and the path has taught me that gentleness is a key component of that bravery (rather than aggression). Over the past half decade, discipline has mostly been easy for me to maintain. Except for the past six months. I came home from Everest 2010 filled with fatigue, disappointment, and a mountain of other emotions that have arisen whenever I’ve tried to return to a more disciplined (i.e. physical training) life. The will to get out of bed early in the morning to train seemed to have vanished. The energy to exercise to intense aerobic levels escaped me. What had formerly been easy was now very hard.
I would make a plan. Then let it go. Make another plan. Let it go. After a few attempts, I decided it just wasn’t time yet. That gentleness was the fertilizer to nurture my inner ground and I would know when the time was right. Just before heading to Guatemala, I bid on an exercise boot camp during a silent auction. To my surprise, I won it. I decided I would start attending in the New Year. It’s always good to start new projects in the New Year. And on Mondays as it turned out. I’ve always liked starting things on Mondays.
I made the arrangements to attend and was informed I could start the very next day on the Wednesday. That was the first day of the hockey class I was helping to teach so I wrote back and said I would start Friday. Thursday night I play hockey until almost 11 pm and we had a big snowstorm so I decided to forego starting until the Monday. Mondays work for me for beginnings.
I woke before the alarm and was pleased I had time to set out breakfast for Marian before setting out for an action packed morning. I was excited and nervous. What would it be like? Would the group leave me in the dust? How out of shape would I be? When I arrived the leader mentioned that this was “Blue Monday”, supposedly the most depressing day of the year because our Christmas visas bills would have arrived and 85% of people who made New Year’s Resolutions would have already given up on them. It was an intense workout that humbled me at every station but I enjoyed being back in the gym.
I’ve been back five more times since then and realize that for the time being, I am “borrowing discipline” from both the leader and fellow participants. When I thought about not going yesterday, knowing that everyone else would be there, got me up and going despite hockey finishing even later than usual. When I’m firmly planted in my disciplined path, nothing gets in my way and I can pull it all off on my own but for now, I am content and grateful to borrow discipline. It’s good to be reminded of the value of community in helping us get over, through, under, and around the obstacles we face. There is nothing like having someone else to hold us accountable when we can’t do that for ourselves. I know for me that my discipline comes and goes. Now for times when it’s gone, I’ll remind myself that it’s okay to borrow from others as I know it’s been very rewarding for me at other times to support the discipline of others in getting exercise, writing a thesis, or changing eating habits.
As I said to that group of teachers a week ago, we’re all on the same rope. We go together and ideally we can use that bond and our belief in each other to nurture the discipline that big goals and big dreams and regular life require. As one proverb says, “Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight.” If you’ve given up on something lately, vow to begin again on Monday–find a community to lend you some discipline in pulling it off–and I bet before long, you (like me) will be back on track towards whatever it is.