Summary: A meditator asks about dealing with loss of self-discipline, burnout. Sathi breaks the question into three parts,
- What is self-discipline (building discipline from the inside, not from outside)
- Intentions and Goals (Like tending a flower garden. You have to do it all summer long.)
- Habits – Getting used to what we are.
Sathi points out that nobody can influence you to change your discipline because you are you have a clear understanding about who you are and what you want to do. What your intentions are. He also talks about all forms of addiction and how to work with them. With each mindful training you are shaping yourself.
[Sathi] Ok, any question or any suggestion for this morning?
[Meditator] Well, I don’t know if this is so much of a topic, but I’ll say what I was thinking. I’m not sure if this is much of a topic for you. It’s about self-discipline, and it comes from I’m on a special eating plan that takes a lot of self-discipline and I found that I don’t have any for the rest of my life, including meditation. So, I was just reflecting back, how the last couple weeks, I’m usually very I don’t have to think about it, I just get up and do it every morning. For years, but since I’ve been on this eating program I just can’t do it. I wake up, I go back to sleep, I don’t have the self-discipline, it’s like I feel it’s being used up over here. Like, constantly used up and so just curious about using your resources for the right things and what happens when they’re depleted.
[Sathi] OK. well, what I’m hearing from you is three different stories. One story is about self-discipline and the second story is about intention and goals and number three is about how much we get used to who we are.
Like, how much you get used to your daily or weekly schedule, even the food. If you really look at the food you are eating during the week time, I don’t think you’re eating a lot of varieties. You eat same food again and again and in a different way. Maybe if you look at two days, you might think ok yesterday I ate that. Today I am eating this. Maybe the day after, you are eating the same thing that you ate two days ago. If you look at a week at a time, I’m sure the same food you would have at least two times or three times. We would not go totally away from us. We are maintaining the habits of very same lifestyle.
I remember I was talking about a similar topic and somebody looked at me said, “Bhante, I’ve been eating chicken almost every day for almost every meal. How do you know this?” (laughter)
So, now I would pick those two areas to discuss this morning. The discipline area. The discipline part of this comfortable lifestyle. We are just living in the comfortable lifestyle that you want to live. Now, this is you might think, a lifestyle this is given to me. Not really. You have shaped this lifestyle as you like. You are living in the lifestyle, somehow you like it. Somehow, this is the most comfortable lifestyle you like.
At the same time, you have to take care of your body and you are taking care of your surroundings. That can be your family, or that can be your environment. If someone has a flower garden these days, even if you like or don’t like, you have to pay attention to that flower garden in the summer. There you can see your intention.
If somebody is really concerned about the shape of the body or their health, then you are pushing yourself to do a physical workout. Whether you like or not, that intention is pushing you to do it.
You push yourself into certain things, then you are shaping your daily schedule or weekly schedule as you like. Then you get comfortable with it. One of the benefits is, once you get comfortable with certain daily or weekly schedule, then you can follow it without thinking. We want to follow things without thinking.
Just think about in the morning how many routines you have followed without thinking. If you happen to miss one routine, then you will get uncomfortable by the middle of the day or later in the day. What is behind it is your comfort. Based on your comfort, you’re forming this lifestyle. You’re forming who you are. The way you like to live. That’s become the habit.
If you want to break those habits by certain influence, medical influence, or family influence, you will get uncomfortable. But, if there is really value or worth, then you will have effort to change it. Just think if your doctor asked you not to eat your favorite food. What do you do? You will go after this. [Here is a ] simple example. If [your] doctor asked you to stop eating sugar, then most people start seeking sugar substitute. You don’t want to avoid the taste. Taste is part of the habit.
Language is part of the habit. Let’s say we are going back to our childhood experience. You love the food cooked by your mom or your grandmother. It doesn’t matter how unhealthy that is. You will find the skills to eat it. But what’s behind it, this mental comfort? Mental comfort is forming the habits. Then you are maintaining the habits comfortably.
So, the routine or the act of the wise person. The wise person bring in this healthy habits and allowing those healthy habits to reform yourself. In reforming yourself you will become comfortable following it. Those are the actions of the healthy habits or vise versa. You are introducing the habits which are really useful to you.
Now, going back to that part of the question, we have to think, how much this is healthy for me. How much I can handle? How much can my body handle? How much my mind can handle?
Sometimes, some people are overusing their body. When people overuse their mind, they become stressful. But, when they overuse their body, their body also gets stressful. Sometimes, when people happen to do that, they will cause some damage to their body.
But, sometimes some unhealthy habits cause damage to their mind. You called it depression, stress, some other anxiety issues, those can be the result of unnecessary stress you are causing to the mind. Therefore, we have to find out how to become how to maintain this friendly manner while you are introducing something to yourself. It has to be a wise, also it has to be friendly. Then gradually, you are training yourself to achieve your goals. Eventually, that will become the part of your discipline.
Discipline is really coming from inside of you. That brings the values of yourself. Just think about if you happen to maintain such a discipline that somebody else wants you to be, that somebody else wants you to have, you get uncomfortable with it or it became a burden for you. Then whenever you get the chance, you go out and do something else.
Just imagine, the kids are following certain rules or disciplines because parents want them to follow. When the parents aren’t around, what do they do? they’ll break it. They’ll do the opposite of it. But, if those disciplines are part of them, then what happens? They don’t have to have the higher power to control them. Because it’s part of them.
According to the spiritual path, what is happening? You’re bringing these disciplines from the inside out, not from outside to in. You are becoming this person. Once you have become this person, it will be part of you. The disciplines, the way of following, become part of you.
So, how can we tame the inside of you to have those disciplinary self that you want to have from your inside? That is what you have to think. That is what you have to train yourself with. Once you understand something clearly, then you won’t do it.
Let me tell you an of the example from my dad. My dad was a heavy smoker. He was lighting his cigarette one after another. At least 20-25 cigarettes per day as we know. Maybe he might have had more than that. We always asked him not to smoke, but no. He was continuing it. Then his lungs were in trouble and the doctor said, “If you have one more cigarette, you will die.” That hit him harder. Afterward, he didn’t smoke.
But, until that time, he was saying “No I’m not going to smoke as much as how I used to.” One of the trick he did, he would break the cigarette into two pieces. Then he says, “No, I’m only smoking half”. But what we were seeing, he was lighting the other half right after the first half. (laughter)
I know mostly he was trying his best. But, what happened when the doctor told him that he is gonna die if he smoke one more cigarette, he stopped completely. We have to have that kind of hit. When that happened, that comes from inside of you. That’s not coming from outside. Then you want to do it. Once something comes from inside, you are comfortable to follow it. You are comfortable to perform it because that’s something you really want to do. It’s become your own discipline.
That’s how we bring these disciplines into wisdom. Once Buddha mentioned, people practice or bring their disciplines into their life with wisdom, once we have the discipline with the wisdom, we’ll have effort and determination to maintain it. Nobody can disturb it because whoever would try to disturb it would become minimized or become smaller than who they are.
Nobody can influence you to change your disciplines because you are you have a clear understanding about who you are and what you want to do. That person will direct their mind toward purification. They are purifying their mind. So, discipline is the key to purifying your mind. I hope I discussed those thoughts you had. Any questions or any thoughts?
[Meditator] What are the things that we can do to bring this strength from within to have that strength or that discipline?
[Sathi] Well, the one thing is understanding it. Understanding it will bring you the discipline and even understanding yourself and seeing if there was anything like your addiction of who you are. Addiction to the food, addiction to the lifestyle, or addiction to some other things around your life. Recognizing those might be helpful for you to see what you are doing and what you are not doing.
Oh, and recognizing the benefit from outside. When somebody else is having benefit. Then it will encourage you to do. Think about if you are learning something from another person and you see it, then you would highly want to do that with yourself too. Or seeing those from outside and the benefit of what other people are having and also recognize the weak side of you and what other people are paying maintaining those disciplines.
Just think about any negative experience and you say well because of this habit they have led themselves into this place and this will happen to me also if I am maintaining this lifestyle. That’s how you can apply back and by having that kind of understanding recognition will help you to have this internal disciplines. By learning from what you learn from others.
[Meditator] Some people are just really good at being disciplined. Like there are some things they are really good at and some people so easy in just two days they just let go. Do you think these things are cultivated from childhood?
[Sathi] Actually, that’s about lack of determination or lack of effort they have because all human beings have ability. There are very similar abilities. But part of it is trusting themselves, trusting what they can do, the lack of trust led them back into the same routine.
Just think about your addictions. When the addiction becomes stronger then your wisdom then addiction win. But when your wisdom becomes stronger than that addiction, addiction lose. With each mindful training or with each wise action, you are shaping yourself.
It’s like a snake. They are shedding their skin. When they shed their skin, they already have a new skin. The same way we are shedding ourselves everyday, our old self. That’s what happens for this wise person. You are shedding yourself. You are moving into a new person. An unskillful person would go back to the same person who you shed and would take that person forward. But, the skillful person has the ability to say goodbye to the last person and welcome the new person and move forward. Then you are happily accepting the wisdom you have. That’s the reality. Ok, I think we can stop here for today and let’s have tea with the tasty banana bread, mindfully. Thank you very much for being here.
Transcription by Heidi Gusts
Recorded on August 18, 2019 at the Mindfulness Center in Chaska, Minnesota.
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