A word that evokes regiment, order, rigidity, and very distinct boundaries. The word brings a very masculine energy, and suggests anything but freedom.
So why is discipline such an integral part of self care that can actually grow a sense of internal freedom?
When we talk about self care it conjures up images of massages, facials and hot bubble baths, which are very nice and relaxing moments of indulgence and absolutely have their place for relaxation and soothing the nervous system. Really taking care of yourself is doing what you know is good for you but may feel like too much of an effort, forgoing immediate pleasure for long term respect and love, a.k.a. discipline. A practice that involves discipline will really see you through to the other side of the darker moments that are part of all our lives.
My upbringing was quite chaotic, dysfunctional and inconsistent, so discipline was very foreign to me, it is something I have had to teach myself over time, and now have made really good friends with. I like to think of discipline more as my rituals. Things that I do on a regular basis that feed and nurture me, and give me space to reconnect with myself.
My understanding of the benefits of discipline came when my children were young. The absolute life changing, earth shattering effect of starting a family really gave me a yearning for time and space for myself. Something I had massively taken for granted pre-kids when there was no notion of how much our children instinctively draw our attention outwards from our own inner inquiries and into their own needs. It is, of course, as nature intended, as mothers, we are biological wired to put our children first.
So how did I do it? Yoga had been in my life since I was 24 but a committed daily practice could not have arrived at a more opportune moment in my life than 6 years ago when I was juggling long-periods of solo parenting in a new country, the other side of the world away from my family and friends. At that point, I had already begun a very sporadic meditation practice, something like 5-minutes a couple of times a week, fitting it in when I could create a quiet and calm space around me. Instinctively I felt it was high time to shake myself up and make some big changes to how I used the hours in my day. I began setting my alarm a little earlier every morning to salvage some moments of quiet headspace. A gradual discipline of ritual materialised through the dark, cold winter mornings, a ritual that brought me positivity, lightness, space, hope and energy. I think the fact that it was mid-winter made the benefits even more sweet as it took so much willpower to get out from under the duvet.
Some mornings I would find it too hard to get out from under the warm duvet. Inevitably, those days I would feel the mental clutter and lack of patience much more. But I had to be kind to myself otherwise that which was serving me would become a source of frustration and shame. All part of the learning. And so over time I have cultivated a morning ritual that is very rarely not seen through.
I now have a daily meditation practice that is a minimum of 30 minutes in total. I have my physical yoga practice (asana) which I intersperse with running, high intensity work outs and cycling (as a mode of transport) as my physical exercise. I have given up alcohol and coffee, as it was sparking anxiety and depression, and was interfering with my early rising.
These are the rituals I have created for myself. They can look different for us all. I know these things nourish me. Those early morning moments are what get my day into gear. The precious calm that nourishes me before the onset of the bustle of family life and the hustle of my working day. The feeling of lightness and increased energy is powerful, it clears the head and gives a sense of resilience and expansion.
I have come to realise, over time, that the more discipline I have in my life, the more freedom I have. A dear friend insightfully said: The more we commit to ourselves, the less shame we have and the more self pride we have. That sense of pride when we have done something kind, loving and inherently good for ourselves is priceless and it is addictive.
So yes, I am human and I still struggle with the long periods of solo parenting without support or a break. Shouty, guilty and shitty mummy still pop over and demand cake every now and again, but I manage to set my boundaries with them and send them on their way after a brief indulgence. I have a solid practice that is the backbone of my self care and it has made me stronger, more resilient, more intuitive, kinder and yes, freer.
My Top 5 Tips to creating a disciplined self care routine:
Seeking the help of a health coach, an instructor or teacher is a wonderful way to motivate yourself and have connection and feedback, but also to be accountable to. Being accountable to someone else is easier, when you are at the beginning of the process, than being accountable to yourself. Also using an app that will record your sessions will show you your progress and help give you a sense of achievement which will spur you on in your practice.
2. Make actual appointments with yourself and find what works for you
Literally block out time in your diary or calendar for your practice, be that meditation, yoga, reading a book, journalling, running etc. Find something that you are drawn to but that brings up a little resistance within as that is where the growth lies. How often do we forego something in order to satisfy someone else’s needs? Remember that if you let-go of your own self care then the knock on effects are real for those around you and your long term sense of fulfilment.
3. Don’t forget the hard-to-reach places!
Our physical body and our mental state are the more obvious parts of ourself to take care of. We have an emotional body as well and all the parts that make up our self are equally important and intrinsically linked to each other. If you feel that your emotions are not giving your any peace, it can be vital to seek help to work through them. We might find support through emotional healing, spiritual counselling, traditional counselling or psychotherapy, kinesiology, Chinese medicine, reiki etc. We do not have to be in dire straits to seek help, in fact recognising that we could do with outside support is a huge part of creating a discipline of self care. Being responsible for ourselves, as we would a child or a pet.
4. Flexibility in discipline
Life happens, constantly, so we have to bring a softness into our discipline and transform the masculine energy into a nurturing ritual. If one day your ritual is made impossible through unforeseen circumstances then make the next day count. Use the observations you make on that day to fuel your resolve to make it happen the next.
5. Start small and build gradually. Be kind and loving.
Remember our rituals are formed through the repetition of something small every day.