Discipline

April 23, 2022
free onion meditation our true self is in the centre breathing out letting go of another layer

Discipline; to train or develop by instruction and exercise, especially in self-control.

When we hear the word discipline it can sound harsh or strict and often it is, but discipline can be our friend too and by using it well, with focus and self-awareness it can make our lives much easier and gentler.

Through simplicity and focus, discipline can help us in our mindfulness practice, it is not about deprivation or punishment, but the right level of concentration and control. It is a way of being honest, hardworking and motivated in our practice. If we do not have the discipline to practice mindfulness, coming into the present and developing our self-awareness will be much harder.

We all lead very busy lives these days, so it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things we need to do, sometimes it can all just get too much. 

You may have heard of Parkinson’s Law:

  • The demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource.   
    • Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.
    • If you wait until the last minute, it will only take a minute to do

This was written over 65 years ago, and we don’t seem to have learned from it, as this still seems to be the case today.

We will always fill our time. So how can we become more conscious of how we do this. Mindfulness can make us more focused and efficient but we need discipline in the first place to make sure we practice. 

The story of ‘The Jar and The Stones’.  

A professor of philosophy stood before his class with some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about two inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. 

They agreed that it was full. 

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and watched as the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The professor then asked the students again if the jar was full. 

They agreed that it was indeed full this time. 

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining open areas of the jar. “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar signifies your life. The rocks are the truly important things, such as family, health and relationships. If all else was lost and only the rocks remained, your life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are the other things that matter in your life, such as work or school. The sand signifies the remaining “small stuff” and material possessions.” 

He continued “If you put sand into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks or the pebbles. The same can be applied to your lives. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly important.” 

This story encourages us to take our largest stone and put it in our jar first.  By the largest, it means what is most important to us.  You may not see mindfulness as being one of the largest stones but maybe you could practice for a week - making mindfulness a priority or a large stone.  Instead of fitting it in when you can, make some time to plan your day and actually make the decision where and when you will actually do some mindfulness.  

Making the decision and giving it priority, will help you give it the importance it deserves and because you have made the time you will have the space and time to do it justice.  Hopefully, then you won't miss a session and you will be able to see some tangible results and how much easier it will be to fall still and find that inner peace.  What's more, by putting your big priority stones in the jar first, the rest of the smaller things should simply fall into place.  

Meditation - The Layers of an Onion

This practice uses visualisation and breathing. Visualising the layers of an onion and bringing to our minds a worry or a habit that holds us back from being our true self and trying to visualise it being peeled away and let go of, like the layer of an onion.  

The theory is, that in being still – sitting with the attention, purposely passive – in the space that’s created, the mind and body automatically take the opportunity to shed layers of old retained anxiety that have since become habitual – muscle tensions, suppressed emotional reactions, old worries, thought formations and so on. It naturally lifts away and that is why we often feel more peaceful and lighter when we’ve meditated, we become more of our true essence.  

  1. Take your seat for meditation.

Relaxed and comfortable, with a straight but soft spine, couple of long slow deep breaths, maybe sighing on the exhale and then return to your natural breathing rhythm.

  • Visualise an Onion.

Perhaps a red onion as the layers tend to be much more pronounced. Imagine all of the outer layers of the onion, there are so many layers, upon layers, upon layers.

These represent all the things that fill your thoughts; work, things to do around the house, people to please, worries, anxieties, and habits. We often become these things, I am an employee, I am a partner, I am a parent, I am a friend, I am relied upon, I am busy, I am stressed. But actually, at your core you are your true self, without all of the attachment we collect. All the layers of your onion are hiding the true you. The blissful, the peaceful, the calm self.

  • Imagine something that is worrying you at the moment

Perhaps a conversation that didn’t go well, something that keeps coming up in your thoughts.  As you breathe in, say to yourself ‘peace’ and as you breathe out say to yourself, ‘I am letting go’ Imagine that you are taking away the first layer of the onion and letting go of any thoughts and feelings that might be a burden. 

Breathing in peace and breathing out letting go.  

  • You are that blissful peace at the centre of your onion

Give yourself permission to let go of all the thoughts and feelings that can be overwhelming, past thoughts, future worries.

Breathing in stillness and on the out-breath say to yourself ‘breathing out and letting go of another layer.

  • Focus on what’s important

By letting go of all these attachments and operating from your still, blissful self, you will have more clarity and more awareness to make a reasoned decision. You will be able to focus on what is important and respond rather than react and perhaps feel a little calmer and more peaceful.  

  • Let go of the habits that keep us in bondage

For example, constantly checking our phone for messages, constantly being available for someone else, and working on their terms or their agenda. Are you held by this or is something similar holding you back from who you really are? Bring it to mind and on your next out-breath, visualise removing another layer of the onion.

Breathing in stillness and on the out-breath say to yourself ‘breathing out and letting go of another layer.

  • Let go of repetitive negative thoughts

Thoughts that you are not good enough, you don’t have enough. This could be another thing holding you back. This time on your exhale, while you imagine the onion layer being peeled back say ‘no’ to these negative thoughts or emotions.

‘I am breathing in calmness and I am breathing out and letting go of another layer.

  • Reconnect with your body on the chair

Or the surface you are lying or sitting on and start to bring your attention back to your breathing and your surroundings. Maybe wiggle your fingers and toes and when you are ready gently open your eyes.

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Quotes on Discipline

“Motivation gets you going, discipline keeps you going”

John C Maxwell

“A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering”

Dalai Lama

“The essential discipline of following one’s breath to nourish and maintain calm mindfulness, even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances”

Thich Nhat Hanh

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