Monday, September 18, 2006


I am a poster child for needing some form of mental dicipline, which is something that I know I am far from alone in not possessing. In our instant gratification culture I am, like so many of my fellow citizens, fully versed in the art of being a glutton in the moment and not thinking about the bigger picture of my life or the world at large.

When you look at people who are "successful", there are certain attributes that often stick out. There is, of course, a certain level of intelligence. There is usually confidence in one's ability and what one has to contribute. But these traits are worth nothing in and of themselves in the absence of dicipline. What good is intelligence alone, for example, if you don't have the dicipline to focus it and harness it for your own greater good and that of your community.

But we are not taught dicipline anymore in the western world, and, unfortunately, it does not seem innate. In fact, even if it proved innate, we would probably still medicate to override the natural impulse.

When I was young, I saved my allowance weekly for items that I really wanted and resisted the temptation to blow it on candy or knickknacks. If I got a chocolate bar from a visiting relative I would hide it away and savor it slowly over days and days until it was all gone.

Where is that kind of dicipline in my life now? Where is the dicipline that would allow me to:

  • Come home from work, put some music on instead of the television and prepare a nice to dinner to eat while reading a book or a magazine
  • Keep my house in clean order so that my environment mirrors the state of mind I want to foster
  • Write e-mails to my friends and loved ones so that they will know what is happening in my heart and my head and will be an active part of my life
  • Study skills that will make my job easier and more efficient and increase my value to my employer and advance me in the field of my choosing
  • Read books that will give me enjoyment and will make me a richer person.

So what does this have to do with meditation? Meditation is mental dicipline - which is the basis of what I am talking about. It is being able to control your impulses and urges - or if not to control them, at least to recognize them without being blown this way and that by every caprice that flits into your mind.

And it relates, because here I sit after an hour of trying to sleep. Having worked myself into a total panic and a cold sweat over the things that I have to do at work tomorrow, the things I have to do to prepare for my younger brother's wedding, the things I have to do to care for myself (including a dentist appointment, a doctor's appointment and a othamologist appointment), the things I have to do to put my finances in order. And the list goes on...

It relates because this panic will in no way make these things easier or better, and I should be able to recognixe this and exercise the dicipline to not allow these thoughts to drive me into hopelessness and sleeplessness.

It relates in a larger way to the general lack of spirituality in my life and a lack of awareness of the connection between my mind and body, and my mind and body and the larger world that I inhabit.

Does that make some sense? I am going to go and try to sleep again...

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