Inner work

Routine and discipline

I believe feeling good about life centres on building your spiritual foundation and therefore routine and discipline are essential to the spiritual path. The practices, the routine and the discipline keep you in your spiritual connection. This is something I’ve really struggled and fought hard with my ego about so I thought I would share in the hope that it helps you.

How important is routine and discipline in the spiritual journey?

I’ve always thought of myself as a free spirit and so the idea of routine and discipline has always made me writhe with agony. I’ve been on quite a journey with this whole thing and so I thought I would share what I’ve learnt because I know it’s something that a lot of my clients and students struggle with.

I’ve never liked the idea of routine. Just the thought of it has always made me feel confined and restricted. It’s really interesting how our perception of who we think we are really influences how we feel about certain ideas. I was fixated on the idea of being a free spirit. I love that every day is different and I have no idea where the wind will take me. I don’t like to be tied down to one particular thing. I like to do things spontaneously as the mood takes me.

For a long time, I believed that I wasn’t capable of routine, structure, planning and organisation because these things were contrary to who I thought I was. My belief was that all this would restrict and confine me or that somehow I would be less free and more boring. These were things that I told myself in order to avoid implementing routine. I didn’t understand fully what routine and discipline meant.

When I unpicked this for myself, I discovered that I have a deep rooted fear of commitment. I was reluctant to put my energy fully in to being here and doing this. So I did (and still do sometimes) everything I could possibly think of to avoid it. That’s great but there’s a great deal of procrastination that comes hand in hand with being a free spirit. And after a certain amount of procrastination, the guilt and the negative chatter all become too much. So I was pretty much in this cycle for years before I broke out of it.

I wasn’t lacking in anything except commitment and so I decided to try out this whole structure thing to see what it was all about. I always need to experience the benefits before I commit to anything. I’m difficult to sell the idea to so I thought I’d do a try before I buy in to it and it was one of the best things that I did.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that the foundations were sort of already there. My daily prayers, my daily meditation and my journalling were all part of the structure but I was taking quite a relaxed attitude so things would slip. Much like a magpie, I would get distracted and go off following what looked shiny. I think I’d grown in to a nice little comfort zone. I liked the idea of no pressure…just be easy…take it as it comes. There was never any urgency with anything because there was no commitment.

The way I was looking at things needed to change. What I found that within everything there is flexibility so although I was doing all these things, they were just haphazardly thrown in when I could fit them in. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I was actually making an effort to do them but the root of the issue was my lack of commitment and this is what I needed to address.

When you unpick your belief system, you realise that you have learnt a lot of your behaviours based on your previous experiences. As someone who was used to things going wrong or falling flat on my arse, I had no great expectations of myself. This itself was in line with the idea that nobody else had any great expectations of me either. It wouldn’t be surprising to anyone if I gave up or failed or moved on to the next thing. This made it easy for me to avoid committing to things.

The biggest realisation was that it wasn’t so much that I wasn’t committed to the structure and discipline. I didn’t have the commitment to myself and when I realised that it made me feel really sad.

There comes a time when you have to ask yourself what you really want for yourself. Honestly, who do you really want to be? When I was really honest, I realised that I craved organisation. I craved focus and I really wanted the sense of accomplishment and achievement that comes with seeing something through from start to finish.

It’s pretty simple though when you break it down. If you really want something, then you work hard for it. You keep going. Even when you fail or get knocked back, you get up and you keep going. Even when you’re tired and your eyes are closing, you keep trying to remember what you want and why and then you keep trying.

When you are tired and fed up, rest and keep going. Do not quit. And so I set about trying to organise myself better. I wrote down all the things I do to keep me well that I would like to keep as my foundation. I then made some firm decisions about when I would do these things.

The hardest thing was sticking to the timings, especially in the morning but as time went on, this became easier. It’s true what they say about making things a habit and I realised that I had got in to some bad habits. One of which was saying to myself, “I’ll do it later” or “Meh doesn’t matter.” I probably wouldn’t have done it later and actually yes it does matter. It matters because I matter and what I want matters. All the while, I had to keep remembering this.

I had to really push to have the routine I have today. Instilling discipline for yourself is pretty tough when you’re on your own with nobody to motivate you. Everything is possible though and although it feels like you’re being tough on yourself when you push yourself, it’s all worth it.

My foundation is my daily prayers and readings, my meditation time and my journalling and reflection. The structure that I thought would limit me actually helps my day to flow much better. It allows me to plan more in and actually, what I found was that there was more time or at a least a feeling of more time that was created by having the discipline.

I think it’s a lot to do with building in the things that keep you well. My energy tends to fluctuate a lot from day to day and one of the biggest benefits of having structure and routine is that when I’m bouncing all over the place, I’m able to slow down and contain the energy. I also find that when I am drained, the structure helps me to keep going and start filling my energy again.

The thing that helped me most was taking it one day at a time and actually building in one new habit at a time. I’m still a work in progress and there’s lots more I would like to add in to my routine. The important thing is to give each habit time to bed in before you start on with the next thing.

Slowly but surely, you’ll get there. If I can do it, anyone can!

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