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The Freedom of Discipline

The Freedom of Discipline

It seems like an oxymoron. How could discipline and freedom go together? Slogging through tasks even when you don’t want to, waking up at 5am to do boot camp exercises, never ever eating chocolate.  Is that what comes to mind when you hear the word discipline?  Seems like a far cry from freedom.  And while all of those things could represent discipline for a person, think dependability. Think trust. Think of the freedom that comes from knowing that the important things have been taken care of.

In Chinese medicine, the relationship between structure, rhythm and discipline on the one hand and freedom, creativity and spontaneity on the other is represented by the relationship between the heart and the lungs. The lungs keep that inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale rhythm going on and on for our whole lives, and we can (almost) always count on the steady beating of our hearts. Those patterns create a safe container for the heart to just be, and within the context of Chinese medicine, our hearts are free and endlessly creative.

When we lack structure in our lives, the heart turns away from it’s natural state to become the enforcer of order, and things like a tendency to over-control, high blood pressure and insomnia show up.

For me, this is why having a morning routine is so important. I’ve started my day doing the important things, and then there’s a feeling of flow for the rest of the day. Meditation, writing, walking/yoga and a good breakfast.

For me, having a good morning starts the night before. I prefer not to eat after 7pm, so I wake up clear and fresh instead of sticky and groggy. Ideally my desk is totally organized, but since this is rarely the case, I just make sure that enough area is cleared to put my notebook and pen there.

When the alarm goes off, I get up, go to my desk and write for 10 minutes nonstop. This is a practice I learned from reading Natalie Goldberg and The Artist’s Way. So powerful!

Then I meditate for at least 20 minutes. Stretch. And some mornings I go for a walk. Then breakfast.

It’s a powerful way to start the day.  The details will be different for everyone, but choose something that’s non-negotiable for your mornings, and see how the rest of your day opens up.

Seth Godin recommends setting the alarm clock the night before.

Felicia Day says that making “sure to be creative first thing in the morning, before doing anything for the outside world, really sets the day up for me. It makes it feel that creating is my job, not answering emails.”

Christine Kane agrees that checking your email before everything else sets you up to be reactive, not creative. 

And thanks to Shawn Mihalic for this perfect quote:

“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love.  The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation.  To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.” -Anne Morriss.

Couldn’t say it better myself.

 

(Image source: Sebastien Wiertz)

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