More on Self Discipline

Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall

The discipline to look inside

I do want to continue to encourage you to comment on these articles. That being said, I’ve had issues with the links at the bottom of the article. The easiest way to go to the online version of the article is to click on its title, above!

So, here we go with the last few self discipline ideas.

As I said last week, this is a hard sell for most, as there is the mistaken notion that life is “supposed to” be easy. Exercising restraint and diligence is not the norm.

First, let me unpack restraint.


We all do stuff we later regret. The point of having the sensation of regret is to fix in our minds the negative consequences of the errant behaviour. Contending against this is our ego voice, which is hell bent on getting us to stay stuck while endlessly repeating the silly behaviour.

Restraint is stopping doing what does not work.

As opposed to justifying it, blaming something or someone, or just plain doing it again out of spite or stubbornness.

It’s much the same with the 4 items to follow. Each requires diligence to practice and restraint to resist coming up with 10,000 excuses.

Just as a note, most people exercise restraint by using it to resist doing what they need to do. In other words, they know, for example, that being more open and honest would be a good thing, and they then generate a long list of excuses to resist making the change. So, again, most clients I know stay stuck not for lack of understanding, but rather out of resisting the new, the scary of the chargy.

4. begin a practice

Now, this can actually be anything, but we need, desperately, to be committed to some form of “training discipline.” I’m fond of eastern approaches, such as yoga, meditation, tai, chi, and the martial arts.


Using meditation as an example, it does no good to fiddle at it. You gotta do it regularly — most centres suggest no less than 5 times a week. The point, however, (and this applies to all the items on the list,) is not to grimly sit there, sucking up pain.

The point is to sit, while observing yourself.

The same could be said for any of the above techniques. I notice at yoga class that I am often quite deeply “into” the pose — into the feel of the energy flow. This is different from watching other, mentally griping about the length or depth of the pose, wondering what’s for dinner, etc. If I go there, and I do, briefly, I find that my connection to myself disappears into the thought of “other things.”

The point of a disciplined practice is to become aware of our bodily sensations, and the working of our minds. In other words, none of these practices “quiet the mind and still the body.” Quite the contrary, one becomes aware of the endless flux and low of life. One begins to actually notice the moment-by-moment-ness of living. This in turn helps us to grasp life (and others!) loosely, and then to let go.

5. be yourself — accept yourself

self judgement

Sometimes I hate what I see

Because we’ve all been brought up in “judgement-land,” it’s no wonder we are so hard on ourselves. This approach has support in Freudian circles, and remember, Freud was pretty much the forebear of modern therapy, and modern, Western culture.

I was talking with a client the other day, and he mentioned that a Freudian he knew spent an entire seminar encouraging people to figure out which parent was to blame for their inability to cope. My approach is different.

I suggest that my clients notice when they are doing stuff that gets them lousy results, and then to do something different. Now, it may well be, for example, that a client learned to yell from his dad, but this is totally irrelevant to what one does now.

The authentic person simply says, again and again, “Yes, I have a propensity to (whatever,) and this time I choose not to.”

That is the acceptance part.

I want to know who I am and what I tend toward, and my reason for discovering this stuff is to accept that this is a part of me. The self-discipline part is that, despite the propensity toward, say, criticizing others, I can choose, this time, and again and again, another path.

Being yourself is enacting yourself.

There are whole aspects of our personalities that never see the light of day, usually because someone, some time, told us they didn’t like that aspect. I encourage you to be much more experimental with your personality, your skills and your desires.

6. open yourself up


We suggest bodywork and breathwork, but really, anything that allows you to drop your guardedness and resistance to self-revelation would be a good thing.

This is what happens working with a good Zen teacher or a competent therapist.

These relationships provide the endless opportunity for dialogue and revelation.

Same with making a total honesty communication pact with your intimate partner. The door to who you are remains tightly sealed, from the inside. Only you can open the lock.

This requires self-discipline because self-revelation carries with it the potential for disappointment. Nonetheless, being willing to let down our walls is essential for learning about what lies just under our conscious awareness.

In bodywork, there is the potential to learn about your emotions and feelings, tightness and charge. And boy, does that stuff scare a lot of people. I kind of laugh, because I know that this kind of work is essential for being whole and honest. Yet, again, letting others know what’s going on “in there” flies in the face of what we have been trained to do.

All I can say is, find someone you trust, and do it.

7. use “don’t know mind”

Don’t know mind” is exactly what it sounds like. It’s actually a lifestyle choice - I choose to stop myself from thinking I have a clue about anyone else, and I acknowledge that I really don’t know all that much about myself either.

I acknowledge a life-walk of learning more about myself in the only way I can ‑buy digging around inside, non-judgementally. With assistance, with honesty, and through letting others know what, provisionally, I have discovered.

Everyone else must be let off the hook. You do not know what’s up for another, and never will! Not only that, but if someone tells you what’s up, you immediately filter that through your own experiences, and what you end up with is your experience of what the other person went through. This is not the same thing!

This does not get better with practice. The best you can hope for is to listen, to store the data, and to thwart your rush to judgement. “Hmm. So that is what is up for you. Thank you for sharing” is about the best any of us can do.

Instead, remember that stuff and experience “just is.” See, hear, experience, and move on. In the end, nothing much is happening, anyway

Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Leave a comment or question!

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

6 thoughts on “More on Self Discipline”

  1. For me the “restraint” bit is like recognising my “default behaviour” then opting not to use it…when it won’t work…R

    • yes indeed. Most neither recognise, nor “opt,” which is why so much of people’s lives seem to happen ‘to’ them. This approach is in its essence being present by paying attention to self and circumstance, while suspending judgement.
      Trusting all is well with you!

  2. Hello Wayne, very profound article, being more mindful of my decisions lately I have realized that I do things that others want to do instead of actually doing what I want to do, then later be filled with regret, remorse and/or negative self-talk. For instance, last Saturday I planned on waking up early to take my dog for a nice hike as she hasn’t been out to the doggie park, beach etc for over a week and wanted to take her somewhere where she can get some exercise and enjoy herself. But what did I do instead; went out with my friend Friday night, when I planned on staying in and watching a movie and come Saturday I was too tired to go. I was really disappointed in myself as that has happened one too many times where I want one thing but do another for the sake of someone else’s fullfilments. This article helped me realize that its ok to be me, to do what I want to do, to do things that I like and enjoy. I am going to to do something different, for the next three weeks I am going committ to a different approach to how I have always tended to do things, I am going to do what makes me happy, to discover who I am and what is it that I enjoy, to work towards my goal of actually running a 12 marathon this year, I let my training slip because “there was something going on” so I have missed 2 marathons already because I wasn’t ready. Thanks Wayne for the inspiration, I needed that.



    • Hi Yvette,
      I suspect that, and I think I realized this about a month ago, that a way to understand this issue is to “Stop justifying your behaviour.” By this I mean behaviour you say you are stopping. i.e. “I’m not yelling at my kid any more, but this time he deserved it.” Or, in your case, “I’m going running every day, except that I’m to tired this morning.”
      Once we commit to not justifying, the the process, which takes time, is to notice the tendency to justify and not do, have a breath, and do.
      It really is that simple/complex. I suspect that most wait for this to become easy, and that, I’m afraid, never happens.
      Good luck with the 12 marathon!

  3. Hi Wayne

    Love it!! I get tired of telling you how I agree with what you write. It is so universally true.

    Your last sentence this time “In the end, nothing much is happening, anyway” sums up the import of our dramas so effectively.

    I have found myself embroiled in a local kerfuffle that some people will think is the end of civilisation as they know it, and no doubt many of them will be blaming it on me for choosing not to rescue. Se la vis.

    I laugh quietly and thank Wayne for helping me to understand whose drama it all is.

    Regards, Peter

    • Hey Peter,
      Yeah, amazing isn’t it? I find myself exhausted when I let myself get caught up in a drama, which is a good thing, as the exhaustion reminds me to cut it out!
      Lately, I’ve been “playing” with watching my pain (say,a bad headache, when I can’t take a pill…) and not getting involved in describing it to myself (as in, “Oh! God! This is so bad!”) If I hold myself to saying “My head is achy,” and just watch it, the pain becomes quite bearable. Physical demonstration of the power of dramatization to take things over the top!
      As always, great hearing from you! I fixed the comment sending stuff, eh?
      Warmly, W


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