29 Feb

Practice & Discipline

If we cannot be happy in spite of our difficulties, what good is our spiritual practice? – Maha Ghosananda, via The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology (Kornfield, 2008)

candlelight by Arend (via Flickr)

candlelight by Arend (via Flickr)

Discipline and practice. Well, this sounds like it’s going to be a real hoot, now, doesn’t it?

This Leap Day feels like the right time for me to check in (with you, and with myself) on my New Year’s intentions. As many of you know, I practice a pretty well-established ritual at the end of each year, which concludes by choosing a word to focus my energy for the twelve months ahead.

The last few months of 2015 were really challenging for me. I was starting a new career, and felt like a beginner in a way that I haven’t felt in many years. I could see the light at the end of my three-year grad school tunnel  – which was exciting, yes, but also scary. When I started down this path, I took a leap, not knowing where I would land exactly, but trusting that it was the right next step. Now, that next decision point is looming, and life feels rather uncertain.

I am a planner by nature, ISTJ at my core, logical, structured, organized. But in these past few years, it’s been really important to me to explore the other parts of myself – to learn how to let go of the reins (a little), allow for spontaneity, open my heart. Less control, more trust. I’ve done a lot of work in this space, and I think I’ve come a long way.

When we encounter big stresses in our lives, though, we tend to cling to those ways of being that feel comfortable, that give us some security. For me, at the end of 2015, life had gotten too chaotic, and I was grasping for something to hold onto. Here’s a snippet from my journal at the new year:

I need some routine in my life. I feel like I’ve strayed too far, trying to let go of expectations and my “social self“. I needed that exploration, but I’m craving boundaries now – something to order my days. Something to order my experience. And I’ve lost my spiritual grounding. I don’t feel like I know which way is up, or what I believe. I’m hoping this will help.

Sounds kinda desperate, huh? To tell you the truth, I hated starting the new year like that. And then, I was able to make peace with it, accept it as where I was, and go from there. I wrote, I meditated, and what kept showing up for me were practice and discipline. I felt that resistance (wow, that sounds like a boring year), but those words also felt right.

Over the next few days, I’ll put up a couple of posts that detail my practices, for those of you who might want to adopt some for yourselves. For now, though, I’ll say that this focus continues to feel right as the year moves on. Two months in, these daily rituals feel solid, connecting me to spirit and purpose in a really consistent way. Sometimes, when we’re in the midst of big growth and change, we need an anchor in the storm. For me, a commitment to some simple routines has made all the difference.