Discipline. A word that evokes regiment, order, rigidity and distinct boundaries; suggesting anything but freedom.
Self-care. A notion that conjures up images of massages, facials and hot bubble baths.
So, how then do discipline and self-care relate one another?
I like to think of discipline as my rituals. Things that I do on a regular basis that feed and nurture me, that give me space to reconnect with myself.
They are not always easy, so I’ve had to teach myself over time to adhere to these practices.
I have learned that being strict in attending to my own inner enquiries and needs, is really what sees me to the other side of the darker moments that occasionally colour all our lives.
Around 5 years ago I experienced a particularly trying time in my life – illness and a broken washing machine with two small children and in-laws staying in my home, created a perfect storm of circumstances that pushed me to my psychological edge.
My saving grace however, was actually right in front of me; but it took discipline to provide this crucial self-care.
I had already begun a very sporadic meditation practice - 5 minutes a couple of times a week - fitting it in when I could create a peaceful and calm mood around me.
I could feel that it was high time to shake myself up and make some big changes to how I used the hours in my day.
I began setting my alarm a little earlierevery morning to salvage some moments of quiet headspace. A gradual routine began to materialize through the dark, cold winter mornings; a ritual that brought me positivity, lightness, space, hope and energy. I think the fact that it was mid-winter made the benefits even more sweet as it took so much willpower to get out from under the duvet.
Just as I was getting into the swing of things – and their benefits – my then 4-year-old began waking earlier than usual.
On those mornings, I had to learn to soften my rigidity around the discipline that was giving me something important, and begrudgingly invite a “letting-go” into my practice. This meant shortening or including him in my mediation for that morning, or coming back to it later in the day.
Implementing a daily tool that was vital to me feeling like a functioning adult, was not something I found simple to give up!
And because I am human, some mornings I would find it too hard to get out of my warm bed. Inevitably, on those days, I would feel the mental clutter and lack of patience much more.
But this helped me learn I had to be kind to myself too, otherwise that which was serving me, would become a source of frustration and shame.
Over the years, I have managed to cultivate a morning ritual that is very rarely not seen through. I still get up before everyone else at home, and that can mean I am up at 5am if I have to be. Those early morning moments are what get my day into gear. That precious calm nourishes me before the onset of the bustle of family life and the hustle of my working day.
I now have a daily meditation practice that is a minimum of 30 minutes in total.
I have my physical yoga practice (asana) which I intersperse with running and cycling as my physical exercise.
I have given up alcohol and coffee, as it was sparking anxiety and depression, and was interfering with my early rising.
This is the backbone of self-care I have created for myself because I know these things nourish me. They make me stronger, more resilient, more intuitive and more kind.
I’m not perfect! Shouty, guilty, grumpy mummy still pops over and demands cake occassionally, but I manage to set my boundaries with her and send her on her way after a brief indulgence.
Discipline can look different for us all; I have come to realise that the more discipline I have in my life, the more freedom I have.
A dear friend insightfully said, “The more we commit to ourselves, the less shame we have and the more self-pride we have. That sense of pride when we have done something kind, loving and inherently good for ourselves is priceless and it is addictive.”
1/- ‘App’ it up
Using an app to record your sessions will show you your progress and help give you a sense of achievement, which will spur you on in your practice
2/-Make appointments with yourself and find what works for you
Literally block out time in your diary or calendar for your practice, be that meditation, yoga, reading a book, journaling, running etc.
Find something that you are drawn to but that brings up a little resistance within, as that is where the growth lies.
How often do we forego something in order to satisfy someone else’s needs? Remember, if you let go of your own self-care, then the knock-on effects are real for those around you and your long term sense of fulfilment.
3/- Don’t forget the hard-to-reach places
Our physical body and our mental state are the more obvious parts of ourselves to take care of.
But, we have an emotional body as well and all the parts that make up our self are equally important and intrinsically linked to each other.
If you feel that your emotions are not giving you any peace, it can be vital to seek help to work through them. You might find support through emotional healing, spiritual counselling, traditional counselling or psychotherapy, kinesiology, Chinese medicine or reiki.
You do not have to reach crisis, before you seek help; in fact recognising that you could do with outside support is a huge part of creating a discipline of self-care. Think about being as responsible for your own needs, as you would for a child, pet, a friend or a relative that needed help.
4/- Flexibility in discipline
Life happens - constantly - so we have to bring a softness into our discipline and transform the masculine energy into a nurturing ritual.
If one day your ritual is made impossible through unforeseen circumstances, then make the next day count. Use the observations you make on that day to fuel your resolve to make it happen the next rather than to give up.
5/- Start small and build gradually
Remember, rituals are formed through the repetition of something small every day.
Be kind and loving toward yourself whilst you are creating these new foundations for lifelong change.
Chali has been practicing yoga since she was 24, and is the founder of Cocoon Wellness. More info on her small group classes and the retreats she facilitates can be found HERE