This question of discipline also came in via our newsletter, where we ask, what’s the one thing you’re struggling with in your practice?
If I have to list one thing that I was struggling with, I would probably have to list discipline (or focus). Life is hectic and there is tremendous amount of info coming down the pike to sort through every day.
This is something I can definitely relate to — I’m sure most of us can! Life gets busy, whether with school, work, kids, personal projects or all of the above — it can be difficult to carve out time to practice.
But it’s simple really, all you have to do is, you know, do it.
Easy peasy, right? You get excited, pumped, start getting really into it. You do all the things. You’re great! Centred, perfect, at the top of the world!
Until…you slip. And feel crappy because you feel like you can’t cut it, and beat yourself up over it. Which leads to avoidance. Which leads to more failure.
Aleister Crowley said that 90% of Thelema is self-discipline, and that applies to magical practice too. Here are a few things to think about to help you maintain momentum:
Figure out your motivation. Think about why you’re doing this. Are the results worth the struggle? If you know what you want, and why you want it, it becomes easier to commit to. When things get tough, remind yourself why you started in the first place. Focus on that, and push past your resistance.
Make it attainable. Discipline is difficult because what you’re trying to do is difficult. So make it easier. If your goal is to sit zazen for two hours every day, and you’ve never meditated before, try starting smaller. Aim for as little as five minutes. Sustain that for a week, then increase it, but gently. Ease yourself in. (And check out our review of Zen: Simply Sitting for a great introduction if meditation really is your thing. It’s a great book!) Too busy in the mornings, and hate the idea of waking up even earlier to fit a session in? Meditate on the subway, on your lunch break, or after work. If doing anything at all is already pushing yourself, let that be enough. Do what you can now, and build on your successes over time.
Allow yourself to do things differently. Liber Resh vel Helios details a sun adoration performed four times a day at dawn, noon, sunset and midnight. It can take as little as a few minutes at each period, but can be awkward to fit into your day, especially if you’re at work. For the months I performed this, I was still working in the corporate world. Getting up at dawn wasn’t a problem, and the evening and night adorations were straightforward, but standing up in my cubical during lunch hour, facing south, and shouting praises to Ahathoor and co. seemed unlikely to go over well with my team. So I performed it silently in a bathroom stall instead. If something you want to do seems impossible in your current circumstances, find a workaround you feel comfortable with, and do that. No shame.
Focus on what you love about your practice. Not only the results that come in time, but the small moments in between. The smell of your favourite incense, or the sulphur from the match as you light the candle. Take pleasure in gesture and movement, or delight in the stillness. Relish the electric charge in the air. Live fully in the moment. This is your practice — enjoy it.
Repeat. Ultimately, it’s the only way to build your practice is to be consistent. It can be challenging — they don’t call it the Great Work for nothing. You may slip. It happens. Accept it. Forgive yourself, let go, and begin again.
What has your experience been? What do you do to keep motivated? How do you sustain your self-discipline?
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Spiral Nature has been around for just about 14 years, so chances are we might have something buried in our archives that might answer your questions, and if not, you’ve helped us identify a gap we’d be happy to fill.
Image credit: Mailbox background by RaSeLaSeD – Il Penguino, with additional work by Psyche