For many of us, sacrifice means we are going to have to give up something we love. It seems to carry a negative connotation, but when we look a little deeper into its definition and ourselves, is sacrifice dressed up in the guise of self-discipline? My trusty computer dictionary defines sacrifice as “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.” So what is it we really love that we are losing? Could it simply be about day-to-day choices such as the choice between an immediate, short-term gain serving our ego’s needs versus the delayed, long-term gratification serving our spiritual, emotional and physical needs? More concretely put, do I smoke a cigarette to relax or do I meditate? Do I react with anger to anger or do I breathe deeply and practice peace, love and joy? Do I jog 20 miles a week to lose weight faster, or do I discipline myself to the daily practice of yoga knowing it may take two years to lose the 10 pounds I might gain because I stopped smoking?
As I mull over how sacrifice has played out in my life, the phrase wherever we go, there we are comes to mind. “Wherever we go, whatever we do, we take ourselves with us. We take all our beliefs, pain, fears, and anxieties with us. People leave relationships, enter new ones and find themselves in the same situation. Different day; same stuff.” (Dave Krajovic) When we do not pay attention to the habits of our egos, we find ourselves repeating our past.
On the flip side, whether I am holding a yoga posture, writing, meditating or working with a client, my day-to-day experiences provide me with the opportunity to practice self-discipline and to sacrifice the quick-fix, band-aid solution for the sustainable, valued future. This has not always been the case as during my first 40 years, my ego desperately wanted it all, wanted it now and was not interested in thinking about the costs that I (or others) might incur. As I was leaving my 30s, I listened to the uneasiness within and asked, “What brings me peace, love and joy?” I made two lists — Ego’s Needs and Soul’s Needs. A somewhat shocking discovery followed. None of the items on the ego’s list brought me to the path of peace, love and joy. Instead, I was wandering about aimlessly “having it all” in the societal definition but missing a sense of meaningfulness and passion. Surviving but not really thriving.
Simply put, sacrifice is self-discipline. It is all about saying No to what no longer serves us and saying Yes to what does. My rational mind sees these words and says, “How can that not be obvious to everyone and easy to achieve?” However, the emotional and sometimes quite irrational stuff of our unconscious and subconscious minds diligently resists this logic. My inner struggle between logic and emotion emerges as nervous energy or restlessness. I have been able to reduce this dis-ease by disciplining myself to stay in the present moment and to enjoy each leg of the journey instead of racing after results much like in the classic fable of the hare and the tortoise. How do you create discipline in your life to ease dis-ease and enhance your joy? What old habits of immediate gratification do you still cherish over sustainable well-being?