When we develop our self-awareness, we are strengthening our ability to make healthy choices and evolve self-mastery. In other words, our awareness of our inner experience, in the present moment, overrides our addictive dependencies or co-dependencies on another person. As I wrote last week, awareness is the secret sauce. However, the opposite is also true. If you choose to feed your substance dependency or co-dependency on another, it will override your awareness. Do you find yourself giving in to your addictive habits even though another voice inside you is telling you to stop? As Sandy from last week’s blog concluded,
Negative feelings (my low energy and anxiety) and behaviours (my distraction and procrastination) amplify when I don’t show up (stay aware of my internal sensations). What then unfolds is I let this negativity dictate more negative experiences. And so the cycle repeats itself.
However, when I keep on, one step at a time, with my new skill development, I can break the negative downward spiral. The way out of distraction and procrastination is maintaining the discipline to practice the new experiences and skills that enable and empower me (trigger positive feelings and thoughts) and leave me feeling lighter, not heavier.
Similarly, my yoga practice and experience taught me, relative to transformation, awareness is not only the secret sauce but the starting point. As you read above, just becoming aware of what is blocking your learning and growth begins to reduce confusion and reveal resistance. Yoga is an awareness practice intended to reveal where each of us is blocked in our body and mind. Once these blockages rise to the surface of awareness, then we can take appropriate action to remove them. Often, this means working through the resistance to change that accompanies habitual behaviours. In Sandy’s case,
What I really need is a set of morning rituals, a practice, that starts my day off in a powerful (positive) way regardless of the resistance rising within me. These rituals create the conditions for what I need to manage my inner conflict between resistance (irrational need) and growth. This practice or discipline is directed at my whole being so I can become a discerning masterful adult rather than be overwhelmed by my resistance. When I allow my resistance to win, I am expressing my wounded child whose behaviour is childish rather than child-like. When I follow my power practice, I am expressing my wonder child whose behaviour is creative.
It feels like this is the same inner conflict for most humans. When our wounded child wins the inner battle, innovation, creativity and evolution are blocked. So why do so many of us give in to resistance? Well, we lack the experience of empowering practices or disciplines. As a result, we cannot make the connection between discipline and capacity—our performance relative to innovation, creation and evolution. Our capacity to realize our potential talents remains unknown.
Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Disciplined practice gives us the opportunity to develop self-mastery. I am not saying it is simple or easy or happens overnight.
Beware of endeavoring to become a great [wo]man in a hurry. One such attempt in 10,000 may succeed. These are fearful odds. Benjamin Disraeli
Personal transformation is just as challenging as organizational and societal change. Research estimates that only 30% of organizations successfully transform into their intentions. In fact, almost 1/3 of change initiatives make the situation worse instead of better. Even though, these statistics may appear less than encouraging, have the courage to choose to be one of the 30% that is willing and aware of the disciplined practice necessary to become the change you wish to see.
In my yoga training, I learned five practices (niyamas) that focus me on developing self-discipline. They are the fundamental practices that sustain the change from a life based on fear to a life based on love.
Saucha – inner and outer (physical) cleanliness including one’s environment
Overall cleanliness is essential for well-being, which includes eating pure foods. Other purification practices that aid Saucha in cleansing the inner body are Pranayama (breath regulation) and Asana (poses).
Santosa – contentment, ease, modesty
Contentment is the place of balance between the height of peak performance and the depth of depression. There is an attentiveness in the moment and a non-attachment to any outcomes. Being content with oneself and others relieves us from drama as well as the compulsion to constantly be acting—changing, improving, fixing, helping.
Tapas – fiery/impassioned discipline; effort
Living with zeal (passion; enthusiasm) in our practice and our life requires consistent tending of our thoughts, words and deeds. When all three are aligned by the fire of tapas, our ego is purified thus revealing our true nature.
Svadhyaya – self-study; study of spiritual philosophy(s)
The ancient philosophers and gurus understood that “All knowledge is self-knowledge.” Self-knowledge is intimate awareness of one’s inner experience—sensation, emotion, thought. To aid in self-awareness, studying spiritual writings provides a mirror for growth (i.e., the Yoga Sutras, the Bible, etc.)
Isvara pranidhana – surrender to Life/Source/Creator
Surrendering, our ego’s desires, ambitions and goals to the understanding that Life is here to provide and protect us, clears the path to our true nature. When we trust and act from our authentic self, we are aligned with life-force and creation.
The Yamas are the fundamental renunciation of a life based on fear. They are the change. The niyamas are the fundamental practices that sustain a life based on love. They sustain the change. Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison